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Doomed - Chuck Palahniuk

Doomed is the 2nd book in the Damned trilogy which chronicles the exploitation and exploits of 13 year old Madison Spencer, a cynical smartass with an impressive vocabulary. When Madison misses hell’s curfew on Halloween night, she becomes trapped on earth. As one of the formerly alive, she must contend with a K addled ghost hunter, the accidental damning of the whole world, and Satan’s pedophilic advances.


It’s been so long since I’ve read Damned that I had to put Doomed down after the first chapter for a quick refresher of Maddie & Co’s past exploits. Written in blog posts and tweets it moved quickly, but got stuck in a few spots–I think the author was having a little too much fun describing monkey penis and the different shades of dog turds. Doomed largely focuses on Maddie’s life with her parents and the events that lead to her being condemned to hell; so, it was mostly back-story, and in some blog posts, it takes us centuries back. Madison learns that even before she was born, someone, or something, has been shaping her destiny.


The amount of fart jokes, wiener whacking, and descriptions of bestiality were typical Chuck. Fans of the first won’t be disappointed, but I wouldn’t suggest my mother read this. It was a solid middle of a series book–not as great as the first and doesn’t have the type of expectations attached to it that the last would.

Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads - Shannon McKenna Schmidt, Joni Rendon

Writers Between the Covers explores the scandalously licentious loves and lusts of history’s literary rock stars. Split into 7 parts, the chapters are introduced by trivia, quizzes, and even an online dating profile for Emily Dickinson.

-Tenneesee Williams claimed writing was his way of coping with his emotional issues and according to Gore Vidal, Williams “could not possess his own life until he had written about it.”

Not just a book of entertaining and wicked gossip, Writers Between the Covers connects the writer’s debauchery and romances with some of their greatest works. These episodes and manias shaped the authors as people and influenced the characters, stories and themes of the classic novels we all know and love.  Charlotte Bronte turned down a marriage proposal even though she believed she wouldn’t receive any others. She refused to enter a passionless marriage for the sake of security and used the episode as inspiration for events in Jane Eyre.  The chapter on Tolstoy explains the inspiration behind “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in their own way.”

The stories offered illumination, entertainment and historical factoids such as when Agatha Christie mysteriously disappeared after her husband asked for a divorce, airplanes were used for the first time in a missing person search, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enlisted the help a of psychic, and other authors got in on the action by writing articles for newspapers.

Not all the chapters focused on badly behaving authors. The relationships between Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf and their partners were full of concern, care and encouragement. The passionate, enduring love between the Barrett-Brownings and the Stevensons could warm the heart of even the most curmudgeonly cynic.

This is a great book for anyone who likes their scandals hot, their love enduring and their tabloids literary.


-Kingsley Amis’s wife wrote 1 fat Englishman. I fuck anything, on his back in lipstick while he napped poolside.

Awesome Banned Books Display
Awesome Banned Books Display
Source: http://rachelmoani.com
A Map for the Great American Literary Road Trip
A Map for the Great American Literary Road Trip
Source: http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com

In the Memorial Room

In the Memorial Room - Janet Frame Published posthumously and based on her experience in France as a Katherine Mansfield fellowship winner, Janet Frame’s In The Memorial Room is part roman à clef and part satire. In the 1970s Harry Gill wins a memorial fellowship and heads to France to spend the year working on his next novel. Incredibly insecure, he begins suffering from psychosomatic illnesses. When Harry’s eyes start hurting, his doctor tells him he suffers from incipient signs of intentional invisibility, or he’s about to vanish. He returns to the doctor when his hearing fails and is diagnosed with Auditory Hibernation: “You are at the point of bisection of circumstances, opportunity, characters, time; everything is favorable to your obliteration. You have been stifled, muffled, silenced. You cannot cry out because you cannot hear the cry of others.” In the Memorial Room had humorously scathing indictments of literary snobs, the pretentious and those obsessed with the worship of the dead at the expense of the living. The idea of people being so assured they’re destined for great things that they never actually get around to doing great things and the absurdity of human character and motivation were all funny and well done. Unfortunately, I found this book tepid. Harry Gill was just too weakly drawn to carry the story for me. I had to reread the ending to make any sense of it, which was probably because I was apathetic and not really paying attention. It had humor, absurdity, social commentary and the writing was stellar–all ingredients for a book that I was sure I’d love, but I just wasn’t invested in any of the characters.

