Wednesday, April 30, 2014

**One of my poems, Ephemeral, was republished in Leaves of Ink ezine

One of my older mainstream verseworks, Ephemeral, was published in the Leaves of Ink ezine today.  (Many thanks to editor Earl S. Wynn, a.k.a. E.S. Wynn, for this.)

This poem is about a man who misses hanging out with his ex-fiancée's imaginative son.  (Ephemeral was originally published in my 2011 single-author anthology Behind the wheel: selected poems under the title Ephemeral stepfather.)

Check this poem out!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Seth McFarlane's A Million Ways To Die In the West, by Seth McFarlane

(hb; 2014)

From the inside flap:

"Mild-mannered sheep farmer Albert Stark is fed up with the harsh life of the American frontier, where it seems everything and anything can kill you: Duels at high noon.  Barroom brawls.  Poisonous snakes.  Cholera-infected drinking water.  Tumbleweed abrasion.  Something called 'toe-foot.'  Even a trip to the outhouse.  Yes, there is a million ways to die in the wild, wild West, and Albert plans to avoid them all.  Some people think that makes him a coward.  Albert calls it common sense.  But when his girlfriend dumps him for the most insufferable guy in town, Albert decides to fight back - even though he can't shoot, ride or throw a punch.  Fortunately, he teams up with a beautiful gunslinger who's tough enough for both of them.  Unfortunately, she's married to the biggest, meanest, most jealous badass on the frontier.  Turns out Albert has just discovered a million and one ways to die in the West."


Often hilarious and clever, Million is a historically incorrect work that reads like a standup comedian's Old West riff (with its modernized slang) crossed, appropriately, with the rapid-fire writing of McFarlane's animated television show Family Guy.  In short, read this as a silly, burn-through bit of Western fluff, nothing more.

Two nits about the book - one: near the end, one of the lead characters sports a badly foreshadowed, "twist" ability; two:  the plot wrap-up is flat and unfunny.

This is worth checking out, perhaps owning, if you're a fan of McFarlane's animated shows.  If you're not a McFarlane fan, read something else so the rest of us don't have to listen to you complain about how juvenile and dialogue-modern Million is.


The film version is scheduled for a May 30, 2014 stateside release.  Seth MacFarlane, who played Albert Stark, also directed and co-scripted the film.  Alec Sulkin (who plays a "Guy at Fair") and Wellslesley Wild also co-scripted the film.

Amanda Seyfried played Louise.  Neil Patrick Harris played Foy.  Charlize Theron played Anna.  Liam Neeson played Clinch.  An uncredited Ryan Reynolds played "Man Killed By Clinch in Bar".

Giovanni Ribisi played Edward.  Sarah Silverman played Ruth.  Christopher Lloyd played Doc Brown.

Christopher Hagen played George Stark.  Wes Studi played Cochise.  Alex Borstein played Millie.  Gilbert Gottfried played Abraham Lincoln. 

An uncredited Ewan McGregor played a "Cowboy at Fair".  An uncredited Jaime Foxx played a "Gunman at Fair in Final Scene".  An uncredited Patrick Stewart provided the "Dream Voice".

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Writing on the Wall, by Gunnar Staalesen

(pb; 1995, 2010: eleventh novel in the Varg Veum  series.  Translated from Norwegian by Hal Sutcliffe.)

From the back cover:

"In this crime drama detective Varg Veum's adventures lead him to a dark world of privileged, young teenage girls who have been drawn into drugs and prostitution. The situation worsens when the local judge is discovered in a luxury hotel, dead and clad only in women's lingerie. Called in by anxious parents and officials to look for a missing daughter and explain the judge's death, Varg finds clues that lead him only deeper into the city's criminal underworld."


Excellent, hard to put down P.I. novel.  The main reason Writing is excellent, above average, is because of its particularly twisted, sleazy revelations (in regards to its storyline and its characters).  Worth owning, this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Left Hand Magic, by Nancy A. Collins

(pb; 2011: second novel in the Golgotham series)

From the back cover:

"Located on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Golgotham has been the city's supernatural ghetto for centuries.  Populated by countless creatures from myth and legend, its most prominent citizens are the Kymera, a race of witches who maintain an uneasy truce with New York City's humans. . .

