Wednesday, December 25, 2013

**Chris Milam's When the Shadow Comes was published on Microstory A Week

Chris Milam's darkness-infused, child-centric story When the Shadow Comes was published on the Microstory A Week site. (Those who have seen the 2013 film Mama or any of its cinematic theme-siblings will have be familiar with the scenario of Shadow, but the story has its own flavor.)

This is a special holiday piece for Microstory - I won't be publishing any other authors' works, at least not in the foreseeable future.  Note that I'll continue publishing updates regarding Microstory authors' new elsewhere-published pieces (e.g., stories, poems, books and other writings).

Big thanks to everyone who supported this brief online venture - writers, readers and others.

Check out Chris's When the Shadow Comes!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

(hb; 2009: Book One of The Strain trilogy)


From the inside flap:

"A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead.  All window shades are pulled down.  All lights are out.  All communication channels have gone quiet.  Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC.  Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane.  What he finds makes his blood run cold.

"In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening.  And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing. . .

"So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets.  Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save the city - a city that includes his wife and son - before it is too late."


Review:

Good supernatural apocalypse novel with worthwhile characters and plenty of gore and action.  Strain reads like a mix of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Michael Crichton's medical thrillers, del Toro's 2002 film Blade II and Stephen King's better-edited works.  Check it out.

Followed by The Fall.

#

The resulting television series is scheduled to air sometime in 2014 on the FX network

Corey Stoll plays Dr. Ephraim Goodweather.  Mia Maestro plays Nora Martinez.  John Hurt plays Professor Abraham Setrakian.  Kevin Durand plays Vasiliy Fet.  Miguel Gomez plays Augustin 'Gus' Elizalde. 

Jonathan Hyde plays Eldritch Palmer.  Natalie Brown plays Kelly Goodweather.  Ben Hyland plays Zack Goodweather.  Sean Astin plays Jim Kent.  Robert Maillet plays The Master.

Leslie Hope plays Joan Luss.  Doug Jones has an unnamed (at least thus far) role.  Jack Kesy plays Gabriel Bolivar.  Jonathan Potts plays Capt. Redfern.  Nicholai Witschl plays Ansel Barbour. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Black Skies, by Arnaldur Indriđason

(hb; 2009, 2012: tenth book in the Reykjavik Thriller series. Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)


From the inside flap:


"A man is making a leather mask with an iron spike fixed in the middle of the forehead.  Meanwhile, a school reunion has left Inspector Erlendur's colleague Sigurdur Óli unhappy with life in the police force.  While Iceland is enjoying an economic boom, Óli's relationship is on the rocks and soon even his position in the department is compromised.  When a favor to a friend goes wrong and a woman dies before his eyes, Óli has a murder investigation on his hands."


Review:

More of why-they-did-it than a whodunit, this is a good, solid police procedural from a consistently excellent, crisp-prose penning author.  Some readers, like myself, may pick up on who the killers are, but the writing and the characters - many of them ongoing - are (still) interesting and the story doesn't lag.

Black Skies is worth your time.  Check it out.

Followed by Strange Shores.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prejudice: Stories About Hate, Ignorance, Revelation and Transformation, edited by Daphne Muse

(hb; 1995: children's story anthology)


From the inside flap:

"Prejudice.  It can be as subtle as a look, or as blatant as a fist in the face.  It's befriending an outcast only so long as no one finds out.  Or realizing that your teachers' expectations of you are based on your gender or the color of your skin.

"This collection of thought-provoking stories reveals many facets of prejudice.  In Fran Arrick's Chernowitz!, a young boy is bewildered by the hatred of an anti-Semitic schoolmate - and by his best friend's desertion.  In Jacqueline Woodson's Maizon at Blue Hill, a teenager begins to recognize her own ignorance when she confronts her assumptions about white people.  And in Flannery O'Connor's 'Revelation,' a moment of self-realization transforms a woman's complacent view of herself and her world.  Among the other selections are works by Lynda Barry, Sandra Cisneros, Chris Crutcher, and Ntozake Shange. . ."


Review:

Good, theme-focused, kid-friendly and instance-diverse collection that reveals prejudice - and sometimes its answer - in an entertaining, if often sad and/or provocative manner.  Stories/novel excerpts that stood out for their excellence: Lynda Barry's "from The Good Times Are Killing Me"; Mavis Hara's "Carnival Queen"; Marie G. Lee's "Finding My Voice"; Jacqueline Woodson's "from Maizon at Blue Hill"; and Chris Crutcher's "A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune".

