Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Bartender, PI” by Ethan Stone— Starting Over

bartender PI

Stone, Ethan. “Bartender, PI”, Silver Publishing, 2013.

Starting Over

Amos Lassen

Linc Carpenter may not be the smartest guy on the block and he knows that. He has been banned from playing the sport he loves and he is really not good at his new job, bartending. However he does not seem to be much good at anything but then, he gets a chance at something new—being a private investigator. All he has to do is be able to prove that fashion designer Quentin Faulkner is cheating on his wife and he will have enough money to do what he wants.

There is just one problem—Faulkner’s bodyguard, Brady Williams. That’s not totally true—there is another problem—Linc has no idea what he is doing. Then he learns that Brady is attracted to him and does not just want a roll in the hay but something more serious.

In Linc, Stone gives us quite a character—a guy who just is lacking in education and common sense and is socially inept. But his lack of sense gives him a certain charm. However, we realize that what Linc does not have in sense, he does have in instinct and he is honest. His intentions may not seem good but they are honest and he comes across as a big teddy bear you cannot help but love.

But there is a surprise coming and I am not about to let on what it is. We may wonder what Brady sees in Linc and I suppose it is the same things as I feel. We see that Linc, who we have thought to be simple, manages to solve the case and his use of metaphors is delightful (none of which really make any sense).

So if I have to use just one word to describe this book, it would be a toss-up between cute and adorable and that’s alright. It is good to be entertained once in a while.

“The Butcher’s Son (A Dick Hardesty Mystery)” by Dorien Grey— My First Audio Book Review (and it’s a good one)

the   butcher'son

Grey, Dorien. “The Butcher’s Son (A Dick Hardesty Mystery)”, Zumaya Boundless, 2013.

My First Audio Book Review (and it’s a good one)

Amos Lassen

Those of you who are regular readers know that Dorien Grey is not new to me and I have often reviewed him. However, this is my first review of an audio book and it just happens to be one of his. “The Butcher’s Son” is book one in Grey’s Dick Hardesty mystery series and it is off to an excellent start. Hardesty begins investigating burning gay bars because the police chief (“the butcher”) is just not concerned about the incidents. Hardesty had been working for a public relations firm that was helping the police chief run for governor and he is to be the link to the man’s dysfunctional family and, in fact, he will have to discover a way to stop this homophobic character gain the job he wants.

Listening to the book made me remember the other Hardesty stories that I had already read and it was a special treat even though I am a huge proponent of reading. Aside from the fact that I was immediately drawn into the story, I found that I was kept guessing the entire time. The reader, Jeff-Frez Albrecht was perfect for the job as he set the scene with excitement and a sense of terror. At first I felt strange not holding the book in my hands but I soon found myself lost in the experience and admiring the author’s ability to create such interesting characters and Dick Hardesty who is just a regular guy with an irregular job. The advantage of listening to reading here is that I did not have to turn the pages quickly to find out what would happen next—it just seemed to happen.

We are aware of the danger in reviewing mysteries—it is too easy to spoil a read by writing something that gives the plot away. Therefore I will refrain from saying anything else about the plot so that you can read…or hear…this book and get full enjoyment. But I do want to mention that Grey has managed to bring several ideas together—the end of Hardesty’s five year relationship with his partner, Chris, a look at what goes on in gay bars (for those of us who have forgotten with the new technology), the outlandish behavior of drag queens, homophobia, intolerance and the mystery which also deals with politics and family.

While I cannot say I could not stop reading, I can say that I would not stop listening and I do not say that often unless I am listening to Richard Burton’s “Hamlet”. A word of warning—there are many books in the Dick Hardesty series and you will want to read them (or hear them all) so prepare yourself accordingly.

“FEAR THE FOREST”— Legend or Myth?

fear the forest

“Fear the Forest”

Legend or Myth?

Amos Lassen

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am reviewing two horror films about forests. The answer is simple—I review them as they come to me and the fact that the titles are alike is coincidental. Here we get a look at the age-old question of what is legend and what is myth. Some Native Americans feared what they thought to be a god when a suspicious something roamed the woods killing people. Years later this same something was back at it and people disappeared.

Some thought it was all a scam, a hoax but one local philanthropist felt differently and offers a two and a half million dollar bounty for the “beast”. However, it was never found and it was dismissed as an urban legend. Then Barbara Sanders and some friends from college, some years later, head into the woods for a fun weekend and their camping trip turns into a fearful experience filled with terror.

