Thursday, July 22, 2021

Audio: "Bust" by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

 Audio: Bust by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, 2001, downloaded from Hoopla. Narrated by Peter Berkrot.

Dang. 2001? I selected this after reading the second in the series and there was a six year gap between the two. From the Max and Angela series.

Max runs a computer networking and support business in Manhattan. Max is a major narcissist and all-around asshole. Angela is Max's personal assistant with the same personality issues. Mac and Angela start schtuping. Max hates his wife and wants to her gone. Angela loves Max's money. Max and Angela conspire to have Max's wife murdered.

Angela uses her psychotic live-in boyfriend to kill the wife. The murder works out fine but Max's niece si also murdered. Oops. Max is a little bit bummed about the niece, but Max figures he does a fair job of faking sorrow during the entire process.

Anyhoo. Things happen. Genital herpes is spread. Max starts falling apart when people start blackmailing him and the cops are all over him. Max starts boozing like a madman. Angela has to deal with a uber-violent nutcase boyfriend. Most everything ends sadly for most everyone.

Fun stuff because this is all dark humor as all these idiots and assholes try to cheat one another. Bruen and Starr do a fantastic job of creating Max as a narcissistic bastard who will delude himself and cares for no one. 



Audio: "Slide" by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

 Audio: Slide by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, 2007, downloaded from Hoopla. Narrated by Peter Berkrot.

Pretty damn good with great narration. Second in the Max And Angela series and the first I read/heard.

Max wakes up in a hotel room in Alabama. He has no idea how he got there. He has not money. He has no food. He has no booze. Over the next couple days we learn about Max being a drunk and recently under suspicion for killing his wife. We learn he had a girlyfriend who he now hates.

Meanwhile, Max's former girlyfriend is Angela and she is in Ireland and earning a living by hooking up with dudes and using their dough. She hooks up with a sociopath whose goal in life is to be a famous serial killer.

Things happen. Max gets back to NYC and starts dealing crack after making friends with a small-time crack dealer in AL. Angela hooks up with Crazy Nutjob and comes back to NYC. Cop who investigated Max in the first book is still after him. Bruen and Starr mix all these assholes, murderers, and genital herpes sufferers together and they all make each other and themselves miserable and occasionally dead.

Comments:

1. Fun stuff with a lot of laugh out loud moments.

2. Each other skewers the other by making them characters - but without real names. They say things like, "But, I won an Edgar!" as they are being murdered.

3. Lots of genital herpes.

Crider: "The NIghttime Is the Right Time" by Bill Crider

 Crider: The Nighttime Is The Right Time: a collection of stories by Bill Crider, 2010, ebook off Wisconsin Digital Library.

Short stories with a few characters from the novels and a few characters from short stories only. Fun stuff and with more sex and gore than the Dan Rhodes series. 

I've not favorites that come to mind. But, reading Crider's work is always a pleasure. The two stories about a young guy who is a werewolf were quite good. I should check and see if he did any more than that. 

Damn and hell, I sure do miss his blog. Crider was a good dude.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Bailed: "Alive in Shape and Color" edited by Lawrence Block

 Bailed: Alive in Shape and Color: 17 paintings by great artists and the stories they inspired edited by Lawrence Block, 2017, 9781681775616.


Pandemic reading victim. I read about half the short stories. Nice list of authors but I could not get into this.

Comments:

1. Foreword by Block mentions that the paintings that were chosen also depended on licensing of the painting since the work is reproduced as part of each story intro.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Comic: Kill or Be Killed: Volume Two by Ed Brubaker, et al

  Comic: Kill or Be Killed: Volume Two by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, 2017, 9781534302280

More of the same as Dylan has the cops and Russian mobsters looking for him. Dylan's personal life is messy as Best Pal Girlie and he are secretly sexing it up, then stopping, and Dylan starts dating an old girlfriend again. Brubaker swings back around to whether Dylan is having hallucinations about the demon.

Worth your time. Great story and great artwork.

Comic: "Kill or Be Killed: Volume One: by Ed Brubaker, et al

 Comic: Kill or Be Killed: Volume One by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, 2017, 9781534300286

Dylan is a grad student in his mid-twenties with a history of mental health issues and suicide attempts. One winter night he goes to his NYC apartment building roof. Right when he changes his mind about killing himself he slips off the roof. By chance and luck Dylan survives the fall. By more more bad luck a demon appears to Dylan and says Dylan was supposed to die. Since Dylan survived the demon requires Dylan to kill a person a month for the demon.