Worth checking out, this.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Violet Eyes by John Everson

(oversized pb; 2013)


From the back cover:

"The small town near the Everglades was supposed to offer Rachel and her son a fresh start.  Instead it offered the start of a nightmare, when an unknown breed of flies migrated through the area, leaving painful bites in their wake.  The media warned people to stay inside until the swarm passed.  But the flies didn't leave.  And then the radios and TVs went silent.

"That's when the spiders came.  Spiders that could spin a deadly web large enough to engulf an entire house overnight.  Spiders that left stripped bones behind as they multiplied.  Spiders that, like the flies, sought hungrily for tender flesh through Violet Eyes."


Review

Violet is a good, old school-style horror novel - it's got bugs, an abusive spouse, a legitimate corporate conspiracy and it's set in Passanattee (fictional, I'm guessing), Florida, where there's plenty of the aforementioned bugs.  Everson's characters' actions and attitudes, if sometimes reader-frustrating, ring true - not only that, the author imbues these characters with surprising but believable character-balance impulses;  the kill-scenes are creative and impressively cinematically icky; the straightforward writing kept me intrigued. . . in short, Everson's solid and spirited writing made feel like I was reading some of the experimental-nature-gone-bloodily-awry novels of my not-long-ago youth.

I didn't care for the ending, but it wasn't out of squeamishness regarding certain characters, it was a preference on my part.  That said, it rang true - like the characters' behavior.

Worth owning, this.

Friday, November 15, 2013

**Peter Baltensperger's Far From the Leaking Stars was published on the Pink Litter site

Peter Baltensperger, whose Nocturnal Tableaux* graced the Microstory A Week site in October 2012, has had another microstory published: Far From the Leaking Stars, on the Pink Litter site.

Stars details, in sensory-intense fashion, a woman's sexual restlessness while riding on a train with her sleeping lover.  Fans of Baltensperger's previous works won't want to miss his latest microtale.  T
his work and the site are for adults only.

Check this story out!


#

*Nocturnal Tableaux also appears in Baltensperger's story/vignette anthology Inside from the Outside.


**Two of my erotic poems were republished on the Pink Litter site

Two of my erotic poems - Kyoto: chican and Worlds shown, worlds to come - were republished on the Pink Litter site. (Big thanks to Misty Rampart, who published it!)

Kyoto: chican sketches a carnal transaction between a school girl-outfitted woman and her client in a Japanese subway-themed club.

Worlds shown, worlds to come is a four-part poem that charts the emotional and sexual journey of a longtime punk couple, from youth to middle age.

Pink Litter is an adults-only site, so if you're under the age of eighteen you may want to skip these works. However, if you are a legal adult who appreciates (post)punky attitude, sensuality and poetry, check these poems out!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman

(pb; 2010, 2011, 2013: nonfiction/memoir)


From the back cover:

"With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before.  But that past has caught up with her.  Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424 - one of the millions of people who disappear 'down the rabbit hole' of the American penal system.  From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules.  She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance.  Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman's story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison - why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they're there."


Review:

Good, interesting, waste-no-words and sometimes surprising - in pleasant ways - book.  There's plenty of heart and humor in this down-to-earth, non-flashy read.  Check it out.

#

Orange debuted as a Netflix series on July 11, 2013.  The show, which is scheduled for a second season in 2014, was created by Jenji Kohan (who also created the Showtime/cable show Weeds). 

Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman (fictional stand-in for author Piper Kerman).  Laura Prepon plays Alex Vause.  Jason Biggs plays Larry Bloom.  Natasha Lyonne, who co-starred with Biggs in the original American Pie trilogy, plays Nicky Nichols. 

Danielle Brooks plays Tasha 'Taystee' Jefferson.   Kate Mulgrew plays Galina 'Red' Reznkov.  Taryn Manning plays Tiffany 'Pennastucky' Doggett.  Michelle Hurst plays Miss Claudette Pelage. 

Michael Harney plays Sam Healy.  Pablo Schreiber plays George 'Pornstache' Mendez.

