Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Earworm Inception

Author: Jon Konrath
“Listen to long conversation about last week’s UFO sightings, theories on Vincent Price. Robots. Fiber. Victory.”
-- Jon Konrath. The Earworm Inception (Kindle Location 82). Paragraph Line Books.
You had me at Vincent Price. OK, you had me at “Sleep Has No Master.” Yes!
Sleep Has No Master is awesome, but I actually belly-laughed at points during this book. The stories are punchy, quick and seriously bizarre. Amazing work. This is a short review because a lot of my points about Sleep are valid for this book.
The story “Nancy Grace....” is both funny and an indictment on our current high-fructose-corn-syrup-coated food supply, mindless movies and television, and our crappy world in general.
And of course, the theme of heavy metal pervades. King Diamond? Sheesh, haven’t listened to his stuff in years (still can’t stand the falsetto, but album covers are awesome).
One reviewer mentioned that Konrath was good at telling these stories with a straight face. That is indeed a great way of saying—it’s so darned serious and then POW. Bloody face. Love it. If you like funny, bizarre, bizarro, or even period baroque instruments, this collection is for you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sleep Has No Master

hor: Jon Konrath
Description: “Can we tell the difference between our dreams and reality? In his latest collection of short stories and flash fiction, Jon Konrath dances between metafiction and nihilism in an absurdist world of geek culture where cancer is the latest fashion trend, books have been replaced in schools with episodes of Barney Miller, time travel is possible but annoying because of the commercials, and mutant krill/human hybrids perform special forces military operations in Iran. Each story either shows the narrator’s past in a land called Bighikistan, or peeks at his subconscious in a series of insomnia-influenced dreams and nightmares.”
Absolutely Insane
I think I have said at one point, “This is the strangest thing I have ever read,” and I keep saying it. Which is awesome. And this is awesome. A collection of stories that have a tiny sliver of a thread between them, but yet stand alone. If this type of thing was a complete novel, it would be very hard for me to follow along—honestly, one has to take a break from this type of thing frequently. It is very intense.
This collection is basically insane psychotic scripture, laced with prescription drugs, Colonel Sanders, and large quantities of heavy metal. In other words, it is perfect bizarro. While many of the stories have at least a modicum of what modern science would call a “plot,” others are completely random artifacts with no connection whatsoever to reality.
I loved it.
But hold on, beneath the total insanity is a scathing indictment of the real world. Microsoft may get the brunt of things, but there is still a theme of criticism against the institutions that have created an alternate version of reality; and, like the mindless drones we can be, many of us have been sucked into this world. Konrath reminds us that there is indeed a reality outside of Pixar, the Kardashians, and carbon-copy restaurants. It is a message that will sadly be missed by those who only purchase books and stories that are sanctioned by the aforementioned machinery, but will be appreciated by folks who tend not to take the world as presented to them by others—those of us who wish to create our own reality and our own experiences.
Within the insanity are such scathing attacks on the things that piss us off—such as getting conned at the oil change place. This has happened to me: I had recently had brand new tranny fluid put in, then popped by the quickie lube to get the oil changed, and guess what? They showed me “dirty” transmission fluid… probably not even from my car. Check out “Oil Change Introspection Therapy.” This kind of thing is enough for anyone to fall into a maddening, uncontrollable rage.
Even if you don’t like bizarro, get this anyway. Perhaps it will change your mind and offer you a new perspective in life.
4.3 stars.

What's in the Clouds?

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Author: Trent B. Dean
Description: “The first of the Mr Twizzlepip series, What’s in the Clouds? is a fun, rhyming book suitable for children, ages 3 to 6. Join Mr Twizzlepip as he challenges his young readers to guess all the things that he can see in the clouds.
This book is a lot of fun to read out loud, especially when using a very posh English accent. Go on, I dare you ol’ chap.”
Review: This is the first children’s book I have reviewed. Having two boys, I have read to them a fair share of books, so I do have some experience. What’s in the Clouds is a great book to read to your young one, as soon as they are old enough to sit upright and pay attention for a few minutes. The pictures are bright, not too busy, the words large, and there is sufficient spacing.
There is a distinctly British appeal to this story, referenced of course in the blurb. I appreciate this different perspective and its ability to showcase a different way of phrasing to kids. It may be a turnoff for Americans, but I don’t think it is anything that detracts from the book. And the style still is in the vein of Eastman, with the short words and interchange between them; by repetition we can learn new words and phraseology.
This also drops a few points because of the first and last images of the man in the hat. When I look at it up close, the first image (with his small pupils dead-center in his eye) make him look a little scary and dangerous, as does the very last picture. Because of this, I’m not sure it would be the first book I would grab from the pile at book-reading time. Which is a shame because this is a really great book and kids will really enjoy it. It is a great way of encouraging children to look past the normal and the mundane, and expand their imaginations.