"Tate Eresby has accepted the unusual sights and sounds of Golgotham and has made it her home.  Unfortunately, trend-setting hipsters have descended upon the community - along with an anti-Kymera faction known as the Sons of Adam.  The sudden influx of tourists escalates racial tensions to a boiling point when two Kymerans are attacked, another is murdered, and rioting fills the streets.

"Tate's relationship with Hexe, the current heir to the Kymeran throne is also full of tension.  Hexe's uncle Esau is an anti-human activist who's ready to declare war on the Sons of Adam - and who believes Tate is a spy.  But is it possible that Tate's time in Golgotham has left her more than human?"


Fun, relatively light* and fast-moving read that might especially appeal to those readers looking for an urban fantasy novel-series that's a shade darker and more mature than a YA novel (this is not meant in a demeaning way - there's hints of sex, but nothing even remotely explicit and the magic and violence of the first two books is PG-13 at worst).

There's a 'mystery' - hidden villains and secret associations - element to the book, but, as in Right Hand Magic, they're easy - intentionally so - to suss out.

I enjoyed this a lot, found it difficult to set down; in fact, I read it in a couple of hours.  Left Hand Magic is worth your money and time, if the above-paragraph description sounds like that something that would grab you.

Followed by Magic and Loss.

[*compared to Collins' dark, ultra-violent Sonja Blue series]

Sunday, April 13, 2014

**One of my mainstream poems, Berlin, 1944, was republished in Phantom Kangaroo magazine

One of my older mainstream poems, Berlin, 1944, was republished in issue 19 of Phantom Kangaroo magazine.    (Big thanks to editor Claudia Lamar for this.)

If you have the time and are so inclined, check this poem out!


This poem also appears in my 2012 single-author anthology Almost there: poems.  It was originally published on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association site in March 2002.

Into The Woods, by Michelle Augello-Page

(pb; 2014: erotic anthology.  Illustrations by Alphonse Inoue.)

From the back cover:

"Escape into nine dark and erotic stories which explore sex and transformation written in dreams across the body, etched in the language of skin.  Each story is interwoven with magic, music and art, as lost and damaged characters navigate their broken worlds, searching for wholeness and connection.  Many of the stories are sexually explicit, engaging the reader in aspects of kink, fetish, and BDSM.  Some stories represent sexual trauma, abuse, negligence and cruelty.  Other stories seek to express the esoteric and transcendental power of sex.  Into The Woods is. . . rooted in the female, immersed in the physical and the spiritual and steeped in the rich archetypal landscape of fairy tales and mythology."

Overall review:

The above back cover blurb essentially says what my review notes say: this anthology is dark, theme-focused, provocative, enticing (on multiple levels) and mood-effective, with no wasted words and plenty of nuance.  All of these stories here have something to recommend them.  Coupled with Inoue's anthology-appropriate, equally alluring artwork, this is a great read, as well as one of the best erotic anthologies I've read in a long while.  Worth owning, this.

Standout stories:

1.)   "Into The Woods":  This "contemporary retelling" of Hansel and Gretel lives up to that description, with its troubling, sweet and non-erotic brevity and excellent finish.  One of my favorite stories in this collection.

2.)  "The Siren": A famous promiscuous singer, troubled by a recent betrayal of sorts, fraks and performs her way toward her next life stage.  One of my favorite tales in this mix.

3.)  "Into The Labyrinth":  On Halloween, a death metal vocalist and his girlfriend engage in holiday-dangerous BDSM sex.  Entertaining, fever dreamish and, at times, brutal read.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

(hb; 2014: second novel in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series)

From the inside flap:

"September 3, 1940.

"Ten peculiar children flee an army of deadly monsters.

"And only one person can help them - but she's trapped in the body of a bird.

"The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world.  There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine.  But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner.  And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom."