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, by Mitzi Szereto


(pb; 2013: erotic/supernatural novel)


From the back cover:

"Inspired by Oscar Wilde's classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mitzi Szereto continues where Wilde left off in her Faustian tale of a man with eternal youth and great physical beauty who lives a life of corruption, decadence and hedonism.  The story begins in the bordellos of Jazz-Age Paris, moving to the opium dens of Marrakesh and the alluring anonymity of South America.  Will love be Dorian's redemption or his final curse?"


Review

Wilde is a focused burn-through-it read.  Szereto masterfully balances memorable characterization, supernatural (often horrific) elements, and a visually and exquisitely realized eroticism, bringing them together in a gripping book that actually had me rooting for Gray's underlying quest for redemption, despite his (emotionally) grotesque debaucheries and eras.  This is one of the best erotic-supernatural themed novels that I've read in a long while - and one of the few that may be worth re-reading, not only for pleasure but for pointers on how to write a character-rich, era-seamless tale that not only builds on a classic work but matches Wilde's Gray in its excellence.

Worth owning, this.

Friday, November 08, 2013

W is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton

(hb; 2013: twenty-third book in the Kinsey Millhone mysteries)


From the inside flap:

"The first [corpse] was a local PI of suspect reputation.  He'd been gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa.  It looked like a robbery gone bad.  The other was found on the beach six weeks later.  He'd been sleeping rough.  Probably homeless.  No identification.  A slip of paper with Kinsey Millhone's name and number was in his pants pocket.  The coroner asked her to come down to the morgue to see if she could ID him.

"Two seemingly unrelated deaths, one a murder, the other apparently from natural causes.

"But as Kinsey digs deeper into the mystery of the John Doe, some very strange links begin to emerge.  Before long, at least one problem is solved when Kinsey literally finds the key to the John Doe's identity.

" 'And just like that,' she says, 'the lid to Pandora's box flew open.  It would take me another day before I understood how many imps had been freed, but for the moment, I was inordinately pleased with myself.'

"In this multilayered tale, the surface seems clear-cut, but beneath them is a fault line of betrayals, misunderstandings, age-old resentments, unnerving complications, and outright murderous fraud.  And Kinsey, through no fault of her own, finds herself thoroughly compromised."


Review:

W is for Wasted is another engaging PI-suspense novel from Grafton.  She once again imbues her work with a palpable sense of anything-goes danger, and its white-knuckle climax and equally satisfying wrap-up left me impatient for the next Kinsey novel.

That said, I can see why readers who prefer Grafton's leaner, earlier writing might be put out by the last few books in the Kinsey series - yes, they're more chatty at times; yes, they cut between multiple POVs* (in W it's limited to two). These flaws - minor (for me) - didn't prevent me from enjoying W.

If you fall into the "Kinsey's gone to crap" camp, don't bother reading W or anything Grafton writes in the future. Move on, find other authors who make you happy - life, especially in this age of don't-think-just-immediately-respond technology, is negative enough without seeking/creating more unnecessary unpleasantness. . . Or, if you feel you must (try to) read W, check it out from the library. Then that way, you won't have directly spent money on it.


Followed by X.


[*points of view]

Monday, November 04, 2013

Doomed, by Chuck Palahniuk

(hb; 2013: sequel to Damned)


From the back cover:

"The bestselling Damned chronicled Madison Spencer's journey across the unspeakable (and really gross) landscape of the afterlife to confront the Devil himself.  But her story isn't over yet.  In a series of electronic dispatches from the Great Beyond, Doomed describes the ultimate showdown between Good and Evil.

"After a Halloween ritual gone awry, Madison finds herself trapped in Purgatory - or, as mortals like you and I know it, Earth.  She can see and hear every detail of the world she left behind, yet she's invisible to everyone who's still alive.  Not only do people look right through her, they walk through her as well.  The upside is that, no longer subject to physical limitations, she can pass through doors and walls.  Her first stop is her parents' luxurious apartment, where she encounters the ghost of her long-deceased grandmother.  For Madison, the encounter triggers memories of the awful summer she spent upstate with Nana Minnie and her grandfather, Papadaddy.  As she revisits the painful truth of what transpired over those months (including a disturbing and finally fatal meeting in a fetid men's room, in which. . . well, never mind), her saga of eternal damnation takes on a new and sinister meaning.  Satan has had Madison in his sights from the very beginning: through her and her narcissistic celebrity parents, he plans to engineer an era of eternal damnation.  For everyone."