Matthew Bora directed this “horror thriller” and the reasons for the parentheses will soon be obvious. This is one of those movies that have nothing going for it… I really like horror movies and wanted to like this one but it left me cold. I liked the beginning and really liked the old news reports about people having seen the monster in the woods but from that point on, the film jumped all over the place. Now the monster or “Bigfoot” looked okay but I was not frightened or even bothered. I am not going to say anything about the acting or the dialogue—see for yourself.

“The Queen’s Librarian” by Carole Cummings— A Fun Fantasy

the queen's librarian

Cummings, Carole. “The Queen’s Librarian”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

A Fun Fantasy

Amos Lassen

Lucas Tripp is a simple man with simple tastes and desires. He just wants everyone to be happy and have enough money to live. He also wants to be able to spend time with Alex, his boyfriend. But then…Lucas finds himself in the middle of an unexpected adventure when his sister’s boyfriend, Declan Slade, suddenly disappears. A world of magic that was gone suddenly reappears as well as princes who had been missing along with magicians and woman who want to seduce Lucas also return.

Lucas is a good-natured guy who cares about others, especially his boyfriend. But all this is put on hold with the disappearance of his sister’s beau and the sudden appearance of first a strange man and then his cousin, a prince. Is it possible that a hundred year old mystery has returned?

While this story is totally unbelievable, it is a fun read that requires little thought. We find ourselves on an adventure (that we know will end when we close the book, but so what?) that introduces us to interesting and mysterious characters. We are on a fantasy trip replete with characters that are magical and lots of intrigue. The dialogue is smart while fantastic and the entire read is entertaining. Literarily the book is no great shakes but so what? I can’t help but wonder what Carole Cummings will bring us next.

“EYES OF THE WOODS”— Lost in the Woods

eyes correct

“Eyes of the Woods”

Lost in the Woods

Amos Lassen

The premise of “Eyes of the Woods” is simple–a group of teens find themselves lost and soon hunted by an unforgiving creature deep with the woods. Made on a shoestring budget, there is a lot of ambition in the film. I do not understand why it took three directors and I believe this is the weakest point of the film. The plot moves back and forth between two different periods of time and there are some exciting special effects and a unique prologue which shows us the background of the villain, a demon who stalks the woods. The film begins in the time of the Puritan were a father makes a deal with the devil so that he can better come to terms with the loss of his daughter but the devil lies to the man and changes him into a flesh-eating monster who is to walk the woods until the end of time. We see him get rid of his townspeople and then the film moves to the present where we see a group of friends getting ready for a weekend trip. Thus the gore begins.

If the acting were not so terrible, we might have had an interesting film but it is so bad that I found myself groaning. Put that with the real poor technical aspects of the film and we get a really lousy viewing experience and it hurts me to say that because I really wanted to like this film.

For those who manage to get through the beginning, however, will get a surprise as the movie improves and I can only guess that the reason for this is that the director changed. Now we see that this is indeed a film that is the clichéd story of kids on a road trip who get stranded and go into the woods looking for help. The rest is “guessable”.  However the dialogue is fun and the kids are not typical slasher victims. Now past meets present when the monster we met in Puritan times waits to eat the kids and the special effects begin. It just seems to be unending. What could have been, wasn’t and we see something we have all seen before.

“Zombie Boyz” by T.J. Klune, Eric Arvin, Ethan Stone, Daniel A. Kaine, Ethan Day and Geoffrey Knight— Six Writers, Three Fun Stories

zombie boyz

Klune, T.J, Eric Arvin, Ethan Stone, Daniel A. Kaine, Ethan Day and Geoffrey Knight. “Zombie Boyz”, Wilde City, 2013.

Six Writers, Three Fun Stories

Amos Lassen

Zombies are like fashion—they come and go with taste and lately they are back in popularity and we are the benefactors. There is nothing better than a zombie story on a lonely night to get one’s imagination going and these stories do that and more. There is something very campy about these undead dead people and because of that they tend to make us laugh more than they scare us. We see here that zombies have the ability to fall in love, to [try to] scare us, to cheer us up and to conquer.

In “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” by Ethan Day and Geoffrey Knight I found myself having trouble turning pages because I was laughing so hard. We meet a family who is biding time waiting for the world to return to some sense of normality (although I really have no idea what normal means). We find adolescent angst right in the middle of the zombie apocalypse with one of the wildest cast of characters that I have read about in a story in a very long time. There is also some very wild dialogue. Chandler, a nineteen year horny gay male narrates the story and tells us about the time he brought Zane, his first boyfriend home but is not sure how to tell his family that Zane is a…zombie. The two met through the Beefcake Virus and love blossomed. Yet they stand before the Pandemic Transviral Apocalypse.