Self-Published Kindling: The Memoirs of a Homeless Bookstore Owner

Self-Published Kindling - Mik Everett I love indie literary works, and this book won me over when I read: “At night when I can’t sleep, I string verses together, memorizing them a line at a time. (I say it craftily like that. People appreciate the metaphor.”Living out of an RV in a Wal-mart parking lot with her husband and two children, Mik offers an intimate view of the working poor. Through all the bullshit dealings with social services, running her bookshop and keeping her children fed, she still found the time to watch movies with her husband, take her kids to the park and share food and joints with her parking lot neighbors. Affliction memoirs are hit or miss, and this was a hit. There was no self-pity here—frustration, need, and even bursts of humor, but no wallowing, resentment or alienation. Even down and out, she held on to her compassion and kindness.For someone so young, Mik has had one hell of a life dealing with cancer, destitution, and homelessness. But her life is also beautiful and richly filled with family, adventure, art, and quirky characters.Having just finished A Movable Feast, I was reminded of Hadley and Zelda. The Zeldas like the novelty of risk so they choose the path of comfortable discomfort and call it adventure. The Hadleys follow their hearts and learn to use slop buckets in Paris.Keeping with the Hemingway comparison, the writing was frank and unadorned. A reader will be hard pressed to find a superfluous of or that. This intrepid, artsy and interesting woman can write and most importantly–she knows how to live. Mik is a strong woman. She may not know where she’ll be tomorrow, but she knows where she is today. I look forward to reading more of her work.

After the Fire

After the Fire - D. Alexander Ward Frank Neely is a man tormented by guilt-induced nightmares. As children, Frank and his best friend pull a prank on a neighborhood widow rumored to be a witch. The prank goes horribly wrong, and the memory of that traumatic experience continues to haunt him. When sleep deprivation begins loosening his grip on reality, and his dreams become waking nightmares, Frank revisits his past in hope of finding peace.This was a well-done psychological thriller. I wasn’t really sure what direction this story was going to take — if the supernatural elements were real or a product of Frank’s spiral into mental illness. Was it guilt, or ghost? Haunting, or hallucination? Do restless spirits even respond to meds? A good thriller should always keep you on your toes, and this story definitely delivered.The eerie atmosphere was well developed and I enjoyed the macabre descriptions of Victorian post-mortem death photography. Without giving too much away, this story was an intriguing retooling of New Orleans’ infamous Delphine LaLaurie. Since reading this story, my fascination with her evil has been rekindled, and I’m now really hoping she will appear as a character in this season’s American Horror Story: Coven.

Half Life

Half Life - Pamela Kelt It’s the early days of the Third Reich, and Dr. Dulcie Bennett, an intelligent and competent scientist, finds herself embroiled in Nazi conspiracies, a simmering romance, espionage, and political intrigue. Backdropped by Norway’s icy fjords and northern lights, Half Life is an alluring, sepia toned thriller. With perfectly paced action and slow-boiling tension, you can’t help but be lured into the sultry spirit of this noir adventure.Meticulous research is critical to giving the proper atmospheric feel to an historically set novel. In this regard, Half Life is more akin to the Blitz of Poland than the invasion of Russia; that is to say, it is a resounding success. The merging of this unique story with the historical context of the time is seamlessly executed. There are no overwrought 1930’s caricatures here. Real explorers, expeditions and scientists have a role to play in the plot, and brilliant tribute is paid to John Buchen—the man credited with inventing the archetypical man on the run. The science that permeates the story is simple, accessible and fascinating. Several of the story’s elements such as cyclotrons and the Sami people sent me straight to Google to learn more.

Lay Saints

Lay Saints - Adam Connell In Adam Connell’s Lay Saints two extrasensory crime syndicates vie for influence over an impenetrable Politician's mind and vote.A mysterious prisoner and powerful remote viewer narrates the story--with occasional interjections-- to a memory wiped cellmate whose identity isn’t revealed until the very end. This unusual method of story-telling was a compelling touch which added an extra layer of mystery.Calder, a lonely drifter, is conflicted in his want to both flee from and form connections with people who share his unique abilities. He allows himself to be lured into the gang's seedy underbelly and remains unsure of his place in their world of manipulation, murder and double-dealings.Layered dialogue and action drive the plot in this gritty crime noir/speculative fiction mash-up. Filled with black humor and tough cynical characters, we are treated to a New York that is both stunning and sinister. The story is populated with rough and realistic Pulp fiction like characters, bizarre relationships, humorous banter, and Chinatown like twists.This captivating and vintage feeling crime novel is a must-read for any fan of these genres.