Review:

As darkly satirical, snarky, conspiracy-minded and voice-true as its predecessor novel, Doomed is a solid follow-up that expands on its source work.  I found myself semi-regularly cringing and laughing out loud at this zing-laden and otherwise fun read, which may put off some fans who prefer Palahniuk's earlier, edgier and considerably darker work.

It's not Palahniuk's best novel, but like Damned, it's notably different than the rest of his books, and still worth checking out - perhaps from a library, for readers who prefer the aforementioned edgier, earlier work.  (Be forewarned that the ending of Doomed leaves little doubt that there's a second Madison-based sequel forthcoming.) 

Lady Lack, by Misty Rampart

(pb; 2012: erotic poetry mini-anthology)


Overall review:

Lady Lack is a fifteen-page, excellent raunch-and-romance verse anthology, from its tell-don't-show pieces (e.g., "Puritanical Theories") to its visually-better pieces (see below) and its multipart mini-epics ("Fairy Tales").  Rampart, with engaging ease, pulled me into her thought-provoking work, whether she was blurring and challenging the lines of what (inherently) constitutes kink, how gender roles and carnal history really "mark" us as individuals, etc.

I didn't love every poem in this super-short collection, but every poem had some element - a line, a notion, a tone, whatever - that drew me in, sometimes challenged my outlook, and - more importantly - stuck  with me, as a reader.

Superb verse anthology, this - one of my all-time favorites, as of this writing.


Standout poems:

1.)   "Hallulejah Roughrider": Good visuals in this one.  This intense, effective poem contrasts the truth of a woman's sexual identity and desires versus her lover-perceived self and history. 


2.)   "It":  One of my favorite poems in this mini-anthology.  Swinging takes a toll on a couple - the last line caps the poem up with a stunning visual.


3.)   "Scar Tissue":  Sad-hued, semi-emotive revealing of a kink-minded and troubled sexual relationship.  Was immediately immersed in this one.


4.)   "Heart on a Chain":  A woman's erotic devotion to her man - and vice-versa - conjures deeper, (possibly) ambivalent wonderings.  Striking end-line to this.


5.)   "Over the rainbow":  Excellent poem about romance and raunchy familiarity with a lover.  This is also one of my favorite poems in this collection, with some especially standout lines ("You are meat muscle magic without the / music. / You are a throbbing holiday, / a celebration.")


6.)   "China Doll":  Headrush-style write, merging rough sex and art.


7.)   "The King Arises":  Shakespeare-referencing take on the (possible) cause and effect of lust and death.


8.)   "Pink Litter":  Lust takes an especially dark and line-scattered turn.


9.)   "The way of the world":  The thrill of the new, and relative monogamy - enjoyable or not - are tested and reinforced.  Incisive, effective.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and The Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell

(hb; 2013: nonfiction)


From the inside flap:

"Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palenstine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then, the names David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants.  David's victory was improbable and miraculous.  He shouldn't have won.

"Or should he have?

"In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

"Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago.  From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland's Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high cost of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms - all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity."


Review:

Good, informative and layman-friendly book that's as breeze-through and engaging as any of Gladwell's other books.  While David and Goliath is light-weight offering, more a furtherance - a reminder - of themes he's tackled in previous books, it still held my interest with its solid writing and a few surprising and makes-sense facts.

Check it out.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let the Old Dreams Die, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

(hb; 2013: fiction/horror anthology.  Translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg)


Overall review:

Dreams is a solid anthology - I liked six of the twelve stories a lot, enjoyed bits of four of the other ones, and disliked two, because of their odd writing ("To Put My Arms Around You, to Music" and "Paper Walls").  The stories that I was "meh" about sometimes ran too long ("Tindalos" and "Majken"), or were solid but forgettable trifles from a writer who regularly transcends this sort of tale-telling.

That said, Lindqvist does a solid job of indirectly linking the stories via mood, cultural references (e.g., The Smiths song "Shoplifters of the World Unite"; Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot; etc.) and mining his familiar themes of life and death, in their variable forms.

Worth owning, if you're a die-hard fan of Lindqvist, or if you buy it for a reduced price.  Or do what I did, and check it out from the library (if you're lucky enough to have one nearby).


Standout stories:

1.)  "The Border" - An inspections agent (Tina) discovers a major source of her emotional disconnection from her everyday life, as well as her sense of being "different".  Good, mood-effective read.


2.)   "Itsy Bitsy" - Effective fever dream about a photographer, his subjects and a Twilight Zone-esque mystery.  Interesting, excellent.


