Sister’s City (Groo the Wanderer #18) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Sister’s City
Series: Groo the Wanderer #18
Author: Sergio Aragones
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 24
Words: 2K


Groo has a sister who is Queen of a city. Said city is about to be attacked and so Grooella summons Groo to her aid. As Groo travels to the city he has many fond memories of his time growing up with Grooella. Of course, in the process of “helping” his sister, he allows the city to be taken over.

Man, Groo was just as much of a spaz, bad luck charm and general el stupido as a kid as he is now. Every time he tried to do something nice for his sister he ended up destroying something of hers. Obviously, his sister never learned HER lesson either, because why else would she try to get his help?

And as soon as I heard it, I knew Groo was going to mess things up. So the castle being taken over by the enemies was no surprise. What did surprise me is that apparently we are going to be treated to our first ever multi-issue Groo story! The next issue is going to deal with Grooella trying to take back her castle. I can’t even imagine how things are going to go wrong in that, hahahahaah!

The ending page was a perfect wrapup of the relationship between Groo and Grooella.


Widowmaker Unleashed (Widowmaker #3) ★★★★☆

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Title: Widowmaker Unleashed
Series: Widowmaker #3
Author: Mike Resnick
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 180
Words: 56K

From the Publisher &

He was the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, the consummate killing machine, a man known only as the Widowmaker. Now, after a century of being cryogenically frozen, Jefferson Nighthawk has a new lease on life–and new enemies who want him dead…. Jefferson Nighthawk has been awakened from his frozen sleep, his deadly disease cured. But although he still has the experience and instincts of the legendary Widowmaker, Nighthawk is now biologically in his sixties. His reflexes slowed by age, looking only to live out his days in peace, he decides on a quiet retirement on a Frontier world. Easier said than done. For while Nighthawk lay in cryogenic sleep, his two clones were killing in his name, leaving a trail of vengeful enemies in their wake. Nighthawk has one advantage: no one knows who he is just yet. But once word gets out that he’s back, every assassin on the Frontier will be out to make a rep by gunning him down. Suddenly the Widowmaker has only two choices: pick up his weapons…or face death again–and this time for keeps.

So instead of changing his name and looks, he creates a third clone and personally trains him. This still doesn’t take enough heat off of Nighthawk, so he and the young clone stage the elder Widowmaker’s death in an epic showdown, one where Nighthawk almost does die. Now the world thinks he is dead and the younger Widowmaker can make his own name while Jefferson Nighthawk can live out his days in peace on some dirtball of a world.

Reading my review from ‘14, I mentioned how short this felt compared to the previous stories about the Widowmaker. I realized this time around that is because this is novel is simply a collection of serialized stories instead of being one long drawn out story. Yes, it is all connected, but it is very much compartmentalized. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you are aware of it.

Man, the original Widowmaker is a jerk. At first it is understandable. He thought all his enemies were dead and now he finds out his clones have made him a bunch more, that HE has to deal with. But then his mule headed refusal to do anything but stand and duke it out just got my back up. Because he almost whines the entire time about it. If he had immediately gotten a new identity and a new face (which would have been wicked easy when they were rebuilding him from the ravages of the eplasia), none of it would have mattered.

Of course, we as readers get some cracking good action out of it, so don’t take my complaining that seriously, hahahaaa. So, he’s a jerk. But my goodness, he’s a wicked smart jerk. He’s learned over his lifetime and he puts that learning to good knowledge here.

Much like Santiago, this book was supposed to be the end of the Widowmaker series. Santiago was supposed to be a standalone and the Widowmaker was supposed to be a trilogy. So there is one more adventure for the Widowmaker. But which Widowmaker? I can’t remember, so it’ll be like a brand new book to me.


Fullmetal Alchemist #9 ★★★☆☆

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Title: Fullmetal Alchemist #9
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Author: Hiromu Arakawa
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 184
Words: 9K


Chapter 34: The Footsteps of a War Comrade

Chapter 35: The Sacrificial Lamb

Chapter 36: Alchemist in Distress

Chapter 37: The Body of a Criminal

“Ed, Al, and Winry return to Central Command, but only bad news greets the Fullmetal Alchemist and his friends, Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes has been murdered-and Second Lieutenant Maria Ross is the prime suspect! While Maria awaits an uncertain fate in jail, the living suit of armor bearing the soul of serial killer “Barry the Chopper” breaks free of the military and goes on a rampage. Now, the mysterious Homunculi must come out of the shadows to deal with this mess before their monstrous conspiracy is exposed. But for Colonel Roy Mustang, Mae Hughes’s former best friend, it’s not about the truth; it’s about revenge…”

You know, I’ve figured out just why I am having such a hard time with this manga. The manga-ka keeps sending us down little side trails, sometimes in great detail and with a sense of outrageous silliness, that don’t have anything to do with the main plot. It simply infuriates me. It’s not a constant thing, but it happens enough to interrupt my enjoyment of the main storyline.