 “Surviving Sin City” by Ethan Stone and Daniel Kaine is about Kaleb, a guy who lives in Las Vegas and Cooper, an Englishman on vacation who meets as the world around them falls apart. Cooper wants to return to England and Kaleb wants to find his brother but Vegas has been locked down and super zombies have taken over. They are very fast and very smart—much more effective than just regular zombies. Cooper and Kaleb head for the airport and to Kaleb’s brother and they realize that they make a good team and know they can accomplish much more together than apart. But so much for happiness as the zombie apocalypse approaches.

Cooper was supposed to have made this trip with his boyfriend but they split and while he is sitting in a bar he hears the news and is suspicious and worried that what he had expected to happening was indeed happening—the zombie apocalypse. He was prepared for it back in England but here in Vegas he is at a loss. He thinks that he might be able to escape and get home and as he tries to escape he meets Kaleb who is seeking a place to hide. Here two young humans face a difficult situation with the zombies closing in. The two men soon find themselves connecting and there is a bit of romance as well as sex.

TJ Klune and Eric Arvin bring us the third story, “Ghoul’s Gym”. Uly and Jake are lovers and they sincerely love each other. In fact, they agree that regardless of how bad things might get, they will never leave each other. Jake, however, wants to be bigger and better than he is even though Uly loves him without his doing so. This plays on their relationship and Jake makes a deal with the devil. When he realizes what he has done, it is too late.  By the time the Zombie Apocalypse comes they are desperate to find each other and face what is coming together. As the attack comes it is really awful but then there is a balance with wit and humor.  I can’t say much more without spoiling it but I will say that there is a lot of tension in this story and the build-up has the reader on the edge of his seat. Because we sit in anticipation, there is a sense of fear as we read.

What makes this collection unique is that the gore is mixed with humor and sex and intrigue are there as well. It is not easy to make a reader afraid, laugh and cry all in the same book but the writers have managed to do just that. Do I have a favorite? I don’t but that is because even though all three stories deal with zombies, they do so differently. I know that it is rare to enjoy an entire anthology but I did just that.

 

 

“Thorns” by Feliz Faber— Investigating Love

thorns

Faber, Feliz. “Thorns”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

Investigating Love

Amos Lassen

Some seventeen years ago a tragic accident at the Kentucky Derby scandalized the world of horseracing. A horse died and Nic Pithiviers and Louis Meerow were said to be responsible. Now reporter Will Yeats wants to know what really happened but Nic and Louis do not want to talk. When asked for an interview, they send their attorney Francis LeBon in their stead to answer Will. Francis is determined to protect his clients from the gossip that Will is ready to spread. However, Francis was not prepared for Will’s honesty and his determination to exonerate Nic and Louis who were falsely accused. Nor was he prepared t deal with the attraction he felt for Will.

It seems that Will, while visiting Nic’s and Louis’ training center in France, discovered a series of intrigues that included lies and secrets. In doing so, he unleashed a series of events that could destroy what he has with Francis and as well as the relationship of Louis and Nic.

There is something about ready a novel that could be derived from the newspaper—it has a sense of truth as do the characters and the setting of this story. The characters come across as real people with real jobs who live in a real world. Will seemed like someone I know, a man struggling to stay real in Los Angeles and yet get his job as a reporter at a gay newspaper. He needs a story and Nic and Lewis are it. They are horse breeders and trainers who do all that the jobs entail including the things like cleaning the stalls, etc. that no one wants to do. In this we see the realism of their lives.

I really liked really reading about the two different relationships here—one that has just begun and the other that has continued, through thick and thin, for twenty years. Add to this a mystery and you get a terrific read that keeps you turning pages.

Will’s editor told him to find a story about gay men who are involved in horseracing and he finds the story of Nic and Lewis, never suspecting that it would change his life and as he investigates, he uncovers secrets and lies that could destroy what he works so hard to build. These secrets build to a climax that bring the truth out and give us an excellent read.

“The Fun: The Social Practice of Nightlife in NYC” by Jake Yuzna— Nighttime in New York City

the fun

Yuzna, Jake. “The Fun: The Social Practice of Nightlife in NYC”, Powerhouse Books, 2013.

Nighttime in New York City

Amos Lassen

Like many other cities, New York comes alive after dark but New York City does so in her own special way. The city’s nightlife has always been a major tourist draw while at the same time provides a great many options for New Yorkers. New York has always been the cultural capitol of this country and a place where creative expression has always not just been accepted but encouraged.