Hollow is a solid, storyline- and theme-expansive sequel to Home.  Those readers who weren't wild about the original novel's mixed genres and elements probably won't enjoy Hollow, which is mostly set in bombed-into-ruin 1940 London - in other words, readers who prefer strict genre boundary works shouldn't read this book

Readers who enjoyed Home's gritty WWII settings and briefly stated fantasy elements might want to check Hollow out.

Followed by Library of Souls, which is scheduled for publication on September 22, 2015.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Yours Until Death, by Gunnar Staalesen

(pb; 1979, 1993: second novel in the Varg Veum  series.  Translated from Norwegian by Margaret Amassian.)

From the back cover:

"It was at their 'torture chamber', a hut in the pinewoods nearby, that Varg Veum, Private Investigator, first encountered the gang's pathetic but deadly ferocity. Eight-year-old Roar's bicycle had been stolen and not an adult in sight dared retrieve it. But a preliminary brush with such youthful violence was as nothing compared to what awaited Veum when he got to know Roar's blue-eyed, shy yet sensuous mother, Wenche Andresen, and her estranged husband, Jonas. Veum's attempts to break up Joker and his pack of young thugs by enlisting the help of the local youth club leader proved a dead end. But not so dead as the man who lay prone with a knife in his back on the floor of Andresen's flat."


Yours is a straightforward, full-of-snappy-dialogue and entertaining non-mystery (the bad guys are easily sussed out), with few - if any - twists in the plot.  That said, this word-lean book doesn't seem to be focused on shocking plot convolutions, but rather a philosophical, wry and sometimes melancholic rumination on relationships and love - if that was the author's intention (and it reads like it was), then this is an above average novel with a quirky and engaging lead character.

Worth reading, this - perhaps even worth owning, if you're reading Yours for its philosophical points.


This book has resulted in two films.

The first film, Brun Bitter, was released in Norway on November 17, 1988.  Sølve Skagen wrote the screenplay and directed it.

Frank Krog played Alexander "Lex” Larsen (the cinematic stand-in for Varg Veum).  Kristin Kajander played Vigdis Wang.  Rolf Skøien played Johnny ‘Jocken’.  Vidar Sandem played Jens Falch (a.k.a. Falchen).  Svein Erik Brodal played "Asbjørn, videomann".  Bjørn Floberg played Sebastian Ramsberg.  Rulle Smit played Charlotte.
The loosely-linked-to-the-book remake, Varg Veum – Din til Døden, was released in Norway on March 12, 2008.  Erik Richter Strand directed the film from a screenplay by Kjersti Rasmussen.
Trond Espen Seim played Varg Veum.  Bjørn Floberg played Jacob Hamre.  Kathrine Fagerland played Anna. Endre Hellestveit played Isachsen.  Sølje Bergmann played Wenche Andresen.  Henrik Mestad played Jonas Andresen.  Jon Ketil Johnsen played Gunnar Våge.  Ulrik Lullau played Roar Andresen.
For further information on Varg Veum-related films, check out this site.

All You Need Is Kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

(hb; 2004)

From the back cover:

"When alien Mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of the many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill.  Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again.  On his 158th iteration, he gets a message from a mysterious ally - the female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch.  Is she the key to Keiji's escape or his final death?"


Kill, for the most part, reads like an action-packed, waste-no-words and hard (tech-savvy) science fiction take on Groundhog Day.  Character development and word count are minimal in this fast read and it kept my attention through most of it; near the end, it drags out a bit, but it has a solid finish. 

This is worth checking out from the library, or picking up for a few dollars.


This novel is the basis for the forthcoming film Edge of TomorrowScheduled for a June 6, 2014 stateside release, Edge is directed by Doug Liman from a screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth.

Tom Cruise plays Lt. Col. Bill Page.  Emily Blunt plays Rita Vratatski.  Lara Pulver plays Karen Lord.  Jeremy Piven plays Col. Walter Marx. Madeleine Mantock plays Julie.  Bill Paxton is also in the film, but doesn't (as of this writing) list the name of his character.

<em>The Freak</em> by Eleanor Robinson

(pb; 1980 ─ a.k.a. The Silverleaf Syndrome ) From the back cover “He was born monstrously deformed, a freak of nature. Possessed of ...