I think the anime creators did a fantastic job of that and that is why I enjoyed the anime so much. Even though they didn’t have the ending at that time, they still told a fantastic story with very few offshoots. I just wish this particular manga would cut the fat.

I am seriously thinking of reading more volumes in a row so I don’t have to deal with interruptions as much. But just pack them all into one review, so kind of how I used to do manga reviews back in the day. Not sure that is actually a good solution, but it’s that or dnf the series and I really want to see how things turn out.


Conan the Magnificent (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Conan the Magnificent
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 65K


In the south-western spur of the Kezankian mountains separating Brythunia from Zamora, one of the hundreds of wandering holy-men of the Kezankians is drawing the traditionally feuding tribes together to witness a miracle of “the ancient gods.” The True Gods of earth, air, fire and water led Basrakan Imallah deep into the bowels of the earth to a clutch of fire-drake eggs. With blasphemous knowledge of the thaumatergical arts, Basrakan managed to hatch one of the nine eggs and bind the infant creature to his will, albeit imperfectly. Now, with an avatar of the fire god under his command, Basrakan preaches a holy war against the plains-dwellers of Zamora and Brythunia.

Unfortunately, as the creature grows, his hold on it weakens.

In secret, Basrakan has agents searching for two huge rubies, The Eyes of Fire, that will grant him complete control over all nine dragons. With them, he can complete his unification of the hill-tribes and lead them to conquest over all who would oppose him.

Completing a spectacle where his dragon kills three Brythunians as a sacrifice to the True Gods, Basrakan receives word his spies have located the Eyes of Fire. They are in the possession of House Perashanid of Shadizar.

Shadizar, capital city of Zamora. Conan steals across rooftops bound for the house of Samarides, the gem-merchant. On commission from the spice merchant, Barastes, Conan intends to steal a goblet carved from a single huge emerald from Samarides’ mansion. Almost killing himself to gain access to the place, Conan is beaten to his prize by a female thief calling herself Lyana. To discourage him from using her rope to escape, Lyana casts a black throwing knife at the Cimmerian. When he jumps back to avoid the projectile, she makes good her escape. Narrowly escaping from Samarides and his guards by going out the front door, Conan vows to avenge his wounded pride by beating the thief to her next prize.

But first he has to find out who she is.

From Abuletes, Conan learns a thief named Jamal used knives similar to the one the girl threw at Conan…until he was beheaded by the City Guard a decade ago. Jamal had a daughter and two brothers, Gayan and Hafid, who took the orphaned girl in. They were thieves as well and used clothing and tools similar to what Conan saw the girl employ. The girl’s name was Tamira.

Conan offers a reward of two silver pieces to the city’s beggars, trulls and street urchins to find the girl for him.

The Lady Jondra of the House Perashanid is know to possess a fabulous tiara and necklace both of which feature a huge ruby set amongst diamonds and opals. She is also reputed to be an capable huntress. She is also famous for being unwed and the last scion of noble house of Zamora. However, her mother was Brythunian, not Zamoran, and no small few at court consider her a half-breed, much to her chagrin. We see her snub the hopes of one would-be paramour by telling him she can marry no man unless he can equal her as an archer; then she bests him at archery.

After many false leads, the street urchins locate Tamira at The Red Lion Tavern. A confrontation ensues where Conan suggests that Tamira is a virgin and wants to bed her.

His real plan is to have her followed from the tavern by the urchins to see where she goes and report back to Conan.

A day comes and goes and Conan finds himself confronted by Barastes the spice merchant, visiting Abulete’s Tavern to talk with Conan about the whereabouts of the goblet. Asking to keep their dealings private, they adjourn to Conan’s small room on the second floor and, unsatisfied with Conan’s explanation of events, Barastes tries to kill the Cimmerian. Conan disarms him easily and stuns him with a blow to the face. Stripping him of his purse, cloak and weapons, Conan shakes him awake and throws him out the window to the filthy alley below.

Knowing that his actions will eventually bring the city guard to Abuletes, Conan arranges with the tavern-keeper to secure a horse and leave the city. As Abuletes sends a message to a man he knows, Laeta the street urchin enters and tells Conan that Tamira has been spending time at the Lady Jondra’s mansion. One of the urchins saw her leave a few hours past, dressed like a serving girl, along with the rest of Lady Jondra’s hunting party.