3.)   "The Substitute" - A middle-aged man's former classmate from thirty years prior shows up - just as strange he was back then - and unsettles the man anew.  Good, pop culture-referencing read.


4.)   "Eternal/Love" - Intriguing tale about a couple who test the bonds of death - or its lack - and love.  Excellent, dramatic read.


5.)   "Final Processing" -  Satisfactory and tone-consistent dénouement to Lindqvist's novel Handling the Undead, where a young man (Kalle Lilljewall) and his girlfriend (Flora) try to relieve the suffering of the government-kept undead.  Good read that pushes all the right emotional buttons.


6.)   "Let the Old Dreams Die" - This secondary character sequel to Let the Right One In (a.k.a. Let Me In) reveals the fate of Oskar Eriksson and his "kidnapper" Eli.  Solid, well-written (if indirectly told) follow-up to a stellar novel.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Under the Skin, by Michel Faber

(pb; 2004)


From the back cover:

" Isserley, a female driver, picks up hitchhikers with big muscles. She, herself, is tiny-like a kid peering up over the steering wheel.

"Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, she listens to her hitchhikers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them if they should disappear. . ."



Review:

This melancholic, analytical, darkly funny and sometimes disturbing novel is underlined with class warfare, sexual tension and discontent, shifting social mores and other elements that made his outwardly dispassionate protagonist relatable, despite her alien, bizarre-to-humanity attributes.  Faber propels the action with an appropriate, mounting sense of impending disaster, while maintaining Isserley's aforementioned melancholy and anger.

Skin is a good, distinctive read.  Check it out.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on August 29, 2013.

Scarlett Johansson played Laura (cinematic stand-in for Isserley).  Paul Brannigan played Andrew.  Jessica Mance played [an] "Alien".  Krystof Hadek played "The Swimmer".  Michael Moreland played "The Quiet Man".  An uncredited Michael J. Goodwin played "Tearoom Customer".

Jonathan Glazer, who co-scripted the film with Walter Campbell, directed the film.
 

Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy

(pb; 1973: novella)


From the back cover:

". . . Falsely accused of rape, Lester Ballard - a violent, dispossessed man who haunts the hill country of East Tennessee - is released from jail and allowed to roam at will, preying on the population with his strange lusts. . ."


Review:

This stark, grim account of a cunning man's long-term depravity - which includes rape, murder, necrophilia, theft and other crimes - gripped me from its first word to its last, even as I mentally recoiled at some of his acts, as well as his amazing-but-believable luck.  There are no wasted words in this exemplary, sometimes gut-wrenching novella.

Child of God is one of the best books I've read this year.  Worth owning, this.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on September 29, 2013.  James Franco, who played the character Jerry, directed the film.  He co-scripted the film with Vince Jolivette, who played the character Ernest .

Scott Haze played Lester Ballard.  Tim Blake Nelson played Sheriff Fate.  Jim Parrack played Deputy Cotton. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

(hb; 2013: sequel to The Shining)


From the inside flap:

"On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance.  They look harmless - mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs.  But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

"Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence.  Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying.  Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes 'Doctor Sleep.'

"Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival. . ."


Review:

Doctor Sleep is an entertaining, gentler and worthwhile - if sometimes rambling - sequel to The Shining.  For the most part, I haven't been a fan of King's work for the past two decades, but this is - in some parts - a return to King's earlier, better-edited writing (seen in the novels 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, Cujo, The Dead Zone and the expurgated version of The Stand) that often drew me in with its warmth, its character-based from-the-gut horror and its humor.  (Speaking of which, sharp-eyed fans of Joe Hill may appreciate King's references to Charlie Manx from Hill's novel NOS4A2.)

Good read.  Check it out.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Dexter's Final Cut, by Jeff Lindsay


(hb; 2013: seventh book in the Dexter series)

From the inside flap:

"It starts with Hollywood.  A major police drama is set to be filmed in Miami - and blood spatter analyst Dexter Morgan is told he will be shadowed by Robert Chase, the brooding heart-throb actor who will star as. . . a Miami blood spatter analyst.  Life may imitate art, but Dexter is none too pleased by having someone scrutinize his job and his life. . . or be anywhere near his dark hobby.

