Capsule reviews of my April reads…

1CHEW (vol. 8: Family Recipes) by John Layman and Rob Guillory

The eighth instalment in the ongoing series about detective Anthony Chu, a chibopath capable of receiving psychic impressions from whatever he tastes, be it inorganic matter or fresh(ly deceased) flesh and blood.  It’s been a wonderfully bizarre, over-the-top series but I feel the darkly humorous fun has took a turn for the darkly unhumorous a couple of volumes back with the gruesome murder of one of our main characters.  That surprising development left a, er, bad taste in my mouth and has cast a pall over the ensuing madcap proceedings.  It’s going to be tough to recover from that one, methinks.

1THE DINNER by Herman Koch

About 50 pages into this novel comes this passage: “You do everything in your power to make the narrator shut up, but nothing helps.  They’re too far gone to notice the signals.  Above all, they’re addicted to themselves and their own crap about film.”  And that pretty much mirrored my feelings about this book in the early going except that, instead of focusing on film, our narrator goes on and on about the different dishes he is served.   Even the foodie in me found it incredibly tiresome.  But stick it out and, about a third of the way through, things pick up in this suspenseful tale of murder and the lengths people will go to protect those they love.


In the late 21st century, society has stratified into the haves (genetically-enhanced individuals who live comfortable lives free of addiction and crime) and the have-nots (drudge workers who live in segregated, crime-ridden communities). Our protagonist, Jayna, is a hot up-and-comer at a corporation that track global trends.  She has the perfect job, the perfect life and yet, she can’t help but feel that something is…off.  Perfection aint all it’s cracked up to be and when Jayna decides to inject a little unpredictability into her ordered existence, things take a turn for the dangerous.  A very smart book.  My favorite fiction read of April.


50-something Parisian concierge Renee is a closet intellectual who keeps her interests and intelligence a secret from the upper class tenants of her building because she doesn’t want them judging her.  Ironically, she spends most of this novel generalizing and judging the upper class tenants of her building – when she’s not going on philosophical tangents. Paloma is a young Parisian teen who has evidently read Mersault’s L’Etranger one too many times and is overcome by a pervading sense of ennui.  She is so brilliant she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself and plans to commit suicide. Tsk, Parisian kids these days.  These two insufferably annoying characters are the dual protagonists of this pretentious bore of a novel. If this books was someone you met at a party, two minutes into a conversation with her and you’d be heading for the door.

1MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT by Sean Ferrell

I love a good time travel story – but, alas, this one isn’t.  A tale of a man who travels to an abandoned New York in 2071 to celebrate his birthday with past and present versions of himself.  But, on his 39th fete, he discovers the corpse of his 40 year old self.  A lengthy, meandering, convoluted investigation ensues.

1BLOOD AND IRON by Jon Sprunk

Horace is a ship-wrecked soldier on enemy land.  Soon after being sold into service as a house slave, he discovers that he is possessed of powerful magical abilities. With the help of two unlikely allies – a gladiator named Jirom and spy named Alyra – he must circumvent courtly intrigues and dangerous external conspiracies to win the freedom of the empire’s slaves.  A rip-rousing opener to an ongoing series that offers great fun and adventure, but a little too much magic for my taste.


A clerical error sparks a property dispute between a former Iranian Air Force Colonel and a recovering addict, a conflict fueled by desperation and pride that eventually leads to tragic consequences.  Dubus does a masterful job of presenting us with the very real and very sympathetic people on both sides of the issue.  This one will stay with you.

1VILLAIN by Shuichi Yoshida

I was expecting a crime thriller in the vein of Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X but, instead, got a plodding and unengaging mystery that wasn’t really a mystery at all because we know whodunit from the get-go .  Ultimately, more of a character study of some very bleak personalities, the whole hampered by an awkward, at times stilted, translation.

