Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Author: Mark Hayes
Description: "From Beverly Hills mansions to Irish country lanes, super-yachts to side-alleys, howling cougars to psychotic nutters, stand-up spotlights to police helicopter searchlights, superstar highs to inner demon woes, along with so much more, Mark Hayes takes us on quite an adventure in RanDumb-er, the random but hardly dumb tales of an Irish chancer."
Review: After reading the existing reviews on this, I wondered if I had the same copy, or my worldview is completely distorted.
After the first two chapters, I definitely agreed with everyone; this was some really funny stuff, quick, random, wild, and bizarre. It was different and fun... but for a limited time.
Because this really defies classification in a genre, I am not going to knock points off because of the one-word sentences or random punctuation. But there should also be a limit to this type of thing, a balance.
And I hate to knock things down because of taste—I really try not to do that. There have to be other glaring problems, such as plot holes, editing, etc. I'm not sure there would be many editing concerns with this one, since the sentences are quick and punchy. And there really is no plot, but is that OK?
The basic premise is: Try to get going in LA, get career started. Meet girls, get drunk, have some sort of intimate encounter (usually only ones that benefit the author), wake up, regret everything, and try again. Because of this, the main character comes across as very self-centered, as if the world just spins for his own benefit. The same routine over and over really got to me for some reason, and though that is a matter of taste, it also rings of a "plot" problem.
I do not like to be the one to knock down a book like this. As I said, the first pages really got be because the style was out-there, and I figured things were going to get weird. They got weird, but then fell into a monotonous routine. I think this could have been a lot shorter, maybe even a long story/novella, and come across perfectly.
I was given a copy of this for review.
Additional Info: I did a little digging and something just seems a little odd about this. First I checked out RanDumb and its 90+ glowing reviews... OK, so I have no life apparently but something stuck in my craw and so I followed up. Then I checked out this one.
Only THREE other reviewers had reviewed any book (some had reviewed products, but I was only looking at books) other than Hayes' works. Only three. Out of almost 100 reviews for these two books, we only have three people who have reviewed anything else. And oddly, almost every review is 5 stars. Curiously, those who gave negative reviews had many other book reviews... but they get buried in the avalanche of five stars.
I can't say for sure what this means, but my instinct tells me something is up.

Above the Universe Below

Author: Elias Barton
Description: Being the grim reaper of another world is only part of Carder’s life.  In our world he’s a shut-in, leaving home only to dash to his hospital job removing the corneas of deceased donors.  Still, Carder has long ushered weird creatures to the afterlife and honored them in bleak, individual paintings.  That’s Carder’s existence – and he’s content.  
Haika changes that.  A bored, beautiful, married art gallery-owner, she stumbles into Carder by chance.  As they forge a quirky, sexually-tinged relationship, Carder is reluctantly pulled into Haika’s social world of wealth and status. Carder is tested further when his teenage niece visits, rebelling against her religious upbringing.  When Haika finally prods Carder to publicly show the bleak art he’s obsessively created, Carder’s hidden history threatens to ruin his prospects, and on the night of his art gallery opening, his past finally becomes too much for him to take
Review: Well, this wasn't bizarro per se, though it was strange enough that I agreed to review it.
It was, well, in a word, interesting. The writing is great and I can see how it got so far in the process for breakthrough novel. Who knows how those contests work anyway, but I don't think that missing the high mark is a bad thing; this is a really good book.
Like the other reviewers, I felt myself dazed and confused--in a good way. One is never sure of what is going on, and the writing is fast and crisp such that you keep flipping the page to find out what happens next. A few phrases here and there are confusing and a little clunky, but I found my way quickly.
While others enjoyed Carder, at times he came across as "woe-is-me", or "check me out, I'm so uber cool and depressed. Yay." Perhaps that was the emotion that Barton was trying to elicit. If so, it worked. But if it wasn't, then count me as one who dislikes the guy. Personal taste and all that. It's a very solipsist characterization, and it does fit, especially at the end, but by then all pre-conceptions and notions have been obliterated. Wow. Did that make sense? It isn't supposed to.
Plot, etc.: F. Blunt's review captures well the basic idea of the book and its direction. So I don't really need to go into all that... just know that this was a fun read, well worth .99. A very unique tale, which really does do a good job of hinting at the dark and deadly with a crooked grin. It is a terrific story and as I re-read passages, and think more on it, I wish the book had made it to the top of the contest: It is far better than most books out there today. It takes a little getting used to, but in my mind a good book is not supposed to pass everything off at a third grade level. It should make you think, question, wonder, and doubt where you are at all times.
Highly recommended.
Notes: There were some editing issues, nothing major (e.g., capitol vs. capital, and some other odds 'n ends things).
4 stars!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Scarce Resources