"The mood around the production turns suddenly serious when the body of a brutally murdered woman is found in a Dumpster in the heart of the city.  As the police investigate and the Hollywood crew is aflutter with the excitement of a 'real' crime, Dexter gets a particularly sinister feeling about this killer, and what the act may signify.  Meanwhile, a curious thing happens: Dexter is spending time with his new Hollywood counterparts - observing the ease with which they fake the most basic human emotions - and he soon realizes he may have finally found His People.  He also gets closer to Jackie Forrest, the sexy star who is cast as the tough detective (and who is tailing his sister, Detective Deborah), and he's soon tempted by the luxury of the five-star life. . . and possibly Jackie herself.  Dexter is suddenly on a personal journey that leads toward the dark question of who he really is. . . and, more alarmingly, on a course that will alter his life forever."


Review:

This mostly light entry (for the Dexter series) is a Game Changer novel, between its fresh-to-Dexter surreal environs (a film set; the "five-star life"), its oh-so-nasty crimes and its finish, which promises to inflict some long-lasting repercussions on Dexter and those around him, should Lindsay write another sequel. . . Lindsay seems to be shaking things up in the Dexterverse, and it works as an entertaining and - as always - a darkly witty read.

If you like the other Dexter books, chances are that you'll want to read this one, as well.  Worth owning, this, if you don't mind Final Cut's relatively light tone.

Followed by Dexter is Dead.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

**One of my poems, Habit rip (Abel Ferrara mix), was republished in Smashed Cat

One of my abstract, nervier poems, Habit rip (Abel Ferrara mix), was republished on the Smashed Cat site on September 17th, 2013. (Big thanks to E.S. Wynn, who published it!)

Visually speaking, Habit rip isn't one of my better pieces, but it's different and experimental (for me, anyway) - and it was inspired by the cinematic works of director Abel Ferrara.

Check this poem out!


#

This poem originally appeared in one of my single-author anthologies, Almost there: poems (which can be purchased via Lulu and Amazon).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crowley's Window, by Gord Rollo

(pb; 2012: novella)


From the back cover:

"Abby Hawkins was never normal.  Born with a birth cowl. . . a rare birth defect thought to predict future psychic abilities. . . she is haunted by horrible visions.  Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, Abby's parents call in the mysterious [Marcus] Crowley to help their daughter.  His interventions rid her of her visions. . . and her eyes.

"Now a beautiful young lady, Abby Hawkins works as a blind fortune teller in a travelling Carnival.  When she receives a powerful vision. . . one depicting the abduction of a little girl - she becomes the sole witness to the crime.  Only a young police officer believes her bizarre story, and with his help she embarks upon an investigation that will ultimately reunite her with the madman from her past and bring her to the hellish threshold of Crowley's Window.

"Special bonus inside:  The short story, Memories of a Haunted Man, a dark tale about a family in desperation written by Gord Rollo and Everett Bell."


Review:

Crowley's Window is a good, entertaining horror novella, one that made put me in the mixed mindset of a Seventies horror film (e.g., The Devil's Rain and The Fury), Robert Wiene's 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and a 1980s horror novel, because of its elements of Satanism, psychic phenomena, carnie life (Caligari has a carnivalesque visual aspect) and stripped-down storyline and writing style.  There's not one wasted word in this gem of a B-flick novella.  Not only that, the effective, fun end-twist is simultaneously cheesy and smile-inducing (it felt like a knowing wink from Rollo).

In this book, Rollo also included a post-Crowley, thematically-similar tale of familial dysfunction, Memories of a Haunted Man, one he co-authored with Everett Bell.  It's a good fit for Crowley, and, like its attached novella, an entertaining (if sad) read.

Between these two works, Crowley's Window is a worthwhile purchase.  Check it out.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dark Secret Love: A Story of Submission, by Alison Tyler


(pb; 2013: erotic novel - first entry in the Story of Submission series)


From the back cover:

"Dark Secret Love is a modern-day Story of O, a 9 1/2 Weeks-style journey fueled by lust, longing and the search for true love.  Inspired by her own BDSM exploits and private diaries, Alison Tyler draws on twenty-five years of penning sultry stories to create a scorchingly hot work of fiction, a memoir-inspired novel with reality at its core.  A luscious and literary experience of authenticity.  Dark Secret Love is a romance for readers who desire sweetness edged with danger and a kinky fairy tale with a happily-ever-after ending."


