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.

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."


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."


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."


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.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Preacher: Gone To Texas by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

(pb; 1995, 1996: graphic novel, collecting issues of Preacher #1 - 7. "Foreword" by Joe R. Lansdale. First entry in the Preacher graphic novel series.)

From the back cover:

"Jesse Custer is a small-town minister slowly losing his faith. . . until he merges with a half-angelic, half-demonic being called Genesis. Together with Tulip, Jesse's trigger-happy ex-lover, and Cassidy, a hard-drinking Irish vampire, Jesse sets out on a bizarre road trip from the heart of Texas to the bitter soul of New York City."


Preacher is a hyper-violent, more-Texas-than-Texas, blasphemous and darkly hilarious graphic novel series whose character interactions and supernatural storyline elements come together into a wild-ride, distinctive and entertaining read. This is one of my all-time favorite comic book/graphic novel series, not for the easily offended (religious) and faint of heart.

Followed by Preacher: Until the End of the World.


The television series version, created by Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, is scheduled to debut on the AMC channel on May 22, 2016.

Dominic Cooper plays Jesse Custer. Joseph Gilgun plays Cassidy. Ruth Negga plays Tulip O'Hare. W. Earl Brown plays Hugo Root. Jackie Earle Haley plays Odin Quincannon.

Ian Colletti plays Arseface. Lucy Griffiths plays Emily. Tom Brooke plays Fiore. Anatol Yusef plays DeBlanc.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Voice and Other Stories by Seicho Matsumoto

(pb; 1989, 1995: story anthology. Translated from Japanese to English by Adam Kabat.)

From the back cover:

"Six of the best detective stories from Japan's foremost master of mystery. The puzzle in these intriguing tales lies not so much in 'who dunnit' but rather in how it was done."

Overall review:

Voice is an anthology that is worth owning -- its stories, published between 1959 and 1965, are clever and intriguing reads, even with their 'crime doesn't pay' finishes (perhaps this is due to editorial and/or multicultural leanings). Matsumoto once again shows himself for the exemplary author that he is, even when the outcome follows a traditional, moralistic pattern.


1.)  "The Accomplice": A successful businessman (Hikosuke Uchiboro), fearing reprisal stemming from a past crime, seeks a way to nullify that reprisal (which, of course, hastens his potential downfall). Good, tightly-written read.

2.) "The Face": Another successful man -- this one an up-and-coming actor (Riichi Umetani) -- tries to erase all evidence from a past crime. Like Uchiboro in "The Accomplice," Umetani's actions only serve to further endanger himself. Good, tightly-written read, an interesting variation on "Accomplice".

3.)  "The Serial": Intriguing, clever tale about a woman (Yoshiko Shioda), whose expressed interest in an author's work opens her life to an unwanted investigation. One of my favorite stories in this collection, it shares many (reworked) plot elements with Matsumoto's later novel Points and Lines.

4.)  "Beyond All Suspicion": A man (Tadao Kuroi) makes a long-term plan to murder the man who sullied his murdered sister's honor. A solid storyline and otherwise excellent writing make this worth reading.

5.)  "The Voice": Another intriguing and clever tale (for the most part), about a telephone operator (Tomoko Takahashi) who hears and remembers a murderer's voice -- a well-publicized remembrance that may get her killed.

When reading key parts of this story, a modern reader may think, 'Wow, that woman makes some bad choices -- why is she so stupid?' I initially thought this at one point, until I took into account cultural and time period differences: in Japan, losing face is sometimes deemed more important than survival, so what Americans like myself may consider stupidity may have seemed like acceptable risks in Japan in 1959. Bearing this in mind, this is another excellent story, despite a few questionable elements and choices.

6.)  "The Woman Who Wrote Haiku": When a regular contributor stops sending in her poetry, the editors of a magazine grow concerned and investigate. What they discover is a devious plot and other odd circumstances. This is an all-around superb story, one of my favorites in this anthology.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Kill Your Friends by John Niven

(pb; 2008)

From the back cover:

"Meet Steven Stelfox.

"London 1997: New Labour is sweeping into power and Britpop is at its zenith. Twenty-seven-year-old A&R man Stelfox is slashing and burning his way through the music industry, a world where 'no one knows anything' and where careers are made and broken by chance and the fickle tastes of the general public - 'Yeah, those animals'.

"Fuelled by greed and inhuman quantities of cocaine Stelfox blithely criss-crosses the globe ('New York, Cologne, Texas, Miami, Cannes: you shout at waiters and sign credit card slips and all that really changes is the quality of the porn') searching for the next hit record amid a relentless orgy of self-gratification.

"But as the hits dry up and the industry begins to change, Stelfox must take the notion of cutthroat business practices to murderous new levels in a desperate attempt to salvage his career."


This satiric, horrific-as-a-rape-revenge-flick, American Psycho-esque take on the 1990s Britpop scene is a good, entertaining and quip-quotable novel. Kill is a more cohesive read that flows better than Bret Easton Ellis's failed-experiment American Psycho, even if it does run a bit long around the middle of the story -- worth reading, this. possibly worth owning (if you do not mind the extended middle section).


The resulting film was released stateside on April 1, 2016. Owen Harris directed the film.

Nicholas Hoult played Steven Stelfox. James Corden played Roger Waters. Georgia King played Rebecca. Craig Roberts played Darren. Jim Piddick played Derek Sommers. Bronson Webb played Rob Hasting. Rosanna Hoult, real-life sister of Nicholas Hoult, played Katy.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 1997: fourth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the inside flap:

"Fresh from a stint on an offshore oil rig Hap arrives home in LaBorde, Texas, to find his best friend Leonard brooding over the break-up with his lover, Raul. Things get worse when Raul's new lover is found murdered and Leonard is the prime suspect. Hap sets out to clear his friends name, but there are complications in the form of a nurse with an abusive husband, a tornado, and threatening behavior from LaBorde's Chili King - not to mention more dead bodies than you can shake a stock at."


Bad is another excellent, fun entry in the Hap and Leonard series. It has all the elements that made the preceding books so enjoyable: a mix of quip-sharp banter (usually involving Hap and Leonard); sadistic, twisted bad guys; sudden and raw violence, punctuated by effective warmth and humor; and, most effectively, the rapport between the titular characters, whose bond makes Lansdale's entertaining, addictive-read writing shine even more.

Like the other books in this series, this is worth owning. Followed by Rumble Tumble.

<em>Sign of the Unicorn</em> by Roger Zelazny

(hb; 1975: third novelette in The Chronicles of Amber quintology) From the back cover " He who rules Amber rules the one t...