Needing to leave town in any case, Conan plays a hunch Tamira would not tag along with the noblewoman while the jewels stay in Shadizar. Taking his new horse he sets off into the northern Zamorian wastes intent on catching up with Jondra’s hunting expedition. [note: Jordan uses Zamoran throughout instead of Howard’s term, Zamorian, used throughout this article]

Coming upon Jondra cornered and alone, menaced by a pack of wolves, Conan rescues her by killing nine of them before the rest slink back into the wilderness. With both their horses dead, the pair must walk back to Jondra’s camp. Unfortunately neither one has any water left and the Zamoran wastes offer no chance to find any. As the day stretches into afternoon, Jondra begins to fail, so the Cimmerian carries her, against her weak protests. It is full night when Conan spies the fires of a camp. Not knowing or caring if it is Jondra’s, he staggers into camp, sets the woman on the ground and demands water, hand on his sword hilt.

Assuming the worst upon seeing Jonrda’s limp form dropped to the ground, Arvaneus, Jondra’s Chief Huntsman, orders Conan slain. In a soft but firm voice Jondra commands her men to stop and, after taking some swallows of water, berates Arvaneus for not doing enough to try to locate her before dusk. So does Conan earn the enmity of Arvaneus.

In Brythunia, in a village near the Kezankian Mountains, a young warrior named Eldran returns from the West to find his fellow villagers all bearing arms and shields. The local priestess of Wiccana, Boudanecea, takes him to her abode where Eldran’s teacher in the art of the sword, Godtan, lies horribly burned and dying. He is the only surviving member of a hunting party that went, against Boudanecea’s advice, to the mountains in search of the creature responsible for burning farms in the foothills of the Kezankians. When they came upon the beast they learned, to their horror, that the priestess spoke true; no weapons forged by ordinary men could harm the creature. After fleeing the dragon, the remaining warriors were ambushed by hillmen. Eldran’s brother, Ellandune, and two other men, Aelric and Aelfric, were taken prisoner. The rest were slain. The hillmen left Godtan for dead.

Boudanecea leads Eldran to The Sacred Grove of Wiccana and, using druidic magic, opens the way for Eldran to obtain the sword called Flame Slayer; forged by great wizards almost 3,000 years prior to defeat the beasts of fire unleashed by Acheron’s foul sorcery. Empty claws on either end of the guard once held great rubies called the Eyes of Fire which gave the wielder control of the beasts. The blade is given only to the worthy and only once in their lifetime. If it leaves the possession of the worthy, it magically returns to the mound in Wiccana’s Grove and can only be granted to another after the proper ceremony is performed. Eldran accepts the priestess’ benediction while making a list, in his mind, of the men he will lead into the mountains.

Meanwhile, back in Zamora, Conan observes the leaders of the hunting party concealing their presence from a contingent of over 5,000 Zamorian troops crossing their intended path, far ahead in the distance. Arvaneus finally challenges Conan to a duel but Jondra forbids it, so Conan suggests they cast spears for money. Conan ties Arvaneus at 30 paces and at 40 paces and then beats him at 60 paces. Incensed, Arvaneus dares Conan to hit the arget at 100 paces…so he does. Not only does he win 500 pieces of silver from the Chief huntsman, Lady Jondra gives herself to the Cimmerian because she could never have made such a spear-cast.

Three days later Eldran and his riders meet Lady Jondra’s hunting party on the Zamorian plain. In speaking with them, Jondra describes the beast that she hunts and the Brythunians recognize it as the beast of fire that they seek. Eldran tries to warn Jondra that the beast cannot be slain by normal weapons but the proud noblewoman sends them on their way. But not before Eldran out-shoots Jondra with a bow, making quite an impression on her…and focusing her wrath on both Arvaneus and Conan.

Through ensorcelled ravens, Basrakan learns of the arrival of the Zamorian soldiers and dispatches 20,000 hillmen to destroy them, to prove they are worthy in the eyes of the True Gods.

That night the Cimmerian wakes to the sound of unshod hoofs on gravel coming up the hill toward camp. Djinar and his band of hillmen from Shadizar have caught up with the hunting party and attack while they sleep, intent on killing them all and taking the Eyes of Fire to Basrakan. Conan kills a number of them while the hunters are still waking up and helps drive them off. He then argues with Jondra, trying to convince her to turn back.