Siren Call

Siren Call - Sonya C. Dodd **ETA The new cover is beautiful! Very eye catching! Let's be honest--cover design matters. This one is muted and unrefined. There isn't anything eye-catching about it. With such a saturated e-book market, this book would benefit greatly from a re-design. Dozens of glowing reviews won't matter if no one stops to look at it.Ok, with that out of the way...Eleanor and Bill live in Smuggler's Cottage, an isolated hideaway near the sea. As empty nesters, their marriage has become routine. But, when a ghostly woman takes sinister interest in their family, ominous incidents begin to derail their tranquility.The dynamic between timid and soothing Eleanor and cantankerous and controlling Bill is the real story here. Both characters go through intense and awkward growth. They learn that in order to survive they must be willing to evolve, to take control and to let go of it. A damaged woman, the villain is a hostile and vindictive spirit bent on forcing her misery onto others. She's a complicated and fully drawn antagonist. Everyone is this story is flawed and real.Beautifully written and with charming language, this was a pleasant read. It was insightful, suspenseful and the characters were well developed and complex. Yes, it's a fun ghost story, but it's a book about family and relationships told as a ghost story--that's what makes this a unique read.


City of Devils - Justin Robinson Nick Moss is the last human private eye in a Los Angles run amuck with monsters. When a mummy politician goes missing, his beautiful doppelganger wife becomes the prime suspect, and it’s up to Moss to prove her innocence. Nick soon finds himself embroiled in the sordid world of corrupt werewolves, Hollywood big-shots and monster snuff films in this LA noir who-done-it.City of Devils by Justin Robinson is utterly bizarre and a real hoot. Written in noir speak, it’s straight camp, which makes the absurdity of it work so well. Overflowing with wise cracks and characters with names like Phil Mooney and Lou Garou, it’s full of cleverness, puns, and of course, plot twists.There’s a monster’s version of a bordello, biker phantoms with pompadours, and a trio of witch lounge singers. So close to Halloween, this book is great for some quick reading fun and to get you in the mood for the season.


Nyx - D.M. Livingston In the spirit of Terry Pratchett and A Lee Martinez, Nyx is a comical and fantastical foray through hell. With wickedly funny footnotes that fit perfectly with the style, the only thing dry about this is the wit. A saucy, incorrigible fairy sacrifice and a band of multicultural witches find themselves unexpectedly transported into hell by way of an Ether mishap. Despite all the bickering, rivalries and clashing, the menagerie must transverse the devilish landscape with all its hysterical and horrifying dangers if they ever hope to escape. The worldbuilding was phenomenal. Truly outstanding. It’s loaded with references to ancient cities, cultures and worldwide myths, fables and legends. From fairy lore, to djinn, to Trojan demons, the research that went into the creation of this story was devotedly comprehensive. You’d have to have an impossibly sharp eye to catch all the references on the first reading. The ending was unforeseeable and shocking—it fit perfectly. If any book urgently requires a sequel, it’s this one.

Why She Left Us

Why She Left Us - David Dennis Why She Left Us by David Dennis is a meandering mystery. It’s a composite of the baseness of human nature--and also its virtues. The story of the star-crossed lovers, Betsy and Wayne, is told discontinuously by 5 narrators and in the form of diary entries. This unique narrative method requires attention be paid to who’s diary you are reading and to the date of each entry, but this minimal effort is worth it. I don’t want to give away too much of the story since that’s the meat of this psychological chiller, so I’ll just say as a love story and psychological twister, it works; it’s sweet, disturbing and plausible. The cast of characters in this ill-fated love story are: Lucille, the bitter divorced aunt; Ellen, a borderline sociopath; Monica, high achieving and mentally unstable; Carl, Monica’s pompous jackass of a husband; and Betsy, a tenderhearted naïf searching for love and worth. With so many perspectives, we can never be sure whose versions of events are genuine--everyone has their own motives and baggage.The writing was flawless and that leads me to my only criticism--it was a little too well written for diary entries, especially for the diary of a 16-year-old girl. Why She Left Us will knot your stomach with the tale of these damaged people and their wretched lives.

