Glop: Nontoxic, Expensive Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious

The tough thing about parodying actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s much-derided Goop “lifestyle” website is that it already feels like a parody of itself, what with its advice on steam-cleaning the vagina and all. Still, that hasn’t stopped Gabrielle Moss from trying, in the hardcover humor title GLOP.

Mimicking the sterile, ice-queen look of Paltrow’s internet venture, GLOP delivers deliciously barbed contents in support of Moss’ subtitle of NONTOXIC, EXPENSIVE IDEAS THAT WILL MAKE YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS AND FEEL PRETENTIOUS. These articles address how to determine which shaman to bring along on your family vacation, how to decorate your home’s closed-off wings and how to throw a party “That Screams, ‘I Have Two Black Friends!’” (Just so you know, the latter includes such tips as offering a gift bag with “bowel-detoxing tea samples” and quoting the hip-hop lyric “face fucked you in your kitchenette.”)

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The Dark Room

Jonathan Moore’s latest novel, THE DARK ROOM, combines an unexpectedly complex plot with equally unexpected character empathy. Call it a thriller if you like, but certain plot elements and the character intimacy especially make it an engaging and thoroughly contemporary mystery.

Gavin Cain, a homicide inspector for the San Francisco Police Department, is supervising an exhumation at a cemetery just outside of town as the novel opens. Suddenly his phone rings, and Cain is told that a helicopter is on it way to bring him to the mayor’s office. The exhumed casket – central to a cold case Cain has worked on for several weeks – will have to wait.

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A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies

Hands down and no question about it: For me, the entertainment book of 2016 is A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies. Written by Trapped Ashes screenwriter Dennis Bartok and collector extraordinaire Jeff Joseph, the University Press of Mississippi hardcover shines a light on the rarest of film subcultures: one I didn’t know existed!

There’s a whole history of FBI arrests and/or investigations into film obsessives who sold and/or traded actual prints — typically 35mm and often stolen from studios and theaters. They range from Hollywood’s own (Roddy McDowall and Rock Hudson) to two-bit ex-cons, and nearly two dozen of them have their colorful stories told here, run-ins and close calls included.

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In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper

Themed short story anthologies are usually the result of an editor suggesting a specific topic to a group of authors, or an editor gathering together previously published stories that are similar in subject. Master crime author and editor Lawrence Block took a slightly different approach for IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW.

Block suggested that his fellow authors use one of the paintings by American narrative artist Edward Hopper as the inspiration for a story. “His work bears special resonance for writers and readers,” Block notes of Hopper in his foreword, “and yet his paintings never tell a story so much as they invite viewers to find for themselves the untold stories within.” The result is one of the most varied and yet rewarding story anthologies to appear in a long time.

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The Trapped Girl

I had never come across Robert Dugoni’s mystery series featuring Seattle Detective Tracy Crosswhite, but I will now actively look for them. There are four full-length novels starting with MY SISTER’S GRAVE, HER FINAL BREATH, IN THE CLEARING and culminating with the book under review, THE TRAPPED GIRL.

He also has a five-book series starring Attorney David Sloane and a couple of one-offs including a non-fiction book. If they are anything like THE TRAPPED GIRL, then all his books will be eminently readable and exciting.

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Music for Love or War

Canadian-born novelist, journalist, screenwriter and director Martyn Burke combines his experiences covering the war in Afghanistan with his mordant observations of Hollywood and American pop culture – viewed from the vantage point of his part-time Southern California home – in his latest novel, MUSIC FOR LOVE OR WAR.

It’s a whirlwind story, equally hilarious and heartbreaking, about the various kinds of love and war — and quite unlike any novel you’re likely to read.

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Bryant & May: Strange Tide

strangetideChristopher Fowler is here to brighten our winter season with BRYANT & MAY: STRANGE TIDE, the latest Peculiar Crime Unit mystery featuring lead senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May. Like previous titles in this series the mystery is enhanced with esoteric facts about London, the Unit’s home base. And, like previous titles, it is an unyielding joy to read.

A woman is found drowned in the Thames River after being chained to a concrete pillar at low tide. But only one set of footprints lead to where the woman was found. The odd nature of the death is brought to the Peculiar Crime Unit (PCU), who immediately researches the dead woman’s background to determine if the single set of footprints indicate suicide.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Funky Cold Edena

worldedenaHere we go. Dark Horse brings out the first volume of the eagerly anticipated MOEBIUS LIBRARY: THE WORLD OF EDENA. It’s a fantastic release, collecting the six-volume cycle Jean “Moebius” Giraud wrote, illustrated and published between 1983 and 2001, set in the Edena universe.

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The Passenger

passengerpbLisa Lutz forsakes the comic-crime ambiance of her popular Spellman Family series for her noticeably more serious stand-alone novel, THE PASSENGER, newly available in trade paperback. While the protagonist is intriguing and first-person narration assured, the story unfortunately doesn’t venture far from its opening premise.

Forty-eight hours after finding her husband dead at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois quickly gathers what cash she can pull together, dyes her hair, and flees town. Thus begins her cross-country odyssey of different temporary residences, jobs, and identities. All the while she insists her innocence in the death of her husband.

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The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

unrealrealPreviously published as two separate volumes, this hefty omnibus edition of THE UNREAL AND THE REAL brings together Ursula Le Guin’s personal selection of her many mainstream and science-fiction short stories. Her creative and narrative brilliance shines equally bright in both story types. And, as is her intention, Le Guin illustrates the very thin line between “real” and “unreal.”

A perfect example of this is “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” a story that appears in the “Where On Earth” section of presumably realistic stories. A young girl survives a plane crash in the desert, where the various animals living nearby immediately take her in. The girl effortlessly speaks with the animals and eventually learns the true nature of the world. Is the story a fantasy? Magic realism? The answer doesn’t matter, thanks to the spell Le Guin weaves.

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