Steven Brust’s JHEGAALA is yet another in the vaunted Vlad Taltos series, following 2006’s DZUR. Taltos is an assassin, currently on the run from the Jhereg, who seek to eliminate him for past activity. With some time on his hands, and a reason to leave his immediate area, Taltos finds out a bit about his long-dead mother, and travels to his homeland to see if he can reinstate contact with family remnants.

Taltos travels with Loiosh and Rocza, two reptilian familiars who are wont to ride on his shoulders. He communicates telepathically with Loiosh, and quite a bit of the fun of these books is the snarky interaction back and forth between the reptile and the human assassin.

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The Unicorn Man

Maybe it’s because so many do it poorly, but poetry sits with me as well as ipecac syrup. Some people with no writing talent and a surplus of wide-lined notebook paper scribble a few lines in the ABAB format about their cat Marbles and think they’ve created art. I should know — my mother-in-law is one of them, and she falls for those poetry “contests” where you “win” the right to be published, yet have to pay for copies of the supposed books.

Which brings us to THE UNICORN MAN, Vox Anon’s rather thick paperback collection of dark poetry. He knew my stance on poetry, but wanted to send the book for review anyway. On the outside of the envelope was scrawled this message: “I hope you love it or hate it.”

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Win a copy of THE FIRST QUARRY!

In case you didn’t hear, Max Allan Collins revisits his hitman character of Quarry in the new THE FIRST QUARRY, from Hard Case Crime. We’ve got an extra copy we’re just dying to give away to someone who deserves it.

Is that you? Prove it! Just e-mail me your justification, along with your name and mailing address. We’ll announce the winner on Friday, Oct. 3, based upon the best answer. Or you can just be a wuss and buy it at Amazon.

SEARCH ME >> 9.08

A sampling of some of the bizarro search terms with (thankfully) low numbers that brought people to BOOKGASM over the last 30ish days:

• “naked man on ladder”
• “penis slowly –enlargement”
• “reason for wallenburg apache crash”
• “sexy nazi girls in pulp magazine illustration”
• “how to draw scarface”
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BOOK WHORE >> 9.30.08

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

NATION by Terry Pratchett — The sea has taken everything. Mau is the only one left after a giant wave sweeps his island village away. But when much is taken, something is returned, and somewhere in the jungle, Daphne — a girl from the other side of the globe — is the sole survivor of a ship destroyed by the same wave. Together, the two confront the aftermath of catastrophe. Drawn by the smoke of Mau and Daphne’s sheltering fire, other refugees slowly arrive: children without parents, mothers without babies, husbands without wives — all of them hungry and all of them frightened. As Mau and Daphne struggle to keep the small band safe and fed, they defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside-down.

INKDEATH by Cornelia Funke — The Adderhead — his immortality bound in a book by Meggie’s father, Mo — has ordered his henchmen to plunder the villages. The peasants’ only defense is a band of outlaws led by the Bluejay — Mo’s fictitious double, whose identity he has reluctantly adopted. But the Book of Immortality is unraveling, and the Adderhead again fears the White Women of Death. To bring the renegade Bluejay back to repair the book, the Adderhead kidnaps all the children in the kingdom, dooming them to slavery in his silver mines unless Mo surrends. First Dustfinger, now Mo: Can anyone save this cursed story?

HOT MAHOGANY by Stewart Woods — One night at Elaine’s, Stone Barrington — back in Manhattan after chasing down bad guys in the Caribbean — meets Barton Cabot, older brother of his sometime ally, CIA boss Lance Cabot. Barton’s career in Army intelligence is even more top-secret than his brother’s, but he’s suffering from amnesia following a random act of violence. Amnesia is a dangerous thing in a man whose memory is chockfull of state secrets, so Lance hires Stone to watch Barton’s back. As Stone discovers, Barton is a spy with a rather unusual hobby: building and restoring antique furniture. The genteel world of antiques and coin dealers at first seems a far cry from Stone’s usual underworld of mobsters, murderers and spies. But Barton also is a man with a past, and one event in particular — in the jungles of Vietnam more than 30 years earlier — is coming back to haunt his present in ways he’d never expected.

THE HOUSE OF THE STAG by Kage Baker — Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, only a few escaped to the forests. Rebellion wasn’t the Yendri way; they hid or passively resisted, taking consolation in the prophecies of their spiritual leader. Only one possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, who began a one-man guerrilla war against the Riders. His struggle ended in the loss of the family he loved, and condemnation from his own people. Exiled, he was taken as a slave by powerful mages ruling an underground kingdom, but earned his freedom. This is the story of his rise to power, his vengeance, as a lord and commander of demon armies.

Buy them at Amazon.

The Keepsake

For the past seven years, prolific author Tess Gerritsen has utilized the duo of Boston Police Detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Maura Isles to present crime novels highlighting Gerritsen’s medical background with fascinating, off-the-beaten-path plot hooks. While never partners in the traditional sense, Rizzoli and Isles can’t help but cross paths as they examine the various evidence and leads on the trail of murderous perpetrators.

THE KEEPSAKE, the latest in the series, is a fine example of everything great about these novels and Gerritsen herself. It is never less than entertaining and suspenseful, with an unusual hook that takes readers into areas seldom explored. And while it’s not completely successful in every endeavor, it’s not for lack of trying.

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Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!

For most of us, MAUS was our introduction to Art Spiegelman. Before that watershed graphic novel exists years of great work in the underground comix arena, which was collected into BREAKDOWNS: PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG %@&*!, now back in print in a gorgeous new updated edition from Pantheon.

From the looks of the oversized hardback, with its cartoony pratfall adorning the cover, one can be forgiven for immediately thinking of Spiegelman’s LITTLE LIT series, but make no mistake: This one’s for the big boys and girls — unless, you know, no-holds-barred depictions of oral sex are okay for your kids’ eyes.

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NEWSGASM >> 9.29.08

newsgasmAll the news that’s fit to capsulize!

Anyone who wondered whether lightning could strike thrice for wunderkind fantasy author Christopher Paolini need not have wasted time and energy in doing so. His BRISINGR — book three in his INHERTIANCE CYCLE — sold 550,000 copies on Sept. 20 alone, its first day of release. That made it the greatest one-day sale in the history of Random House’s children’s titles. (Its print run of 2.5 million is another first for the publisher.) BRISINGR’s tally was four times greater than ELDEST, the second book in the series. Oh, and Paolini is 24 years old. Feel like a loser yet?

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Free-Range Chickens

Simon Rich, you slay me. I suspect you wrote the short, frequently one-page humor pieces that comprise FREE-RANGE CHICKENS in about 30 seconds longer than they take to read, but they make me laugh, nonetheless. Well, most of them, anyway.

The first section, “Growing Up,” is all about stuff from your childhood. Like excerpts from your seventh-grade diary, full of stark warnings to prying peepers followed by brazen confessions, such as Wednesday’s entry of, “Beware! He who readeth this scripture will surely come to a horrible end, for these precious words exist for mine eyes — and mine eyes alone! Went to school, came home, watched CHARLES IN CHARGE, MURPHY BROWN and THE HOGAN FAMILY.”

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It Happened One Knife

IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE is the second outing in Jeffrey Cohen’s double-feature mysteries staring theater owner Elliot Freed. This sequel opens (I’m guessing) months after the events of the first book, SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED, since Freed talks about how the time it has taken to refurbish his one-screen revival house that not only specializes in old comedies, but pairs them with a new current feature; Cohen uses this opportunity to poke fun at the current comedies that could be made with some of the titles featured at the chapter breaks (for example: the fictional GUACAMOLE on the bill with Woody Allen’s BANANAS).

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