SEARCH ME >> 3.08

Our monthly depressing look at the search terms that bring pervs to BOOKGASM!

search terms mar 2008

The Anatomists

anatomists reviewtruTV – formerly CourtTV – recently held a “Search for the Next Great Crime Writer.” Winning the contest was English professor Hal McDonald. You now can judge for yourself whether the search was successful, as his debut novel has arrived: THE ANATOMISTS.

A first-person account set in 1824 London, the novel follows the exploits of two St. Alban’s med students: narrator Edward Montague and roomie Jean-Claude Legard. Being of the era when cadavers for study were not readily available, the two must go to dire lengths to acquire one: by paying for it, via a grave robber.

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Flight Explorer: Volume 1

flight explorer reviewA quick lesson: FLIGHT is the name for a series of loosely themed comic anthologies for older readers. The new FLIGHT EXPLORER: VOLUME 1, however, is a loosely themed comic anthology by the same creators, only for middle-school students. I happened to love it. As in, a lot. Does that make me 12 again? If so, I’ll take it – but this time, without the angst, please.

My only exposure to FLIGHT thus far (about to change, however) was from a sampler given away a few Free Comic Book Days ago. You need no introduction for FLIGHT EXPLORER; just open it, dive in and get lost.

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BOOK WHORE >> 3.31.08

book whoreShe’s back, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar!

lost souls reviewLOST SOULS by Lisa Jackson – Four girls have disappeared at All Saints College in less than two years. All four were troubled, vulnerable girls with no one to care about them, no one to come looking if they disappeared. The police think they’re runaways, but Kristi Bentz senses there’s something that links them, something terrifying. All Saints has changed a lot; the stodgy Catholic college has lured edgy new professors to its campus and gained a reputation for envelope-pushing, with classes like the very popular “The Influence of Vampirism in Modern Culture and Literature,” and elaborately staged morality plays that feel more like the titillating entertainment of some underground club than religious spectacles. And there are whispers of a dark cult on campus whose members wear vials of blood around their necks and meet in secret chambers – rituals to which only the elite have access.

implied spaces reviewIMPLIED SPACES by Walter Jon Williams – Aristide, a semi-retired computer scientist turned swordsman, is a scholar of the implied spaces, seeking meaning amid the accidents of architecture in a universe where reality itself has been sculpted and designed by superhuman machine intelligence. While exploring the pre-technological world Midgarth, one of four dozen pocket universes created within a series of vast, orbital matrioshka computer arrays, Aristide uncovers a fiendish plot threatening to set off a nightmare scenario, perhaps even bringing about the ultimate Existential Crisis: the end of civilization itself. Traveling the pocket universes with his wormhole-edged sword Tecmesssa in hand and talking cat Bitsy, avatar of the planet-sized computer Endora, at his side, Aristide must find a way to save the multiverse from subversion, sabotage, and certain destruction.

blood ties reviewBLOOD TIES by Pamela Freeman – A thousand years ago, the Eleven Domains were invaded and the original inhabitants forced on the road as Travelers, belonging nowhere, welcomed by no-one. Now the Domains are governed with an iron fist by the Warlords, but there are wilder elements to the landscape which cannot be controlled and which may prove their undoing. Some are spirits of place, of water and air and fire and earth. Some are greater than these. And some are human. As the stories of a village girl, a safeguarder’s apprentice and an enchanter unfold, along with the stories of those whose lives they touch, it becomes clear that they are bound together in ways that not even a stonecaster could foresee – bound by their past, their future, and their blood.

dead place reviewTHE DEAD PLACE by Stephen Booth – “This killing will be a model of perfection. An accomplishment to be proud of. And it could be tonight or maybe next week. But it will be soon. I promise.” The anonymous phone calls indicate a disturbed mind with an unnatural passion for death. Cooper and Fry are hoping against hope that the caller is just a harmless crank having some sick fun. But the clues woven through his disturbing messages point to the possibility of an all-too-real crime … especially when a woman vanishes from an office parking garage. But it’s the mystery surrounding an unidentified female corpse left exposed in the woods for over a year that really has the detectives worried. Whoever she might have been, the dead woman is linked to the mystery caller, whose description of his twisted death rituals matches the bizarre manner in which the body was found.

houses time reviewTHE HOUSES OF TIME by Jamil Nasir – David Grant has a singular talent: He can affect the course of his dreams. Quite by chance, he discovers the existence of the Trans-Humanist Institute and their lucid dreaming lessons. He discovers that under the tutelage of Dr. Thotmoses he has more control over his dreams. However, his talent soon runs away with him and he visits dreamplaces while awake. The waking world and the dreaming world collide. Grant ends up sedated in a hellish mental institution … but escapes through his lucid dreams, which he is beginning to control – though the control is far from perfect. Grant discovers, to his horror, that Dr. Thotmoses belongs to the Caucasus Synod Western Orthodox Church, and that they have been grooming him because of his fantastic dreaming talents.