The next afternoon Conan tells Tamira of his intention to return to Shadizar, with or without Jondra. Tamira promises to accompany Conan but not until after dark, in order to avoid a confrontation with the noblewoman over leaving her service. Shortly thereafter a Zamorian cavalry company of nearly three hundred riders arrives at Jondra’s camp. Their commander, Lord Zathanides, insists it is too dangerous near the mountains at this juncture and tells Jondra return to Shadizar. Trying to make Conan jealous, she invites the general into her tent to discuss her future. Her ploy backfires however and the Zamorain nobleman tries to rape her.

Conan throws Zathanides out of Jondra’s pavilion and disarms him when he tries to draw on the Cimmerian. Jondra stops Conan from killing him and warns she will inform the king of his indecent assault if he attempts use his station to exact revenge on the Cimmerian. The general takes his leave but not before casting aspersions on Jondra’s mother and Conan’s heritage.

After his departure, Conan and Jondra quarrel again over returning to the city, after which Conan decides to take his own advice and begin preparations to leave that night with Tamira. Discovering a saddle and waterskin already sitting by a fresh horse however, Conan proceeds directly to Jondra’s tent and catches Tamira stealing the tiara and necklace. Scooping her up and carrying her off down the hill to the edge of camp behind some scrub brush, Tamira kicks him as he is releasing her. He loses his footing on the uneven ground and falls atop her. An argument ensues but soon Tamira beings to kiss him. After a second or two of surprise, Conan returns the favour.

The next day finds Conan already well into the mountains at sunrise and looking back at a battle on the Zamorian plains where a huge horde of Kezankian hillmen are massacring thousands of Zamorian soldiers.

From another part of the mountains, Eldran watches the same battle and mourns for Jondra, who he is sure the soldiers were escorting back to Shadizar. Eldran addresses his men and tells them they are now on the beast’s home-ground; that he’s felt it’s evil growing ever stronger as they travelled further into this part of the mountains. He lets them know, If any want to turn back, now is the time. None do.

Further into the mountains, Basrakan’s meditations are interrupted by a group of heretical hillmen. The Imalla slays them with magic and then casts a spell that immolates every one of their male relatives, regardless of their age, in the surrounding camp. Jbiel tells Basrakan that Shamal, one of Djinar’s men sent after the Eyes of Fire, has returned, but is insane. Against the tradition of the Old Gods that the insane are not to be molested, Basrakan orders him interrogated to find out everything he knows.

Before noon, after the massacre of the Zamorian soldiers, Jondra calls a halt and orders her retinue to make camp; sending out her huntsmen to look for signs of the dragon. Conan spends the day on lookout duty, honing the blade of his sword, trying to spy the source of an oppressive feeling that has grown stronger the further they forged into the mountains.

Telades is the first hunter to return. He found no sign of the beast but did discover another large force of Zamorian soldiers camped further within the mountains, to the north. Telades was able to get close enough to recognize the commander of the force; one General Tenerses.

One by one the other hunters return, each of them finding no trace of the creature…until, at last, Arvaneus returns with news of the beast’s tracks. Despite the distance to the tracks and the sun hanging at mid-afternoon, Jondra insists on seeing the spoor that day and takes 20 men, plus Conan, into the mountains.

Reaching the first tracks, the oppressive feeling Conan has had that whole day increases. He suggests they return to camp but Jondra insists on seeing the complete tracks Arvaneus claims are further along. Coming to a small valley with many cuts leading off to each side, the earth becomes softer and complete tracks can be seen.

And then the dragon attacks.

The beast decimates the hunting party with claws and fire; each of the hunters falling as they realize that no part of the beast is vulnerable, not even its eyes. Jondra is nearly killed by the beast but she and Conan are provided the chance to escape when Telades sacrifices himself to distract the monster. Jondra breaks down and Conan carries her to safety.

Conan strides into camp carrying Jondra and Tamira helps her to her tent. No other hunters have returned. The remaining hunters look to Conan for leadership. He orders them to be vigilant against hillmen tonight for they leave in the morning for Shadizar. He also tells them to flee if the beast attacks.

Hillmen do attack that night, but there are too many of them to repel. Conan rescues Tamira from a hillman and escapes the camp with her. Finding her a place to hide, he returns to the camp to see if he can rescue Jondra. Jealous and angry that he would leave her to help the noblewoman, Tamira leaves her hiding place intent on returning to camp to steal the gems and return to Shadizar without Conan, but is soon captured by hillmen.

