Monday, April 15, 2013

Flesh, by Richard Laymon

(pb; 1987)

From the back cover:

"No one in town has ever seen anything like it before: a slimy, mobile tube of glistening yellow flesh with dull, staring eyes and an obscene, probing mouth.  But the real horror is not what it looks like, or even what it does to you when it invades your flesh - but what it makes you do to others. . ."


Solid, fun horror read, with plenty of cheesy sex, grue and violence.  While Laymon didn't provide a lot of information about the strange yellow creature's past, he provided enough for me to enjoy Flesh as a short, sharp and sometimes nasty genre work.

Worth checking out, this.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson & Learned to Love Being Hated, by Alison Arngrim

(hb; 2010: autobiography)

From the inside flap:

"For seven years, Alison Arngrim played a wretched, scheming selfish, lying, manipulative brat on one of TV history's most beloved series.  Though millions of  Little House on the Prairie viewers hated Nellie Oleson and her evil antics, Arngrim grew to love her character - and the freedom and confidence Nellie inspired in her.

"In Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Arngrim describes growing up in Hollywood with her eccentric parents: Thor Arngrim, a talent manager to Liberace and others, whose appetite for publicity was insatiable, and legendary voice actress Norma MacMillan, who played both Gumby and Casper the Friendly Ghost.  She recalls her most cherished and often wickedly funny moments behind the scenes of Little House:  Michael Landon's 'unsaintly' habit of not wearing underwear; how she and Melissa Gilbert (who played her TV nemesis, Laura Ingalls) became best friends and accidentally got drunk on rum cakes at 7-Eleven; and the only time she and Katherine "Scottie" MacGregor (who played Nellie's mom) appeared in public in costume, provoking a posse of elementary schoolgirls to attack them.

"Arngrim relays all this and more with biting wit, but she also bravely recounts her life's challenges: her struggle to survive a history of traumatic abuse, depression, and paralyzing shyness; the 'secret' her father kept from her for twenty years; and the devastating loss of her "Little House husband" and best friend Steve Tracy, to AIDS, which inspired her second career in social and political activism.  Arngrim describes how Nellie Oleson taught her to be bold, daring and determined, and how she is eternally grateful to have had the biggest bitch on the prairie show her the way."


Interesting, solid, heartfelt book.  Arngrim's humor lightens some of the heavier, non-graphic parts relating to her emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her brother, and adds a welcome zing to her account of her curious life.

Good read from an admirable, funny woman.  Check it out.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A Bite of the Apple: A Collection of Romantic Erotica, by Robert Buckley

(hb; 2002: erotica anthology)

From the inside flap:

"If you're hungry for great erotic stories with a twist of the romantic, you'll love A Bite of the Apple.  Each of the 24 short stories in this sensual collection is a lush, romantic gem, sure to spur you on to your own sensuous adventures. . ."

Overall review:

This is one of the best erotic-romantic (or, if you prefer, romantica) anthologies I've ever read.  Buckley's works are perfused with an innate Frank Capra-esque humanity and warmth that most writers - myself included - (probably) wish they possessed, as well the talent to mix and match it with a variety of moods (in this anthology it's romantic, though I've read his edgier works, as well). 

This humane quality, as shown by this stylistically diverse collection, is especially all-too-rare in the erotica genre, where too many authors confuse the human tangle of limbs, torsos and 'wet' orifices for emotional connection, but forget about the smaller (and just as important) actions that express love that lends itself to deeper, longer-lasting connections.

I wish I had written this anthology - something I say not with envy, but with the utmost admiration.  (That's one of the highest praises I can give a book, especially one where every story 'nails it'.)

Worth owning, of course.

Standout stories:

1.)  "A Bite of the Apple":  An apple grove owner (Lainey Allen) makes key decisions about her career, and a possible lover.

2.)  "Forgive Me Father":  Witty, world-wise trio of Catholic confessions.  Still chuckling over this one.

3.)  "Eating Out at Annie's":  Flirty tale about a diner and two lusty-at-heart lovers.

4.)  "Convenience Store":  A graveyard shift minimart employee encounters some truly strange stuff in this surreal, hilarious piece.

5.)  "Chance Encounter": Passionate, sweet-humored entry about a lonely librarian (Lorna Delaney) and a mourner (Alec) at a nearby grave.

6.)  "Rules of Engagement":  The Honeymooners meets carnal hilarity in this piece, about a loud, semi-public argument between a wife (Dannie) and her husband (Matt), which goes over-the-top in a loving, bawdy way.

7.)  "Twitch":  An ambush of a blind date leads to a contentious and delightfully lively coupling.

8.)  "The Magic Lesbian":  A bar owner (Joe Canarski) fends off an aggressive buy-out offer from a business rival.  Instantly immersive, feels-like-you're-there work.

9.)  "Fortune's Fool":  This is an especially good, laugh-out-loud karmic tale about a hospitalized sports writer, a celebrity football player and fickle sports fans.

10.)  "Portrait":  A painter's portrait subject reveals more than artistic longing.

11.)  "A Fare of the Heart":  One of the best tales in this bunch.  A cabbie (James) and his fare ( a neglected wife named Ann) have an empathetic conversation about their circumstances and her marriage.

12.)  "Invisible":  Gut wrench-effective story about a couple whose marriage has hit some particular damaging rocks.

13.)  "The Night the Stars Fell":  A sexually neglected husband wrestles with the possibility of cheating on his otherwise occupied wife.  Another emotionally effective story, with some joy thrown in, as well.

Other stories:

"Making Her Late For Work"; "Crazy"; "Stuck"; "Imparting Wisdom"; "Mrs. Godiva"; "Corner Booth"; "The Battle of Twin Peaks"; "The Other Man"; " 'O' No"; "Infidelity"; "Backrub"

Sacrifice by John Everson

(pb; 2007: second book in The Curburide Chronicles)

From the back cover:

"They are coming.  They are a race of sadistic spirits known as the Curburide, and they are about to arrive in our world, bringing with them horrors beyond imagination.  The secret to summoning - and controlling - them has fallen into the hands of a beautiful, sexy and dangerously insane woman.

"Ariana has dedicated her life to unleashing the demons in our realm through a series of human sacrifices, erotic rituals of seduction and slaughter.  As she crosses the country, getting ever closer to completing her blood-drenched mission, only three figures stand in her way: an unwilling hero who has seen the horrors of the Curburide before, a burgeoning witch. . . and a spiteful demon with plans of his own."


I love reading sequels like this - follow-up tales that not only show the further adventures of characters I've grown fond of (or am fascinated by), but up the ante of the plot proceedings, while reworking the structure of the previous tale(s) into new storyline configurations.

Sacrifice accomplishes this, with seeming ease.  Like Covenant, it's a burn-through-that-sucker read, one with an ending that deftly avoids leave-room-for-a-sequel horror clichés (though he could easily continue this series if he wanted to).

Great, genre-veracious read.  Worth owning, this.

Followed by Redemption.

<em>The Letter, the Witch and the Ring</em> by John Bellairs

(pb; 1976: third book in the Lewis Barnavelt mysteries . Drawings by Richard Egielski .) From the back cover “Rose Rita [Pottinger]...