Author: Brendan Detzner
Description: A collection of strange short stories.
There have been a few short story collections that have come my way and I really enjoy them because they provide a nice break to a longer novel. In this collection, we have a bunch of very interesting, very quick, readable, and VERY strange stories.
And, because this is a collection of stories, many of which have appeared in other publications over the years, one gets to observe how a writer's style has changed over time... in a good way. (Although I'm not sure if these are all placed in chronological order of publication. There are a few clues that indicate otherwise, but nothing to detract from the overall quality.)
Some stories feel a little short, while "Music for Scalpel and Piano" is micro-fiction on the head of a pin. I think even "Another Saturday Night" could be drawn out a little more.
I really, really, really like the explanations of the stories at the end, which help explain things, and make me realize the micro piece is really OK. Although I'd want longer. That's just a matter of taste...
... as are these stories. When Detzner says that "Super Jesus" has no redeeming value, he's right. But, guilty as I am, it was probably my favorite, next to "Another Saturday Night." As a connoisseur of strange and weird things, this was a very nice foray into that territory. Though not totally bizarro, it is worth a read.
So, while this is not a tome of powerful literature, it is good and a quick, fun read. As mentioned before, some of the stories feel like shells (darn good shells, mind you), but slightly empty or lacking.
If you are into short stories, I definitely recommend this.
Please add a description for Amazon. When I wrote this, the title was misspelled, "Scarce Resoures" and it is being fixed I am told.
I was given a copy of this for review.
3.45 stars

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bury the Children in the Yard

Author: Andersen Prunty
Description: Andersen Prunty returns with another collection of horror stories. This volume features: “The Library of Trespass”, “Music from the Slaughterhouse”, “A Butterfly in Ice”, “The Spot”, “Laundrymen”, “The Warm House”, and the novella “Bury the Children in the Yard.”
Review: I got this because I'm now a huge fan of Prunty. This is not bizarro at all, but it is sure out there. The writing is fantastic, the stories are perfectly written and just the right length. The longer, definitely more epic, tale "Bury the Children in the Yard" is a monster of a tale. Not in length, but in impact and brute force. This one sticks out so much that I'm spending the rest of the review on it.
Just to give a little warning, there is a focus on s-e-x in this story, but it makes perfect sense when you hit a certain point in the tale. Substitute violence for ankles-in-the-air, and it all clicks. Since that is what rumpy-bumpy is. But, true to Prunty's style, reality vs. dream is wiped from your brain in a massive swoop and you exclaim to a crowded lunchroom: "WTF!"
And when they ask what you are reading, you click off the device, and run from the room.
There were times in the story where I thought I knew what was going to happen; what the final denouement will be. And my stomach lurched when I (thought) I had it figured out... I remember thinking, "Oh no, he is no going there, is he?" But he doesn't. At least not explicitly. After thinking this over, I realize that that is the genius... he never comes out and tells you, but you are given enough clues with which you can assemble the puzzle.
That is why I need Clorox for the brain.