“The Fun” looks at the city’s nightlife and tells us all about it as well as documents the new forms of those responsible for it since 2000.  We see this in profiles of some 30 people which includes who are considered to be the movers and shakers—Susanne Bartshce and Ladyfag; hybrid forms like Xtapussy and FCKNLZ; the continuation of minimal wave and goth communities through Pendu Disco; and the vibrant queer scenes of JUDY, Frankie Sharp, and My Chiffon is Wet.

New York is both weird and innovative and we certainly see that here but what we really see are those who are the voices of the scene—Rob Roth, Genesis P-Orridge, and Michael Alig, curators and critics Claire Bishop, and Jake Yuzna, as well as journalist Michael Musto who gives “both historical context and contemporary understanding of nightlife as a vital artistic practice that has been marginalized by the arts sector for hundreds of years”.

Overall the book covers the history of New York’s nighlife as it has changed from the discos of the 1970s to the megaclubs of the 80s to the rise of the club kids, drag and performance art to the music in the downtown clubs such as Pyramid and Mother and the rise of Brooklyn as a new hotspot in the 2000s and the rise of places such as
“Luxx, Secret Project Robot, Silent Barn and other hybrid arts/music/nightlife venues; and on into the many vibrant and emergent forms found today”.

The book is a celebration of New York and its originality and unique artistry—a city that real creates when the sun goes down.

Those responsible for this exciting publication are:

“Jake Yuzna, a NYC-based cultural producer focusing on nightlife, cinema, performance, design, and institutional apparatus. In 2011, as head of programming at the Museum of Arts and Design, Yuzna conceived and founded THE FUN fellowship in the social practice of nightlife, the first, and to date only, fellowship to support nightlife practitioners. Yuzna has curated projects for MoMA PS1, the 4th Moscow Biennial, and Intermedia Arts. Also know for his film directing, Yuzna was the youngest recipient of a fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in filmmaking. He has also received fellowships from Creative Capital Foundation, Creative Time, Jerome Hill Foundation, Frameline Foundation, and others. His debut feature film Open, was the first American film to receive the Teddy Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010”.  

“Claire Bishop, an art historian and critic based in the History of Art department at CUNY Graduate Center, New York since September 2008. Previously Bishop was an associate professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Warwick, Coventry and Visiting Professor in the Curating Contemporary Art Department at the Royal College of Art, London. Bishop edited Participation (MIT Press, 2006) and Installation Art: A Critical History (Routledge, 2005) and has contributed to Artforum, Flash Art, and October”.

“Michael Musto, an American columnist, author, and journalist. For over 26 years, Musto has written the “La Dolce Musto” column in the Village Voice, covering gossip, nightlife, politics, and personal issues. His books include Downtown (Vintage, 1986), Manhattan on the Rocks (Henry Holt & Co., 1989), and most recently, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back (Vantage Point, 2011)”.
 
“Maria Lind”, a writer and curator, as well as the director of the Center for Curatorial Studies Graduate Program at Bard College. She has curated internationally at a multitude of institutions and festivals, including Kunstverein München where she served as director from 2002 to 2004. In 2009, Lind received the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement.

““Genesis Breyer P-Orridge”, an English-born singer-songwriter, writer, artist, and cultural engineer. P-Orridge’s early confrontational performance work in COUM Transmissions in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with the industrial band Throbbing Gristle, which dealt with subjects such as prostitution, pornography, serial killers, occultism, and P-Orridge’s own exploration of gender issues, generated controversy. Later musical work with Psychic TV received wider exposure, including some chart-topping singles. In the 1980s, Genesis and performance artist Lady Jaye Breyer began their androgynous life project BREYER P-ORRIDGE wherein there merged their identities through plastic surgery, hormone therapy and behavioral modification”.

“To Eat: A Country Life” by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd— From Garden to Table

to eat

Eck, Joe and Wayne Winterrowd. “To Eat: A Country Life”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux , 2013.

From Garden to Table

Amos Lassen

If you have never lived on a farm but find that kind of life interesting, you will adore this book. It celebrates the lives of the two authors, a couple who have been together for many years and it celebrates their unique garden. This is a beautiful look at farm-to–table living and at the romance between the authors.

