Thursday, June 30, 2016

Take Me Like the World Ends at Midnight by Terrance Aldon Shaw

(2015: erotic story anthology)

From the back cover:

"They say forbidden fruit is always the sweetest. They never tell you how hard it can be to get. . .

"These stories are all about the thrill of the unexpected: a handsome stranger's touch in a dark theater; a night of forbidden passion with the most unlikely of mystery men; the sheer adrenaline rush of sudden contact; the silent promise of ecstasy. . ."

Overall review:

World is an excellent, thoughtful and genre-elevating anthology, whose works entertain with their character-centric, relatable circumstances and expert pacing -- worth owning, this.

Review, story by story:

1.)  "Her Dark Passage": Excellent, noir-atmospheric tale about a woman (Jessi) whose quiet life of forty years take a wild turn when a movie date goes seemingly awry. Shaw's writing, sometimes sexually explicit, maintains that necessary sense of mystery and danger -- more than a mere dark, carnal fantasy piece, this.

2.) "Saturday Nights in the Middle of Nowhere": A country singer, Suzan L'Amour, meets an A&R man (Stu Dragon) whose reach and talents go beyond the music business. Off-beat and fun work. 

3.) "The Sweet Guy Tells All": A "sweet guy", who gets stuck in the Friend Zone with women, tries to shatter end his pattern of  heartbreak.

4.) "Sleeping Dogs and Southern Comfort": Genre-twisty tale about a young woman (Nancy) whose cabin hang-out with friends takes on weird overtones when an unexpected coupling occurs.

5.) "Night Vision": An old, broke jazz DJ in a gentrified neighborhood is drawn further into club land via his soothing voice and a young woman's vacuous-minded inattention. Atmospheric, effective read.

6.) "Three Lies Before the River": Good, nonjudgmental piece about a sexually aggressive and successful businesswoman (Terri) whose juggling of men, past and present, brings her to a crossroads moment.

7.) "Mr. Friday's Midlife Crisis": The dates of an escort (Sami) and her only customer (Mr. Friday)  highlight this character-deep (for the genre) story, with its multi-POV* structure, character-appropriate issues and all-around excellent writing. This is one of my favorite works in this collection.

8.) "Summer of '69": Enjoyable, good coming-of-sexual-age story about a young man whose step-aunt opens up a new world for him, in many ways.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz

(pb; 1977)

From the back cover:

"Susan Harris lived in self-imposed seclusion, in a mansion featuring numerous automated systems controlled by a state-of-the-art computer. Every comfort was provided, and in this often unsafe world of ours, her security was absolute.

"But now her security system has been breached, her sanctuary from the outside world violated by an insidious artificial intelligence, which has taken control of her house. In the privacy of her own home, and against her will, Susan will experience an inconceivable act of terror. She will become the object of the ultimate computer's consuming obsession: to learn everything there is to know about the flesh."


Demon Seed is a focused and entertaining read that employs multiple points of view to tells its eroticized, computer-centric and often creepy story. It is worth owning, if you pick it up for a few bucks, one of Koontz's better books.


The resulting film was released on September 30, 1977. Donald Cammell directed it, from a screenplay by Robert Jaffe.

Julie Christie played Susan Harris. Fritz Weaver played Alex Harris. Gerrit Graham played Walter Gabler. Lisa Lu played Soong Yen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

(hb: 2016: nonfiction/science)

From the inside flap:

"Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you’ll never see our nation’s defenders in the same way again."


In Grunt, Roach explores the scientific and non-combative side of military life. Like her other books, this is fun, informative and wry, a read that bridges the gap between those readers seriously interested (or otherwise invested) in the book's subjects and those who are mildly curious about said subjects -- or merely reading it because Roach wrote it. This is worth checking out from the library for the mildly curious and worth owning for those who are fascinated by the subjects at hand.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Preacher: Until the End of the World by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon and others

(pb; 1995, 1996: graphic novel, collecting comic book issues of Preacher #8 - 17. "Foreword" by Kevin Smith. Second entry in the Preacher graphic novel series.) 

From the back cover:

"Small-town Texas minister Jesse Custer had all but lost the faith when he merged with a bizarre spiritual force called Genesis and acquired peculiar powers and newfound purpose. Hitting the road with his sidekicks -- his trigger-happy girlfriend and a hard-drinking Irish vampire -- Jesse embarks on a frequently violent, often-hilarious, always-disturbing road trip from the heart of Texas through the nastier side of America."


This second entry in the Preacher graphic novel series builds on the hyper-violent, excellent, heartfelt and pitch-black funny tale begun in Gone to Texas. Jesse Custer and his girlfriend, Tulip, at the start of this continuation volume, have been taken prisoner by his murderous kin (his evil grandmother and his rape-happy cousins) and must escape them; all the while, the history and aims of the Grail (with all its internecinic intrigues) are further revealed.

This is worth purchasing if you enjoy books with the above tonal qualities.

Followed by Preacher: Proud Americans.

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."


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.


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)


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."


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."


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.


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

<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 ...