compulsion reviewCOMPULSION by Jonathan Kellerman – A tipsy young woman seeking aid on a desolate highway disappears into the inky black night. A retired schoolteacher is stabbed to death in broad daylight. Two women are butchered after closing time in a small-town beauty parlor. These and other bizarre acts of cruelty and psychopathology are linked only by the killer’s use of luxury vehicles and a baffling lack of motive. The ultimate whodunits, these crimes demand the attention of LAPD detective Milo Sturgis and his collaborator on the crime beat, psychologist Alex Delaware. What begins with a solitary bloodstain in a stolen sedan quickly spirals outward in odd and unexpected directions, leading Delaware and Sturgis from the well-heeled center of L.A. society to its desperate edges; across the paths of commodities brokers and transvestite hookers; and as far away as New York City, where the search thaws out a long-cold case and exposes a grotesque homicidal crusade.

blind fall reviewBLIND FALL by Christopher Rice – John Houck became a Marine to become a hero. But his life changed when he failed to notice an explosive device that ended up maiming the captain of his Force Recon Company, a respected Marine who nearly sacrificed himself to save John’s life. Home from Iraq, John pays a visit to his former captain, only to discover the captain has been gruesomely murdered. John pursues a strange man he sees running from the scene, but he discovers that Alex Martin is not the murderer. Alex is, in fact, the former captain’s secret male lover and the killer’s intended next victim. When it becomes clear that local law enforcement has direct connections to the murder itself, John realizes that to repay his debt of honor, he must teach Alex Martin how to protect himself, even if that means teaching Alex to kill.

m reviewM by Jon J. Muth – Behind every great suspense thriller lurks the shadow of M. In Fritz Lang’s first sound film from 1931, Peter Lorre delivers a haunting performance as a serial killer – a whistling pedophile hunted by the police and brought to trial by the forces of the Berlin underworld. In 1990, a young painter, Jon J. Muth, continued his rise in the comic book industry by adapting the story of M into a four-issue comic book miniseries. Muth’s photorealistic illustrations paved the way for the acceptance of painted comics, influencing a generation of artists who followed him. Long out of print, these four issues are collected together for the first time as a hardcover graphic novel.

Buy it at Amazon.

Win a copy of THE SHADOW YEAR, THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE, THE PRICE OF BLOOD and HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR!

shadow year contestOur promised “best contest yet” is not even for a book. It’s for four books. And thanks to William Morrow/HarperCollins, we’ve got three full sets to give away.

Up for grabs are these new releases:
THE SHADOW YEAR by Jeffrey Ford
THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE by James Morrow
THE PRICE OF BLOOD by Declan Hughes
HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR: THE BEST HEADLINES FROM AMERICA’S FAVORITE NEWSPAPER by the staff of the New York Post

How to get one? Easy, provided you’re a BOOKGASM regular: Use the comments section on this very post and give us a “state of BOOKGASM” summary. What do you like about the site? What do you not like? What should we do more of? Less of? Only informed, well-thought-out opinions will be considered for the random drawing. Winners will be announced Friday, April 4.

The 9 Least Annoying People I Occasionally See at the Bookstore

annoying coffeeHaving recently read our editor’s highly controversial list of “The 9 Most Annoying People I Always See at the Bookstore,” I couldn’t help but assume that its composition was the direct result of his chronic back pain (which, I admit, he’d probably prefer I not mention) . It’s a serious issue that can make people seriously grouchy –  enough so that simply seeing others drinking coffee is enough to fuel up their internal rage machine and get them in front of that keyboard to vent.

That’s why it’s up to those of us who don’t know the terrible torment of constant agony to take up the slack and offer up the sunnier view. To that end I have composed my own list of the “The 9 Least Annoying People I Occasionally See at the Bookstore.”

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Yellow Medicine

yellow medicine reviewAs the third novel from the man behind the online noir site Plots with Guns, Anthony Neil Smith’s YELLOW MEDICINE delivers in a big way. Deputy Billy Lafitte, a displaced officer from Mississippi, has made a new life for himself in Minnesota. The problem is, Billy is not what you would call a shining star on any police force. Bending the rules to the point of shattering them would be an understatement to how Billy operates.

We find out the circumstances that got him tossed out of his former department, post-Hurricane Katrina, and some of them come back to bite him on his ass. Only now, he’s pulling a whole new set of above-the-law activities, including taking protection money from meth labs.

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Did you win a NARNIA Prize Pack?

prince caspian reviewOnly if your name is Nicole Reese of Irving, Texas!

She’s the randomly chosen winner of our contest for two books – THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA omnibus, containing all seven original novels by C.S. Lewis, and NARNIA CHRONOLOGY: FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE LAST KING, an “interactive timeline” – courtesy of HarperCollins to promote the upcoming PRINCE CASPIAN film.

