Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Book Review: Death Comes Too Late

Since debuting 20 years ago, Hard Case Crime has won acclaim for publishing the best in hardboiled crime fiction – not least of all the work of founding editor Charles Ardai, which has won the Edgar, Shamus and Ellery Queen Awards, been selected for ‘Best of the Year’ anthologies, and earned praise from everyone from the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune to Megan Abbott and Stephen King.

Collected here for the first time anywhere are the author’s 20 finest stories, including his Edgar-winning “The Home Front,” about death and repentance during World War II; the Shamus Award finalist “Nobody Wins,” about a brutal gangland enforcer searching for the woman he loves; and year’s-best selections such as “A Bar Called Charley’s,” about a traveling salesman’s most grueling night on the road. From Brazil at Carnival to Times Square at midnight, from Tijuana, Mexico to history’s first gunshot in 11th-century China, Ardai will take you to some of the most dangerous places in the world – and the darkest corners of the human heart.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Book Review: The Ballad of Falling Rock

Truth told, folks still ask if Saul Crabtree sold his soul for the perfect hymn. If he sold it to angels or devils. A Bristol newspaper once asked: “are his love songs closer to heaven than dying?” Others wonder how he wrote a song so sad, everyone who heard it died of a broken heart.

Yet, more than anything else folks ponder in the town of Trinity, one question lingers: why did this angel-toned preacher’s son, just as his fame seemed ready to light the Appalachian nightsky forever, disappear completely?

In 1938, the decisions Saul makes will alter his family’s story for generations. He and his eerily talented descendants ignite religious fear throughout Red Pine County.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Book Review: Funny Boy

Richard Hunt was just 18 years old when he joined Jim Henson’s company, where his edgy humor quickly helped launch the Muppets into international stardom. He brought to life an impressive range of characters on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and various Muppet movies, everyone from eager gofer Scooter to elderly heckler Statler, groovy girl Janice to freaked-out lab helper Beaker, even early versions of Miss Piggy and Elmo. Hunt lived large, savoring life’s delights, amassing a vivid, disparate community of friends. Even when the AIDS epidemic wrought its devastation, claiming the love of Hunt’s life and threatening his own life, he showed an extraordinary sense of resilience, openness and joy. Hunt’s story exemplifies how to follow your passion, foster your talents, adapt to life’s surprises, genuinely connect with everyone from glitzy celebrities to gruff cab drivers – and have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Book Review: Kasher in the Rye

Rising young comedian Moshe Kasher is lucky to be alive. He started using drugs when he was just 12. At that point, he had already been in psychoanalysis for 8 years. By the time he was 15, he had been in and out of several mental institutions, drifting from therapy to rehab to arrest to...you get the picture. But Kasher in the Rye is not an "eye opener" to the horrors of addiction. It's a hilarious memoir about the absurdity of it all.

When he was a young boy, Kasher's mother took him on a vacation to the West Coast. Well it was more like an abduction. Only not officially.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Book Review: The Blue Wolves of Mibu 1

It's 1863, the twilight of the shogunate, and Japan is on the cusp of monumental change. The streets of the nation's capital are soaked in blood as political upheaval and rising tensions between masterless, wandering ronin and government samurai set the stage for one of the most turbulent times in Japan's history. Young orphan Nio is no stranger to the harsh realities of the world, and yet he can't help but cling to his burning passion for justice and desire to change the world for the better. One day, he crosses paths with two men who will become central figures of the coming revolution: Hijikata Toshizo and Okita Souji, two of the founding members of a group of hated ronin known as the Miburo--who would later become known as the Shinsengumi. Inspired by the efforts of the so-called "Blues Wolves of Mibu," Nio decides to join the ranks to help carve a path to the world he wishes to see. But with new betrayals and reversals every day, will Nio be able to stay true to his conscience?

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Book Review: Subculture Vulture

After bottoming out, being institutionalized, and getting sober all by the tender age of fifteen, Moshe Kasher found himself asking: “What’s next?” Over the ensuing decades, he discovered the answer: a lot.

There was his time as a boy-king of Alcoholics Anonymous, a kind of pubescent proselytizer for other teens getting and staying sober. He was a rave promoter turned DJ turned sober ecstasy dealer in San Francisco’s techno warehouse party scene of the 1990s. For fifteen years he worked as a psychedelic security guard at Burning Man, fishing hippies out of hidden chambers they’d constructed to try to sneak into the event.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Book Review: Deadpan

Deadpan follows the misadventures of a vaguely antisemitic West Virginia Buick dealer who wakes up one day transformed into the world’s most popular Jewish comedian and compelled to perform stand-up routines. Steeped in magical realism, the narrative confronts the incandescent issues of our day: identity, intolerance, tribalism and the redemptive force of humor. The novel’s unfettered comical sensibility is a vivid testament to Mark Twain’s dictum “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Set during the world-wide oil crises of the 1970s, the narrative alternates between locations in West Virginia, Las Vegas, Washington, Tehran, and Sinai.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Book Review: Disney Twisted-Wonderland volume 3

Stranded in the world of Twisted Wonderland, Yu must brave a magical school filled with ghosts, monsters, and uncooperative students!

Still trying to get his friend Ace out of trouble, Yu attends one of Heartslabyul Dorm’s traditional unbirthday parties. But instead of solving Ace’s problems or having a bit of fun, they wind up incurring the wrath of the housewarden, Riddle!

Disney-Twisted Wonderland volume 3 will be released on March 12, 2024. VIZ Media provided an early galley for review.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Book Review: That's So New York

New York Times editor and lifelong New Yorker Dan Saltzstein compiles hundreds of distinctly New York moments for this peek at the city that never sleeps. Inspired by Saltzstein’s viral Twitter thread, this illustrated book features hilarious anecdotes from locals and transplants, short essays from folks like Molly Jong-Fast and Michael Ian Black, who have seen it all, and Q&As with everyday New Yorkers from across the five boroughs. Eels wriggling through subway cars, accidentally stumbling onto the set of Law & Order, drag queens emerging from manholes—if there’s one thing New York never runs out of, it’s stories. And rats. Always rats.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Book Review: American Spirits

A husband sells property to a mysterious, temperamental stranger, and is hounded on social media when he publicly questions the man’s character. A couple grows concerned when an enigmatic family moves next door, and the children start sneaking over to beg for help. Two dangerous criminals kidnap an elderly couple and begin blackmailing their grandson, demanding that he pay back what he owes.

Suspenseful, thrilling, and expertly crafted, American Spirits explores the hostile undercurrents of our communities and American politics at large, as well as the ways local tragedies can be both devastating and, somehow, everyday. Ushering the reader through the town of Sam Dent, Russell Banks has etched yet another brilliant entry into the bedrock of American fiction.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Book Review: The Mushroom Knight vol. 1

A chivalrous faerie mushroom named Gowlitrot the Gardner embarks on a quest to uncover a clandestine threat that has brought calamity to his magical woodland kingdom. An adolecent girl named Lemuelle from northwest Philadelphia desperately searches for her lost dog.

As their destinies coalesce, a whimsical friendship forms. But peril is nigh, and their respective journeys threaten to challenge the foundation of their realities...and reality itself.