I can appreciate those who do not see this as horror, because it does not involve head-chopping, chainsaw-wielding savages, or torture. For those who appreciate a subtler brand of horror and fear, this collection is perfect (especially the last story.) One does not need graphic images to be frightened. Fear doesn't always manifest itself the same in people--I was not scared by these stories. I squirmed, I writhed, I became nearly nauseous at the thought of where the author was going. And I didn't need an entire movie-reel of violence and bloodshed.
The ending, however, seemed to lack a certain oomph. As I re-read, it makes sense to end that way, but I still didn't really get a sense that this ended as strongly as it could have. That is the only reason this thing does not get five stars.... otherwise it is absolutely amazing.
4 solid stars

Friday, June 15, 2012

Closing My Eyes Helps Me to See Clearly

Author: Kipp Poe Speicher
Description: "A Nightmare vision of the end of the world and for a limited time a bonus short story Gas For Grass and a sneak peak at my two novels "I Thought You Tasted Like Rain" and "The Other Side"
These two short stories will twist and torment your mind as you unravel the paradox within them. A desperate dash to save a life, realizing one’s own fate, and a man mentally snapping at life’s issues: these stories dive into the dark side and may keep you up at night.
A race for life, a beautiful butterfly, and inevitable suffering accepted as beauty, Closing My Eyes is written from 3 angles, all from descriptive visions lurking inside Speicher. Gas for Grass will make you question sanity, as you find odd enjoyment in the insanity behind one man’s plight for quiet."
Review: Excuse me, but why was this tagged bizarro? It's not funny at all. There's a matter of taste and there is tasteless. Perhaps it is because I have kids, but the first scene nearly drove me to turn the Kindle off and delete the file. But now, I plowed on. After all, I need to make sure my personal taste does not cloud the review.
Not sure I like that word used in the second story, either, though it is first person. Again, taste, so we'll just back off slightly.
Now, to the writing/editing/proofing. Sure, this was edited. Fine. Editors are even listed in the title, so we'll believe that. But were they looking for plot holes, clichés, poor understanding of the language? (red and blue lights don't "ascend", did you mean, their glow began to fill the room; the plaintive wail of the sirens echoed in his head. Heck even that's cliché... still.) It needs some proofing. Well, and a lot more.
Falls to three stars on taste, then plummets with the problems listed above. Many reviewers have said as much as I have, so I won't repeat the valid points. But the author is encouraged to keep on writing, practicing, get some beta readers, etc.
Oh, and how did it get to #35 in Nonfiction -> Philosophy? Huh?
1 star.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Doom Magnetic

Author: William Pauley III
Description: Chorizo, Nevada is full of dusty streets, gritty men and filthy women - the perfect place for a man chock-full of secrets to hide. But one fateful day, his past catches up to him...
A Japanese assassin with a cue-ball eye, who goes by the name of Qoser, invades the town with an army of two-foot eyeless minions who have a taste for human blood. He has two things on his mind – Where is his purple television? And who is the dead man that stole it from him?
DOOM MAGNETIC! is a fast-paced sci-fi/western space opera packed full of sex, violence, cosmic voids, vortexes, Coliseum-style combat, genetically-engineered mutant giants, breathy brain whispers, and cigar smoke torture chambers.
Review: At first, the writing style of this book got to me. I know these are hick characters, in a hick town. Yet the writing style sure matches the atmosphere of the place, and as the story progressed, it suddenly became transparent and I didn't even notice. Well, until it all changed... but that's what makes it great.
Try to keep up, kids, this is some super-fine bizarro.
I did notice, however, the giant—holy crap, bugs!
Sorry, where was I?
While this story does not come out and throw naked pink unicorns riding Harley's along a road made of lettuce and titanium, it still takes out a massive chunk of Crazy and smacks you upside the head.
It's a short, fast, wonderful read. Perhaps a little too short, but then you don't want to have to force things to a certain length. You get the picture quickly and are off to the races. Somebody zap me with the cliché-zapper. Thank you. After all, it is celebrity that matters, isn't it. So who cares? Right. But, the main point I'm trying to make is this: This is a fun, fast, and perfectly written for the genre. Read it. Read it now. And be careful who you shoot in a barroom massacre. 
OK, I'm off to make some chorizo and eggs. The corn tortillas are warm if you'd like to come over... or not, yes, better not. Stay home. You're safe from the Doom Magnetic at home.
Aren't you?
3.9 stars
Additional Info: The text was not justified on the Kindle version. Not a lot of space/breaks between chapters. If this bothers you, feel free to step into the Doom Magnetic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enhance Your Exports! Doing Business on Other Planets - William Peskett