1THE WEIRDNESS by Jeremy Bushnell

Satan appears to struggling writer Billy Ridgeway one day and offers to make him a success IF he will do one thing for him: steal a cat statue with magical powers from a warlock hiding out in New York City.  It’s a fun premise but this book is a good example of how over-the-top silliness can undermine any real sense of jeopardy. The loopier the narrative developments, the weaker the emotional investment so that, by the time you finish reading the novel, it’s already forgotten.


This visual guide to the comic book universe uses pie charts, venn diagrams, bar graphs, maps, and trajectories to highlight some fun facts.  Whether it’s a rundown of DC’s alternate Earths, the pizza particulars of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the alliances and connections of the denizens of Sin City, a Walking Dead kill counter, a map of Tintin’s travels, or a taxonomy of animal-named characters, there’s something here for most every fan to geek-out over.  LOVED it!


An early collection of short horror tales by Joe Hill, this one is a mixed bag. Standouts for me included “Pop Art”, about a boy and his inflatable best buddy, “The Cape”, in which a boy discovers he can fly – kind of, and “Voluntary Committal” that tells the tale of a young savant’s ability to build complex cardboard mazes to other worlds.  These three alone are worth the cover price.  For those who aren’t fanS of short fiction but would like to check out Hill’s work, I would strongly recommend his latest novel, N0S4A2.

1THE DRAGON BUSINESS by Kevin J. Anderson

A king tries to toughen his young son up by telling him a tale from his days running a dragon-protection scam, a con that was going very well – until things were complicated by the appearance of an actual dragon.  Not quite Pratchett but it has its funny moments.  Still, as mentioned in a previous review, after a while silliness robs the narrative of any real stakes.  Light, popcorn fun.

20 thoughts on “May 10, 2014: My April Reads!

  1. I wish I could read that many books in one month . I wonder if my book reading gene is small or something. Or I’m lacking the speed reading gene. That must be it.

  2. I’ve been so behind this week, but I finally got around to reading all the blogs and comments this week. I’m sorta surprised that no one has posted this yet. It’s a great show with David Hewlett as a guest. He’s great in it.

  3. How on earth do you read so much and retain it all? I don’t know about you, but my brain simply cannot process that much information! It’s like when I watch too much tv (which is probably a fraction of what everyone else watches) – I forget everything as fast as I see it…unless something long-locked and pallid grabs my attention. 😉

    Speaking of things that grab my attention…

    I’ve been watching a lot of Adam-12 and Emergency! lately, and I realized something. There was a definite formula to tv shows back then – one character was usually dark and sexy, while the other was light and wholesome. You see it in other ‘buddy’ shows from the era, too. The dark character usually had a chiseled look, with high cheek bones and a thin face and neck, while the light character was a bit fuller in face, more ‘all-American’, as it were. Needless to say, I always went for the dark character, with the high cheekbones, smoldering eyes, and sexy Adam’s apple (which totally explains my childhood crush on David Cassidy 😛 ). I think that’s why I instantly fell in love with Johnny Depp when I saw him for the first time on 21JS. He was the epitome of all those dark, sexy characters that came before him.

    And that was always the look that attracted me – thin frames, dark hair, and chiseled features. Well…that was until I first laid eyes on the Wraith. 😉 Then I added tall, pallid, and handsome to the list, too. 😀 But one thing they all have in common are those fine chiseled features. So I totally blame actors like Kent McCord and Randy Mantooth for my Loki crush. 😀

    Funny how stuff you see as a kid kinda sticks with you forever. Not so funny how my thoughts kinda rambled there like some sort of strung-out wacko splashing around in the fountain at the city park. 😛


  4. @DAS I met McCord at a Con in L.A. about 20 years ago… He was “older” then, but still a damn FINE looking Man!! 😀

  5. Based on your reviews, I might pick up House of Sand and Fog, and maybe 20th Century Ghosts. I have to finish Old Man’s War first; I finally picked it up before flying to Calgary and I’m enjoying it so far. I just wish I had more time for reading at the moment.