Review:

Romantic, edutaining (educating and entertaining), nuanced and hard to set down, Dark is an excellent novel that has characters that are not only interesting but matter (beyond the cuffs and the floggings), whose emotional journeys will likely haunt this reader.

Alison Tyler is one of the best working erotica writers today.  Check out - buy - her work wherever you may see it, so that you might not only be entertained but learn from it (whether it be for her writing style or her characters' intriguing carnality).

Followed by The Delicious Torment: A Story of Submission.

Monday, September 09, 2013

A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin

(pb; 2011: Book Five of A Song of Fire and Ice)


From the inside flap:

"In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance - beset by newly emerging threats from every direction.  In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death.  But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her.  As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the quen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

"Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys.  But his newest allies in this quest are not the ragtag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who would undo Daenerys's claim to Westeros forever.

"Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone - a structure only as strong as those guarding it.  There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night Watch, will face his greatest challenge.  For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice."


Review:

Dance, like A Feast for Crows,  is a transition book - in the sense that it's not as fast-moving and action-brutal as the first three Song novels.  Because of this, Dance sports many of the same faults of Feast (e.g., its emphasis on secondary characters who are less intriguing). 

On the plus side, though, there are a plenty of character-based moments in this fifth Song book where I experienced the same sense of thrill that I felt while reading the first three books.   These moments made Dance a worthwhile, if overwritten, read.

Not as great as the first three books, it - like Feast - is still a more impressive read than most fantasy series I've read.  Check it out from the library.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

**Peter Baltensperger's Fugue for Numerous Violins was published in Black Heart Magazine

Peter Baltensperger, whose Nocturnal Tableaux* graced the Microstory A Week site in October 2012, has had another microstory published: Fugue for Numerous Violins, in Black Heart Magazine.

Fugue details a late autumn, perhaps winter, day in a busy, windy park.


Check this story out!


#

*Nocturnal Tableaux also appears in Baltensperger's story/vignette anthology Inside from the Outside.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling

(hb; 2013: first book in the Cormoran Strike series)


From the inside flap:

"After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator.  Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling.  He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and living in his office.

"Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier.  The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that.  The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man."


Review:

Cuckoo's Calling is a solid detective novel with cinematic sensibilities - it emphasizes noiresque undercurrents and glitz in equal measure.  The element that kept me reading this novel, though, was its fully engaging, complex characters; its 'mystery' element was an okay-whatever affair for me, because I figured out who did what to whom early on (this isn't a knock on Rowling or her writing, but rather a symptom of me reading too many mysteries in as many years).

Solid, genre-familiar read, worth checking out from the library.

Followed by a future sequel whose title I don't know yet.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors. by Adam-Troy Castro

(hb; 2013: third book in the Gustav Gloom series. Cover and interior illustrations by Kristen Margiotta)


From the back cover:

"Gustav Gloom's neighbors think he is the unhappiest little boy in the world.  But what they don't know is that the strange, dark house Gustav lives in is filled with more wonders and mysteries than could ever be explained.  But explain is exactly what Gustav needs to do when Fernie What moves in across the street.  And that's when the adventure really begins.

"When Gustav decides to rescue his father from the Dark Country, he needs Fernie's help.  He convinces Fernie's father to enter the Gloom mansion with Fernie and Pearlie, assuring him that nothing bad will happen.  When the Four Terrors escape from the Hall of Shadow Criminals, all kinds of bad - horribly bad - things start to happen.  Soon it's up to Fernie to save her family and Gustav before it's too late."


Review:

Like its predecessors, Gustav Gloom and the People Taker and Gustav Gloom and the Nightmare Vault,  Terrors is an adventurous, imaginative and offbeat kid's book, with something for both children and adults.  On a character-specific note, I especially enjoyed the presence of Hives, the Terrible Butler and Fluffy the. . . well, you'll see if you read this book.

Charming and immediately immersive work, this, between the dark, kid-friendly charm of
Adam-Troy Castro's story and characters, and Kristen Margiotta's perfect-for-the-book illustrations. 

Also, like its prequels, this is a book worth owning.

Followed by another sequel, whose title I don't know yet.  According to the author, there are six books in the series, all of them completed and the last three awaiting publication.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Inside from the Outside: A Journey in Sudden Fiction, by Peter Baltensperger

(pb; 2013: microstory anthology)


From the back cover:

"Dealing with the basic elements that make us human, the short stories contained in Inside from the Outside represent explorations of various aspects of human nature in all its complexity and variety.  Author Peter Baltensperger has incorporated elements of experimental, surrealistic, and bizarre short fiction in the development of his themes."