Author: William Peskett
Description: ‘This is a serious business book. If it’s cheap laughs you want, stick with “In Search of Excellence”.’ So begins this satire of 21st century life disguised as a science-fiction guide to doing business on other planets.
Follow Dave Smart, business studies lecturer, as he leads three business colleagues on a tour of discovery to the Smiling Disc star system, 19 light years from home. Their main purpose is to investigate business practice on Kalista-mm, the larger of the system’s two planets, and gather material for Dave’s new book, ‘Doing Business on Other Planets.’
Review: "This is a serious business book." If you think that opening line was a joke, think again. While this story is rife with humor and zaniness, there are so many parallels to our own world, perceptions, ideals, and business practices that sometimes you stop laughing and cry. And then laugh again.
See, it's like this: I'd have to give you 33 cents back from a dollar, when the item cost 45 cents. This, because of the ancient practice of shaving the dollar bills with beaver whiskers and muskrat milk; not to mention that such practice is difficult, destructive, and causes waste. Thus, this tariff has been hefted upon you for that service. You're welcome.
Get it?
Great! You'll be perfect for the job.
This is a fast read, very well-written, smooth, and the characters are enjoyable. The dialogue is very witty, and there is a lot of it, which really keeps things moving well. We are treated to a Candide-esque traipse around a strange planet and its moon. M-o-o-o-n, that spells moon. (Three o's are intentional.) Great read, and I really enjoyed it. The ending is a good setup for future tales in this saga, and I eagerly await more, though it did feel a little flat to me.
It's not really bizarro, though it is bizarre. But don't let that stop you. Let the definers of genres bicker and argue. Read this book.
Oh, and I have actually seen the sun in Snowdonia. But it rained like hell in Llanerchymedd.
3.77 stars

Friday, June 8, 2012

Merciful Flush - Lance Manion

Author: Lance Manion
"Merciful Flush is a short story collection culled from 5 years of blogging. It aspires to be the literary equivalent of a video montage, very short stories presented in a manner to elicit a response. While each individually may be taken as funny or crude, poignant or stupid, the hope is that together they inspire the reader to a unique idea of their own."
Review: Here we have a collection of strange little tales, fully of the wacky and the wild. Now, some are hilarious ("the amazing spider man" for instance, when the gives them a moth and spider a right bloody what-for), others are quirky and strange, like the author says, it's like a video montage.
The e-book version it really needs some tweaking for formatting (see below) on Kindle. Additionally, the entire collection needs some editing and proofreading. There were numerous mistakes and usage issues—not enough to kill the story, but enough to really push it down the ranking scale.
The stories are not bad, some are funny, others so-so. It's not everyone's cup of tea and that is OK. As I say in my guide, I'm not going to give poor reviews based on taste—you may be on the floor laughing while I just sit there and stare at you. But with the editing/proofreading issues aside, much of this writing is somewhat puerile (and gosh I hate to say that, but, well...)—there is always room for disjointed, casual, colloquial writing in bizarro. This story has it in bundles, and it often detracts from the story. Again, this is my opinion, your mileage may vary.
I feel really, really bad at having to mark something so low, but that is part of the bargain when soliciting reviews. Lance needs to tighten up his work and maybe go back through and clean some of the passages up. It can get four stars, it really can. This iteration just doesn't have it, but the potential is there.
2 stars
Additional Info: When I did "Look Inside" on Amazon, the formatting was clean and perfect, but the Kindle version I received, page numbers were sometimes in the middle of pages; it made it hard to read, with a paragraph breaking in the middle where a page number was plopped. Some paragraphs had no punctuation, or broke inexplicably on the page... This should be re-tweaked so the e-book lines up with the text.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Shill Stops Here