    Great video! Makes me want to grab a retired police car a take a trip through a Chicago mall! It’s not too far away, so not impossible. 😉


    I hope your cut is healing well. Experiences like that were the reason I bought mechanics gloves. It’s a nuisance constant switching in and out of them for dexterity work though, and I usually figure out that I should have put them back on the moment I cut myself (again) on some sharp piece of metal on the car I’m working on. Still they have cut (no pun intended) down on the number of injuries I usually sustain. Most auto-part stores carry them and they’re pretty reasonable at under $10 usually.

  6. @Das:

    I’ve been watching a lot of Adam-12 and Emergency! lately, and I realized something. There was a definite formula to tv shows back then – one character was usually dark and sexy, while the other was light and wholesome.

    I thought of three others almost immediately: Starsky and Hutch, Simon and Simon, and The Dukes of Hazzard. You could even say the original Battlestar Galactica reversed this by making Apollo (the dark-haired one) the wholesome one and Starbuck the “light and sexy” one.

    Now I’m using my insomnia to try to think of others (counting TV shows instead of sheep).

  7. On 70’s TV shows dark/light characters:

    How about:

    I Dream of Jeannie
    Happy Days (Richie and the Fonz)

    Could I argue that Lenny and Squiggy of Laverne and Shirley, Herb and Jennifer of WKRP, and Janet and Chrissy of Three’s Company also fall in this category.

  8. @Das:

    I wanted to apologize if my comment about ball joints offended you or anyone else. I meant it in jest, but upon re-reading it later, I realised later it just sounded crass. You all are like family, and at times familiarity and comfort can breed comments without much fore thought, So, I’m sorry for the crass comment and I’ll try to proof read myself better in the future.



  9. @JeffW: The cut is healing fine, thanks for asking! It still hurts when I bump it, which happens too often since it’s on the inside of the knuckle, but it’s much better. Funny you should mention the gloves – I just bought a pair last night! Great idea!

    @Joe: Not sure if I could read that many books in a year!

  10. Debra From The South: Thank you!

    whoviantrish: Pretty impressive daughter! An elephant sanctuary will be a great adventure. They have one near my hometown of Hohenwald, TN. After all the hardships elephants had placed on them, it’s such a blessing to have these places for them to live out the rest of their lives in peace!

    Mr. M.: Thanks for the reading list! I’ll definitely look up a couple of those.

  11. A calcuated life sounds like a good read.

    I have House of Sand and Fog, but I haven’t read it yet.

  12. @ DebbieW
    Thanks i liked to see David. Very funny interview. 🙂

    @ JeffW
    When you grab the retired police car, tell me im going with you in my black suit & hat. 😉

    I have A CALCULATED LIFE in my list. Now i up it two places and read next to the actual BOM im reading.

  13. Interesting NBC schedule for next season Joe, The Blacklist will remain on Monday after The Voice till its replaced by State of Affairs, The Blacklist will then go on a long hiatus until Feb 5, 2015 where it’ll go on Thursday at 9pm. It sounds to me like the show is being wrapped in cotton wool so to speak to protect it.

    From first glance the schedule is quite solid. The new shows fill things out quite nicely. It’ll be interesting to see what CBS, ABC etc do.

  14. Oh and speaking of graphic novels, the Sword Art Online manga that’s out now that covers the first arc of the anime is quite decent, well worth checking out and easily something one can get through in one sitting.

  15. How the heck did I miss JeffW‘s ‘crass’ remark about ball joints. 🙁 I must really be slippin’… 😛


  16. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Mothers out there, and those still blessed with the presence of their Mother, and God bless all those who only have the loving memory of their Mother.

  17. @skua:

    When you grab the retired police car, tell me im going with you in my black suit & hat.

    Can I call you ‘Elwood’? My body build is more of the Jake type.


    It was a late insomnia-driven comment last night…counting blonde/brunette 70’s shows helped with the insomnia though. 😉

  18. Thanks for the reviews as always! Always good to check out what someone else likes. And as usual, I am so impressed by your ability to handle so many things in your life and read this many books. I’m lucky to get through one a month! Though I suppose if I watched less TV, I’d have more time. But after reading journal articles for hours, picking up a book isn’t always on my mind. 🙂

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