Overall review:

Inside is not an anthology for mainstream genre readers looking for easy and obvious thrills; such readers may be disappointed  - underwhelmed or overwhelmed - by the sixty-four stand-alone, cerebral and symbol-laden vignettes and microstories in this collection.  The reason for this is that Baltensperger favors a psychologically-intense approach that loosely links these elements: the works Carl Jung and Sǿren Kierkegaard; nature appreciation; mirrors; circuses and parades; romance and sexuality; and (often) quiet reflective realizations.  

Normally, I wouldn't read such work - I'm largely a fiction-genre (crime, horror, etc.) junkie.  But Baltensperger's intriguing word pairings, his sublime and often poetic language and images, and skillful juggling of the aforementioned themes made Inside a wow-worthy anthology that stands out from others' mood-linked volumes that strive for such sublimations/realizations, but so often fall short.

Of course, not every piece in this sixty-four tale book completely thrilled me - a relative few felt superfluous, due to their too-similar elements which did little or nothing to further the concepts and emotions of preceding tales.  The occasional "lapse" tale is a given, of course (at least for this reader), in a collection with this many pieces, so it's a minor nit at worst.

Beyond that inevitable complaint, I found something - a character, a mating of choice words, an image - to enjoy in almost all of the mood stories represented here.  I should also note that this is a slow burn, read-a-few-tales-a-day work, a compilation to be read, analyzed and savored over a prolonged period of time.  (It took me two months to read this - a worthwhile endeavor, in my estimation.)

Worth owning, this - if you're looking for a romantic, cerebral and mood-suffusive anthology.


Standout stories:

1.)  "Through Disarticulations": Surreal, beautiful and romantic nature- and music-based piece.  Excellent.


2.)  "Snippets in a Hot Afternoon":  I especially enjoyed the effective, full-circle finish of this microstory.


3.)  "Equine Afternoons":  Dream-like microtale about a "woman with beautiful breasts", horses and squirrels.


4.)  "Dilemma for Rain":  Especially striking imagery in this one (e.g., "a herd of snails").


5.)  "Fusions and Diffusions":  A woman and an artist hook up.  Romantic, effective - I love the line: "Hunter took her to his apartment and painted a fragmented sentence for her, flashing colors splashed over a large canvass. . ."


6.)  "Under Uncertain Skies":  A storm brings together two carnival performers (a wolfman and a bearded lady).  Sweet work.


7.)  "Blind Eyes in a Dark Jungle":  Timely vignette about a shopping mall-traumatized woman.


8.)  "Rain Games":  Two temperamentally different brothers attend a party.  Effective, stripped-down tale of familial vengeance, in its various forms.


9.)  "By Fractured Continuations":  Effective mood piece about a woman wrestling with her sense of time and being.


10.)  "Whispers from the Rain":  Nighttime precipitation holds a special allure for a curious woman.  Sweet-toned offering.


11.)  "Spring Thaw":  Wintry thoughts negate a possible love match.


12.)  "Points of Diffusion":  A couple come together between corporate meetings and a placid lakeside.


13.)  "What Is and Can Be":  A man and woman conquer winter and  a mountain.


14.)  "For a Crescendo":  Music, insects and desire bring lovers together.


15.)  "Anatomy of a Treadmill Runner":  A runner goes through his circular routines.  The story structure reflects this.


16.)  "Inside a Puzzle":  An artist struggles to hold onto joyous moments.


17.)  "Parenthesis for a Liberation":  I love the images of this microtale, in which a fanciful woman exercises while her thoughts may or may not run wild.


18.)  "Tremolando for Rain":  Two lovers meet and celebrate during a rainstorm.  One of my favorite works in this collection.


19.)  "Performance Art in a Meadow":  A circus troupe perform and live their oddly relatable lives on a rainy day.


20.)  "Through Viscous Hours":  Gregory Bergman, a night-restless man, encounters a personalized source of terror while walking his dog.


21.)  "Going By Rivers":  Two lovers join each other on a river.  Romantic-effective work.


22.)  "Notes on a Journey":  A man revisits his hometown. Effective dovetail finish to this one.


23.)  "Dilemmas of Empty Spaces":  A woman ponders her strange sense of fulfillment, while nature works its own animalistic magic.