In 1974 Eck and Winterrowd left Boston to move to southern Vermont and there they bought a 28 acre bit of nothing. The land was covered with trees, greenery grew wildly but there was a steam. Today, it is a different place—North Hill, seven beautifully cultivated acres that is an internationally famous garden. It is also open to the public in the spring and summer. It has been featured in print and photograph and the New York Times has done an extensive article on it. The two men were busy at work on the book when Winterrowd died in  2010 and this book now becomes part of his legacy.

I love that the book was written with a sense of humor and with some wonderful little stories and histories making this the kind of book that is meant for more than just one reading.

While this is the last book by the authors, it is my first time reading about them and now since I live in Boston, I plan to get to North Hill soon. Eck and Winterrowd shared a passion for planting, raising and preparing the food that they ate together and that is so evident here. Replete with drawings by Bobbi Angell and recipes by Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta, the book is pleasure from page one. The book is arranged so that we can one food per chapter and we feel the exuberance of country living.

The book has something for everyone—it is part cookbook, part gardening manual, part memoir and all delight.

 “For foodies as much as for gardeners, this savory collection of anecdotes about farming is a testament to the joy and reward of labor and achievement … Authors Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd describe how they spent decades raising various crops in southern Vermont. They offer tips on soil as well as recipes for preparing fresh-grown food. It is hard not to appreciate beets or salivate over illustrator Bobbi Angell’s descriptions of Winterrowd’s blueberry pie.” —Gary M. Kramer, Instinct Magazine

 “A pig named Morose, a bull called Hadrian, recipes for carrot cake and oxtail stew, the advantages of cold storage, and the appeal of cippolini onions. Such is the evidence of a life lived well and deliberately, a commitment Eck and his partner, Winterrowd, made early on in their 42-year personal and professional relationship. In this bittersweet memoir, Eck’s preface reveals that Winterrowd died before the book was completed; the afterword should come complete with hankies. In between are endearing and educational glimpses into their gardening practices and gustatory preferences, their peripatetic journeys and permanent joys . . . Readers will delight in this exuberant paean to the pleasures and benefits of growing one’s own food, elegiac homage to how Eck and Winterrowd celebrated the bounty such labors bestowed, and Eck’s reflections on daily changes and seasonal challenges at Vermont’s North Hill Farm. Eck and Winterrowd will inspire even the most reluctant gardeners to take steps to harvest a more rewarding life.” –Carol Haggas, Booklist.

The book is slim with only 194 pages yet it has 29 chapters “on veggies grown in their garden, from Asparagus and Apples to Tomatoes and Wild Herbs. Most chapters are brief, two or three pages. Of these, only eleven have recipes as such, although ten or so more describe what sound like delectable presentations one may or may not consider recipes”.

Bobbi Angell “has masterfully composed, exquisite pen-and-ink rendered drawings of the vegetable being celebrated, such as the slender rectangle portraying the leek, its mysterious tangle of roots, its sturdy yet slender stalk, its twisting ribbons of leaves (p.80). Angell’s rendition of the surface of oranges could make Durer envious, so well observed and rendered are these mini-moonscapes. Each drawing is a gem, a work of artistry and love”.

“TRIPLE CROSSED”— Finding Life after War

triplecrossed

“Triple Crossed”

Finding Life after War

Amos Lassen

Coming soon from TLA Releasing is Sean Paul Lockhart’s directorial debut. He also stars in and wrote the screenplay about what a young man feels after returning from a tour in Afghanistan and having seen war up close and personal.

Chris Jensen (Jake Brockett) faces a hard struggle as he tries to find some way to once again fit in life in California after his harrowing experiences. He sees that there are others who face the same problems that he does as he meanders through life, living in his car. He medicates himself and tries to find some way to stop hearing the voices he heard while on the front lines. He was lucky enough to have been able to use his own special talents while in the Middle-East. He finally decides to use those talents at home yet he is fully aware that civilian life can be just as dangerous as life in the war zone even though the danger takes a different form. Here there is an added difficulty that comes in the person of Andrew Warner (Lockhart).

triple1

There is a hit out on a man that Chris promised to protect and he is torn between the promise he made to now-dead Tyler Townsend and Tyler’s half-sister who has hired Chris to kill her dead-brother’s gay lover. That lover is the very same Andrew Warner who is due to inherit millions that Tyler has left to him. However, Jackie, Tyler’s sister has other ideas about what to do with Andrew which he knows nothing about. There is only one problem—Chris falls in love with Andrew who is suspicious and when the plan is revealed, each of the three characters is forced to fend for himself.

triple2

Quite naturally there is a lot of tension but even more important is that the film presents the viewer with gay characters who fight for what they believe in.