OK, folks, in my little review guide I mention briefly how shill reviews, sock puppets, and well-meaning bloggers/reviewers have cheapened the entire indie/small-market publishing community. When everyone gets five stars, it really makes you wonder: Is there anything bad out there?
Because the entire stream cannot be filled with shining gold, sparkling champagne, that's impossible. Sometimes it's clogged with piss and shit.
There are some really super awesome indie/small-market books out there, folks! Really! I'm finding a ton of gems even as I write this, and am blogging them. Some come to me by request, others I find on my own.
I'm sorry to say that not everything is Jane Eyre.
There will be reviews on this site that are rated low. When I built this site, I expected that would happen, but not until these pieces crossed the transom did I realize how hard that would be. You see, I'm a writer too, and if someone hit me with a two-star review, I would be sad. I thought, "gee, do I really want to give out these two stars? How would I feel if I got a low ranking?" The more I pondered and evaluated however, the more I realized I would need to embrace such reviews, work on what needed improving, showcase the various thoughts about my work, and move forward.
And so, with a slightly heavy heart, I will be posting some less-than-stellar stuff here. I've decided I can't shirk from what I've committed to do. There will most likely be consequences, but I have steeled myself and am ready for them.
But, please, please, please, please, keep this in mind: This is my opinion! I am one person in the great web of nets, one little dude. And so are other readers and reviewers. Someone may even choose to buy your book because of my reviews! Think—a book/story with a balance of opinions is indicative of a good work. 100 five-star reviews does not highlight skill or genius to me, but is the result of a carefully built network of shills, well-meaning friends/relatives, or reviewers afraid to give anything less than five stars. Balance, folks, balance, is the meaning of life.

Paradise - A Divine Comedy - Glenn Myers

Author: Glenn Myers
Description: "A comedy. A fantasy. A story of redemption. With quite a lot of Afghan food. Set in a world borrowed from John Milton's Paradise Lost but peopled with underperforming evil spirits, a quarrelling First Couple and a snake with a personality disorder."
Review: The premise of this is a cool idea—comatose people meeting up, crossing over to their respective paradise, though we find out quickly that it probably isn't quite a paradise. Myers is skillful at paralleling Dante's works and showing us that heaven can really be hell. Careful what you wish for.
And don't forget the big snake and corrosive yellow rain.
This is a wacky storyline wrapped within some very heavy philosophy and it is brilliantly written. At some points it's a little clunky but it's not enough make you push stop and get off the train. But Myers is a great writer and his style is terrific; there is nothing wrong with his craft.
But I didn't laugh much. Was I supposed to? Perhaps, perhaps not—it is still an indictment on our belief systems, our perceptions of reality. I smiled a lot, chuckled a little, but like other reviewers, found myself pushing through the theology—I agree with the assessment that the other characters are just there for the benefit of the main character; a very solipsist view. Those other characters are thin, which I would expect for something a little more bizarre, but for this type of work perhaps they needed to be more fleshed out. I don't know.
The book does feel long at times, but I found myself wanted to know the end—would he wake up? Or would the comatose world of dreams continue? Or was it really a dream? A long from a heavy metal song kept ringing through my head while reading this: "Time/Only Time will tell/if this will be heaven or hell" (Gamma Ray).
This was a great book. I liked it. There is nothing wrong with the assessment I am giving, especially since it rounds to three stars. A very good book, worth reading.
3.28 stars
Additional Info: The copy I received was not justified text and the dashes were - - , not —. If that really bothers you, you need help. I do. So back off. Definitely did not hurt anything, but a little pet peeve. Again, that's my opinion...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Conjurer's Oath - Malachi Stone