Elixir of Immortality, The

The Elixir of Immortality - Gabi Gleichmann, Michael Meigs Spanning 1,000 years, The Elixir of Immortality weaves the Spinoza family saga through European and Jewish history. Acting as the frame story, Ari, the narrator, begins by explaining that he is childless, dying and wants to keep his family history from disappearing with him. Focusing on one son per generation, we follow the path of the secret elixir of immortality as it’s passed from father to son. The touches of magical realism reminded me of 100 Years of Solitude and read like a Forest Gump/Big Fish mash-up. The fictitious history used real conflicts, events, and historical figures as the backdrop for each character’s story and served to both ground and propel the narrative forward. Ari and his great-uncle Fernando’s stories are interjected throughout the narrative, breaking up the monotony of his ancestors’ tales. Genes and the idea of certain desirable and undesirable traits being “in your blood” were repeated themes. This sanguine connection becomes even more apparent as we watch each generation suffer, fail, triumph and fall in love. As the story progresses, we can trace the interweaving threads that connect not just blood, but all people. This wasn’t a Jewish epic, but a story of the importance of family, memory and storytelling. While a long book, don’t be intimidated. It was easy to put down and come back to without feeling lost. When events from earlier in the story are brought up again, a quick synopsis was usually included, and since this book ran to over 700 pages, these recaps never felt redundant. From the Moors in Spain, to World Wars and Trotsky, this book covered a lot of ground and introduced a lot of characters, but without ever feeling overwhelming. It covered all the emotions you’d expect a family epic to cover, heartstrings were tugged and laugh lines were activated. But, the Spanish inquisition? That, I wasn’t expecting.

Adela Arthur and the Creator's Clock: 1 (The Chronicles of A)

Adela Arthur and the Creator's Clock - Judyann McCole With mythical creatures, magic, and conflict in spades, this book has lots to offer. Those who read a book for the story may want to give this a shot. It wasn't terrible or unreadable, and not everyone is concerned with mechanics, originality, or the style of the writing. Unfortunately, I am. I may not be adept at grammar and structure, but I can recognize what doesn't work for me. With that said, I had some issues with the style, flow, and voice.The writing style would randomly switch from informal to formal, and contained an unnatural lack of contractions. A sentence using he didn't would be followed by a sentence using he did not. The characters' speech patterns also fluctuated: I'm going. I am going...I am in the bathroom...This will not change anything.The over-reliance on adverbs weakened the story. The world building, descriptions and characters would have benefited from stronger verbs and less "eyes narrowed dangerously," or "skillfully hidden tree."The flow uneven and choppy. Short, stilted sentences such as "She had missed her two classes today. She wasn't worried about Archery," would be sandwiched between sentences with a more complex and flowing structure.I found the characters interchangeable. Without a name specifying who was speaking, they were indistinguishable. They needed more personality, and I think that could have been conveyed with well-chosen verbs and more attention paid to detail. There was so much going on in this story that it felt rushed and flat. I think this book would benefit from being split in two, giving it a chance to develop the depth I felt it lacked.Because of these issues, I wasn't able to get a feel for the author's voice. There were brief flashes of it, but it was lost in the prose's lack of polish. While Adela Arthur was too derivative of HP for me, I think fans of HP fan fiction may find they love this.

(re)Visions: Alice

(Re)Visions: Alice - C.A. Young, Kaye Chazan, Amanda Ching, Hilary  Thomas (re)Visions–the retelling of classic tales with a modern twist–is such a great idea for a series of books. Each story was imaginative and fantastical. With Jack the Ripper, a Cheshire cheese, familiar characters reimagined as seedy gangsters, and a roving pack of street-tough cats, these stories aren’t derivative or faithful retellings, but fun and definitely adult additions to the mythology of Wonderland.(re)Visions: Alice begins with the original Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Including the original book gave me a chance to get reacquainted with Alice, the Queen and the whole cast of quirky characters; and each time I read it, I’m reminded of just how strange and weird Alice in Wonderland really is. I probably would have missed most of the subtle touches (of which there were many) in the following stories without it.In the 4 stories we: meet a runaway who shoots down the proverbial rabbit hole, explore the unexpected origins of the Queen, watch as Jack Knave, a hard-boiled detective, solves a gritty who-done-it, and finally, root for a timid church mouse working his way across a Wonderland overrun with cats and anthropomorphic furniture.While it was slightly jarring going from the eloquent writing of Lewis Carroll to the first story in (re)Visions, after a few pages I was able to settle into the new rhythm. Some were stronger and more exciting than others, but collectively, they were worth reading.