Things happen. Dylan best pal is a girl dating Dylan's roommate. Best Pal Girl starts flirting and exing up Dylan. Dylan is quite confused and conflicted about the sexing up. Dylan has visions of the demon. Dylan is getting black market mental health meds from a street dealer. Demon makes Dylan violently ill. Dylans is badly beaten and Demon claims credit. Dylan figures out someone to kill.

This was quite well done. I really liked the artwork and Brubaker told a great story.

DNF: "Ain't Nobody Nobody" by Heather Harper Ellett

 DNF: Ain't Nobody Nobody by Heather Harper Ellett, 2019, 9781947993709

Rural Texas? Hogs? A rural County Sheriff? Idiotic people? A dead body? Well, hot damn, that has Sheriff Dan Rhodes all over it!

Except it isn't Rhodes. It's not supposed to be Rhodes. And I am still unable to focus when reading. Sure, I'm ripping through audiobooks but my reading is a still pandemically suffering. After starting and restarting I decided to bail and return this to the library.

Comments:

1. I like the title.

2. The cover design is quite good. 

3. I'll have to give Ellett's work another try.

DNF: "I, A Squealer" by Richard Bruns

 DNF: I, A Squealer by Richard Bruns, 2018, 9780983166559.


I first heard of Charles Schmid when Megan Abbott and Sara Gran ran the fantastic but short-lived Abbot Gran Medicine Show. Schmid was the Pied Piper of Tucson. In his early to mid-twenties he lived off his parents in his own house. He was the sketchy guy who hung around with teenagers. He hosted parties, supplied beer, and had sex with underage teen girls.

Schmid murdered three girls and the murders were something of an open secret among the group of teens and Schmid's pals. Schmid dumped the murder victims in the desert and took a few people to visit the girls's corpses. Schmid, being a nutbag murderer, was able to scare those people into silence. 

Bruns was 19 and 20-years-old, one of Schmid's grave visiting pals, and was also dating a younger teen girl. Schmid threatened Bruns and the girlfriend. Schmid, young and clueless and probably not too smart, thought the path to follow was to "stay quiet and protect my girly-friend". Bruns turned into an obsessive and controlling boyfriend and then into an obsessive and controlling ex-boyfriend. 

Bruns would walk up and down the sidewalk in front of the girl's home. He'd park his car up the street and stare at her window. The girl did not want him around. The girl's parents did not want him around. The police did not want him around. Bruns got away with an almost round-the-clock "surveillance" until a restraining order led to a conviction and Bruns being sent to Ohio to live with a relative.

I stopped reading this about 20 pages before the end. Schmid was a murdering nutjob and Bruns was a stupid 20-year-old with a hard-on for a 15-year-old. A shitshow of idiots and morons who built up their own little bubble with Schmid a larger than life boss, and Bruns - to my eyes - trying to play out a hero role.

I got sick of Bruns's bullshit and quit the book. 


Comments:

1. Bruns wrote this in 1967, shortly after the events. His family found the document and published the work. 

2. Bruns ended up telling the police - I, a squealer - after being sent to Ohio and worried for the girlfriend.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Paperback: "The Ninja's Blade" by Tori Eldridge

Paperback: The Ninja's Blade by Tori Eldridge, 2020, 9781951709099.

Same lady sent a solicitation email for the library to purchase her novel. Most solicitations I get are self-pubbed, too narrow in interest, or look awful. That lady - forgot who - is published with Agora, which is a subsidiary (partner?) of Polis. I order her book and was scrolling through both publisher lists and figured to try this one out.

When I got this novel and started reading I realized this is the second of the series. Damn it. I prefer to start with the first in a series. Oh, well.

Lily Wong is the of a North Dakota dad and a Hong Kong mother. They all live in Los Angeles but are absent Lily's murdered sister who was killed 4-5 years ago. North Dakota runs a Chinese restaurant and Hong Kong runs a branch of her controlling father's business that does Big Shot Money Stuff For Big Shots. Mid-twenties Lily doesn't do much of anything. Sure, she does some web consulting and marketing type stuff but she mostly spends her time kung fu-ing, karate-ing, and training to fight with traditional weapons. After her sister's rape and murder Lily has dedicated her time to kicking ass and taking names of sex traffickers and other despicable people.