Remember, if you’re not Nicole, you can always buy it at Amazon. Check back Monday for the single-best giveaway this site has ever seen!

Horrors Beyond 2: Stories of Strange Creations

horrors beyond II reviewLike many a youth of the ’80s, my introduction to H.P. Lovecraft and most things weird was through a late-night Skinemax viewing of that unheralded classic FROM BEYOND. I beat a path to the library to find more, only to be completely disappointed. Where was the S&M? The twisted body morphing? And where was the horny and sexually depraved Barbara Crampton character?  It took me a couple of years to come back to the fold and gain my appreciation. 

Elder Signs Press’ HORRORS BEYOND 2, edited by William Jones, reminded me a lot of that early experience.  The best encapsulated description I can come up with for this anthology of stories is the use of uncanny technologies beyond the control of humanity.
 
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QUICKGASM >> 3.27.08

quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!

silver reviewRobert Louis Stevenson’s TREASURE ISLAND gets a retelling, but through its villain’s point of view, in SILVER: MY OWN TALE AS WRITTEN BY ME WITH A GOODLY AMOUNT OF MURDER. Its framing device has the nefarious Long John Silver held captive on a ship and en route to his own hanging; via his journals, this formerly illiterate pirate tells his life story, from a thieving orphan to scourge of the high seas. Much of it involves cracking codes and ciphers to find quite the booty, but there is typical swashbuckling adventure as well. As if the title weren’t already an indicator, debuting novelist Edward Chupack writes with a good amount of dark humor (“Do not become too fond of him, for I kill him forthwith”); particularly strong are the acidic exchanges between Silver and the stupid boy who brings him food. SILVER could stand a little pruning, as one of ISLAND’s strengths is its brevity, but those into old-school pirate fiction should find it rewarding.

wake reviewWhat if you could not only see – but sense – other people’s dreams? It’s an intriguing premise explored by Lisa McMann in her debut novel WAKE, via her protagonist: a poor high school student named Janie. The girl doesn’t like it – not one bit – especially when those dreams become nightmares with awfully high stakes. Maybe it’s me, but I found it hard to identify with a teenage girl who shops at Goodwill and has *NSYNC posters on her wall. McMann’s prose is a little too simple, with many abrupt, one-sentence paragraphs (although that does make for lickety-split reading). In its defense, it’s written for young adults – not for males in their mid-30s.

he said beer reviewAside from “Obama or Clinton?,” the other important continuing debate in America is whether to serve beer or wine – a point taken to extremes in brewer Sam Calagione and sommelier Marnie Old’s HE SAID BEER, SHE SAID WINE. Both present the dish on their beverage of choice – ingredients, styles, tasting tips – before squaring off on which goes best in helping what food go down. Cases are presented for various pairings, with distinct ranking systems that shows real thought went into this. Closing out the book are a number of recipes for entreés, and their suggested liquid counterparts, of course. It’s a book that made me hungry and thirsty. And indecisive – why can’t we have both?

mouse guard reviewI’m not big on anthropomorphic animals headlining fantasy tales, but it’s easy to cut MOUSE GUARD: FALL 1152 some slack. David Peterson’s six-part graphic novel – now with value-added bonus material in the back, including maps, pin-ups and character profiles – concerns a few good mice who don sword and saber to protect their kingdom and fellow rodents from other animal threats, be it snake, crab or weasel. Peterson shows much imagination in his detailed art, and the story is treated seriously rather than cutesy, much to my relief. It’s an adventure that will have all-ages appeal; I only wish the lettering weren’t so assembly-line-looking. It’s about the only drawback to this beautiful book.

red land reviewElizabeth Peters is well-known for her string of Amelia Peabody mysteries, all set in Egypt, so it’s no wonder that the author – real name Barbara Mertz – has a natural fascination with the ancient land. Okay, it’s safe to say she’s an expert on the subject, and RED LAND, BLACK LAND: DAILY LIFE IN ANCIENT EGYPT is one of two nonfiction books she’s written that stand as proof. Originally published in 1966, this revised hardcover edition contains what reads like insider info on the time where mummies dare tread. Those interested in the era’s burial procedures, sexual politics and tomb construction are going to find this as gripping as fiction. A section of full-color photos and sporadic illustrations shed further insight on a riveting subject.

how not write novel reviewThere are tons of books that tell you how to write a novel, but the main problem is that you can’t teach creativity. To my knowledge, Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman are the only ones who had the bright idea to tell you how not to do it, in HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL: 200 CLASSIC MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM – A MISSTEP-BY-MISSTEP GUIDE. Eschewing rules, the authors ask you to think of the work as a GPS system when you’re left wondering “How the fuck did I end up here?” They use pretty funny excerpts to illustrate where so many would-be writers go way wrong, from cheat endings and vocabulary flaunting to overwrought sex scenes. Even if you’re not working on the Great American Novel – or some Passable Paperback to Pay the Rent – you’re likely to be amused. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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