3.5 stars.
I was given a copy of this for review

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hym and Hur

Author: Phillip Frey
Description: “In this fantasy-comedy Hym and Hur are a young couple who never age and have been in love for more than a century.  They also possess an array of magical abilities, two of which are either to play pranks on humankind or to perform good deeds.  Enacting both at the same time is now what gets them into trouble, especially since it's the character of Death they must deal with to bring their plans to fruition.     The prank Hym and Hur have come up with must first be agreed upon by Death, who happens to be an unruly, difficult character.  Once agreed upon, the prank is set in motion.  But then Hym and Hur soon discover Death had tricked them into a contract with dire consequences for all of us.    During their attempt to break the contract, Hym and Hur try to save the relationship of an earthbound couple, knowing they are truly meant for each other.  A good deed that will bring Hym and Hur even more trouble.”
I like the concept for this story, though at times it felt a little choppy. The characters were fairly well-described, though I missed out on some action with Archie’s ability (not enough, that is). But I can understand that you don’t want to get into a derail and suddenly have this thing be about zombies. Like other reviewers, there was a sense of disconnectedness, and of not really getting into the characters. I realize it’s a delicate balance in a short story, but I still had that sensation.
Some of the criticisms of the editing have probably been taken seriously: I did not find too many errors (e.g., it’s now “wreaking havoc”, so that’s good). That is why Kindle is great—you can fix things very quickly. But, to that point, it did seem like it needs just a little more polish. Another little dab of Turtle wax.
I did not feel like the author was trying to push any type of agenda—he was merely pointing out the fact that we tend to kill each other a lot on this planet. Why blame the collector?
Death? I like him in this one. If you have read “On a Pale Horse” by Piers Anthony, you will understand when I say that this newest intern to the gruesome collector’s job is a bit of a prick. Funny, but still one who enjoys his work a little too much. Since Death is such a popular character in fantasy, I like how Frey keeps the focus on the main characters and doesn’t delve too much into Death, although I could see another whole story about this.
As an aside, I think it could have ended a little differently, a little darker. This is purely personal taste, but I thought of a specific ending as I read of the troubles that Hym and Hur went to in order to negate their deal with Death. I’ve shared this with the author, so perhaps another version sometime?
I was given a copy of this for review.
3.3 stars.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Paint, Present, and Future

Author: Cindy A. Carl
Description: "In a quaint village in Mexico, Dani, a struggling, endearing, and somewhat klutzy artist, sets out in pursuit of her dream. Little did she know that the pursuit would become the dream. One night a Shadow Man appears and sends her on a quest: she must find a mysterious woman, and it can only be done through a series of ten paintings. Each painting is prefaced by bizarre situations; including a hurricane, a yellow-out storm, and an excursion into a curio shop with no doors. Three uncooperative guides: a translucent figure, a troll, and a typist who lives in a tree, hold the key... but to what?"
This was a very wonderful journey. While the book is not in the "normal" bizarro realm (is there such a thing?), it is still far outside of the norm that it really kept me flipping the pages. What is reality? What is a dream? Or is all of this some drug- or sleep-depraved hallucination?
As I read this book, I kept questioning my own place in “modern” society, in the daily chores, the endless trail of electronic paperwork, and the go-go-go world we live in. And, seeing as the lead character has given this all up for a simpler life in Mexico really had me wishing I could just pack up and go. But with it come a host of other problems—getting away from it all doesn’t always make us more creative or inspire us.
The writing is clean and the story is smooth and well-paced. But that is really a sidelight to my real enjoyment of the story: It made me think and question reality as it is. Bizarro (I mean the stuff with pink bunnies toting daisy-shaped machine guns and chewing on lima beans) is unpredictable and strange. This was unpredictable, but also clever enough to stretch the mind and alter perceptions—there are too many cookie-cutter works of fiction out there, and this one really stands out of the crowd with its ambition. The ending was so well done, and unexpected.
This book ranks high up there when it comes to anything I have been asked to review. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

4 solid stars.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I really appreciate all of the review requests, and the super load of great books to review. While I don't have a set timeline to review, it is looking like books received after 8/10/2012 will probably get reviewed near the beginning of 2013, closer to February. That date may move (hopefully closer), but that's how it goes, I guess.

As a writer, I used to get frustrated when blogs had such far-out timelines, but now that I have a nice stack of great books to read, I can perfectly understand.