Author: Malachi Stone
"Remember the halcyon days of AM car radio music so lo-fi you had to buy the album and read the liner notes in order to decipher the lyrics? If so, you'll get "revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night" when you catch the twisted nostalgia of CONJURER'S OATH"
At first I wasn't sure what to do with this when it was sent to me to review—I started up a blog to review bizarro and this came across my virtual desk to review. It's not like "Lost in Cat Brain Land" or "Death by Zamboni" bizarro, but it is most definitely in a category of the strange and unusual. I nearly put it down, but kept going, knowing that the little glimpse of backwoods Americana was going to get weird, and quick.
And it sure does get weird.
One moment you are viewing a small town and its various moving parts of humanity, and the next—BAM! Stone deftly flips the tables on the reader, and I immediately get a vibe from Lost Highway and From Dusk Till Dawn, and a whole gamut of speculative fiction—there's the obvious David Lynch feel, the Tarantino brutality, and a lubed-up Mr. Science.
The writing is perfect, although sometimes I wonder—"is this Illinois?" but then again, yeah, it sure can be. Sorry. Stone does a wonderful job in developing his characters, although for some reason, I just can't get into Rahab/Dee Dee... just a personal thing, and it does not take away from the story.
For the bizarro "purists" (if there is such a thing, and golly I hope there isn't), this is not what your expecting.
But that's the point, isn't it?!
This is so out there, so beyond what is normal and acceptable at times; I think that it really has a place in the bizarro shelf. Get it, read it, and keep your head above water. Great stuff!
3.9 Stars (4 rounded up on Amazon).
Additional Info: There are some pretty graphic "love" scenes, some not involving humans. As one reviewer put it, you need to keep an open mind, and you need to keep it open with a pair of very large clamps.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fill the Grand Canyon and Live Forever

Author: Andersen Prunty
Description: "Social networks can be used for a number of things such as finding out what friends and family members are up to, trying to get girls to take their clothes off on camera, raising awareness, and organizing protests, revolutions, and relief efforts. But what if one man decided to use a social network for one of the most idiotic causes in human history? Join the hopeless and brain damaged Andy Boring in his quest to FILL THE GRAND CANYON AND LIVE FOREVER!!!!" (From
Review: Now this is bizarro! Modern, edgy, crusty stuff. It's like punk rock, grunge metal and Frank Sinatra all in one messy little ball. Then add some Fear and Loathing, Seinfeld, and Twin Peaks (the movie), stir with a melon-baller—and there you have it. Maybe. Though this really stands on its own in its wonderful, strung-out, and deliciously madcap glory.
I like brownies, too.
Wild rides with geriatrics, wives (maybe) and their lovers with sores, a lost man, and of course the Grand Canyon. Why are you looking at me? Do you think I'm fat? I like it like that... so what was I talking about?
Oh yeah, this book. Yeah, er, hand me those flares, will you?
Prunty is one hell of a writer and he captures the genre perfectly. While this is his only work I 've read so far, it is terrific, and it has me looking for more wonderful works from this guy. First I have to move this busted-up cheerleader... there, OK. I have sparks for eyes.
Do I really need to say more? This is great stuff and I really enjoyed reading it. Fast-paced with cool pictures between the chapters, and no fillers. MacGruber! Where's my throat? Damn, this is good, so good I need to take a bath in rose petals and cashmere-coated peanuts.
A solid 4.377832 stars.
Additional Info: This review was NOT solicited. I am completely guilty of finding this item and reviewing it all by myself. Estelle would be proud.
It also has some graphic scenes ("love" scenes, k?), but then again, it's bizarro, so you should be OK with that and not let it distract you from—hey, the creeping Charlie is getting worse. Just set the lawn on fire. I'll bring the gas.