Anyhoo. Lily is quite petite and gets around town on her bike, bus, or Ubers (Lyft?). She volunteers with a couple shelters for people escaping sex trafficking or leaving prostitution work. Lily is on a revenge, mourning, and blame-herself-kick. She needlessly puts herself in harm's way and does so for complete strangers as she tracks down runaways and sex trafficking victims.

Subplot has Lily hiding all her undercover investigations and fistfights from her loving family. The loving family, meanwhile, is having stress as the controlling Hong Kong Father is coming for a family/work visit and Lily's mother is stressing.

Comments:

1. I enjoyed the novel. 

2. Eldridge sounds to be super-duper kung-fuey herself and I think she writes well about the skills and training. I read some authors who get way too detailed in the lingo and language of martial arts. Eldridge writes clear action scenes describing Lily's physical actions in both training and fighting. I understood what was happening and the fight scenes read quickly with no clunky. There was no, "I did a [lingo] into a [lingo] and hit him with a [lingo] an back into a [lingo]."

3.Third novel comes out this fall. I'll likely read it. Unless I forget. Which is entirely possible.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Pandemic Paperback: "The White Mountains" by John Christopher

Pandemic Paperback: The White Mountains by John Christopher, 1967 (2003 paper edition), 076714004993A.

My brother had Christopher's Tripods series. He probably purchased them from either a Scholastic book sale or the book store that used to be off Prospect in Champaign. I ended up reading the books and would periodically recall the stories over the years. So, I may as well reread them.

I'd classify this series as young adult but for younger readers. I remember a fair amount of the novel and misremember maybe as much. 

Plot: Aliens took over the earth a handful of generations ago. The aliens are never seen but when every person turns 14 they are fitted with a metal mesh cap. The cap changes behavior and allows control by the aliens. The aliens are represented by the "Tripods". Tripods are three legged metal machines 10 stories tall with a saucer shaped top and metal tentacles. Knowledge of science, math, history, etc. have all been cut off by the Tripods. No libraries are around. 

Will lives in a small English town - all cities have been abandoned after alien invasion and war - in an agrarian, pre Industrial Revolution style economy.  Will is not too keen on getting "capped". One day Will starts talking with a "Vagrant". Vagrants are the small part of the population whose capping was unsuccesful and left them brain damaged. Vagrants wander from town to town relying on charity and mindless work. This Vagrant is a fake and he tells Will The Truth: we are controlled by aliens. Skip the capping ceremony and live free. Join us in the White Mountains across the sea. After seeing his closest, best-est friend and cousin change from the capping Will figures, "Fuck yeah. I' leaving."

Things happen. Will has a hand drawn map from the Vagrant. He's ready to rebel and ready to hit the pavement. Henry is another cousin of Will's and the two have always fought. Henry blackmails his way into going along. Will wants to ditch Henry but continue their cross country foot journey. Stealing food or poaching along the way they sleep rough and in abandoned builings.

They cross the English Channel to France - you gotta figure the locations out from description because names have changed and been forgotten over the past 100 years or so. They meet up with a French kid wearing glasses. So on. So forth. Eventually reach the White Mountains and a group of people trying to fight the seemingly all powerful Tripods.

Comments:

1. I've not much to say. The is teen rebellion. Will is a bit touchy and hotheaded. Will and Co. stay at a French castle for a time and Will is kinda gooey for the local Lord's daughter. Will considers staying at the Castle, I mean how bad can capping be, right?

2. I'm not sure if Christopher had a message behind these novels. Maybe: Hey, modern life is pretty sweet, kids. Or: Think for yourselves, stick it to The Man whose is trying to control your thinking. Maybe if I read Christopher's preface to this anniversary edition I would know. But, I won't do that.

3. French kid wears glasses which are very, very, very uncommon. French kid is super smart and figured out on his own how to make them. I recalled the glasses being described as a tortuous looking device. At first reading 40 years ago I did not initially understand Christopher's description of the glasses and I struggled to understand what was on the kid's head.