Returning to the camp, Conan finds the battle over and begins looking for supplies to use on the journey back to the city. He is accosted by Arvaneus, just arrived after wandering in the mountains since the attack of the fire-drake. Arvaneus is insane with guilt over first leading the hunters to their doom and and then fleeing instead of helping them. Accusing the Cimmerian of being a thief, he becomes enraged when he hears Conan’s plan to find Jondra and return her to Shadizar. He attacks and Conan kills him,

Before he died Arvaneus admitted to seeing Jondra escape the camp and hide from the hillmen. Worried that he has been so long away from Tamira, Conan goes to collect her before searching for Jondra’s hiding place.

In need of water, Jondra leaves her hiding place, reluctantly…because she is nude…to sneak to a water hole she could see from her sanctuary. Losing her footing, she slides off the edge of a short drop but her ankle gets caught in a tree and she is left hanging upside down, still naked, mere yards from the pool of water.

Struggling to free herself, she does not hear a hillman approaching the water hole until he is already there; and then he is dead with an arrow sticking from his neck. Her initial relief that one of her huntsmen has saved her is dampened by the fact that she cannot manage to free herself. Her relief turns to horror when she sees that her saviour is not from her hunting party but is Eldran, the Brythunian.

Effortlessly he lifts her down and carries her to the pond. When he begins to talk of how obsessed he has become with her she picks up a large rock and bounces it off his head. Grateful that he continues to breathe, she nevertheless robs him of his cloak, leggings, bow, knife, etc and limps off in an attempt to get away from him.

And she limps right into six hillmen.

Meanwhile, Conan is tracking Tamira’s departure from her hiding place and discovers that she was taken by hillmen. As he tracks them he comes upon the remaining members of Eldran’s band. Together he and Eldran agree that they will save the women and then slay the beast.

Tamara and Jondra awake to find they are chained spread-eagle on either side of a stone room, completely naked. Basrakan begins magically torturing the two, stopping only when Jbeil interrupts to tell him that Shamal has finally said something legible…that the Eyes of Fire were brought into the Mountains by Jondra.

Conan, Eldran and the remaining Brythunians tracked the hillmen back to the assembled horde surrounding Basrakan’s temple. They know Jondra is in the temple but only that Tamira is somewhere in the huge camp. Discussing how to proceed, Eldran insists on saving Jondra and Conan suggests that they use General Tenerses and his soldiers to their advantage by tricking him into thinking the hillman force is far smaller than it is and providing them with an easy victory. Eldran chooses Frydan for the task and the men settle in to await his return with the army.

After scouring the horde for the spoils from Jondra’s camp, Jbiel delivers the necklace and the tiara to Basrakan. Completely focussed on the gems, he discards the rest of the jewellery and prepares the binding spell that will link him to the fire-drake. He orders Jabiel to take the women to the dungeon to await sacrifice. The spell works and he orders the women taken to for sacrifice to the beast of fire. Thousands of hillmen stream after the women and the Imallas as they make their way to the next valley, where Basrakan performs the rituals to the True Gods.

Upon seeing both woman herded toward the next valley, Conan and Eldran decide that they cannot wait for Frydan’s return. Slipping down into the valley, Conan and the Brythunians disguise themselves as hillmen and join the throng.

As Basrakan completes his summoning ritual to call forth the fire-drake, yells are heard from the entrance-valley that the hillmen are under attack by soldiers. When the Imalla looks down into the sacrificial circle he sees men jumping the low wall and rushing towards the women.

Conan frees Tamira while Eldran frees Jondra and they all turn to consider escape. Sounds of battle from the valley entrance have distracted thousands from what transpires in the sacrificial circle, but many are not…and some are brave enough to intervene. Those hillmen enter the circle to stop the infidels,

But after a few minutes, the press of battle weakens and the hillmen begin to draw back. The beast of fire has arrived.

Finding himself too far away from the beast, Eldran calls out to Conan and throws Flame Slayer to the Cimmerian. Diving and rolling, Conan avoids the fiery breath of the creature and gets close enough to strike at its face. Jerking its head back in pain, the beast exposes its chest and Conan buries the blade in it.

Rearing back on its hind legs, the beast dies and topples onto Basrakan, mashing him to jelly.

Demoralized, thousands of hillmen break for the mouth of the valley and though he strides through them, none dares raise a hand against Conan. Head and shoulders above most of the hillmen, he sees Eldran and the Brythunians helping Jondra escape. Further away, he spies Tamira, his black cloak still covering her, swept into the entrance-valley with the flow of the throng, and out of sight.

Hewing his way back to the larger valley, Conan sees Tamira dash from Basrakan’s temple. As she yells something about recovering her clothes, Conan throws her over his shoulder with a curse and heads for the hills.

Rejoining Eldran’s company to escape the mountains, Conan and the Brythunians reach the foothills safely. Jondra is taken captive by Eldran as payment for her assault against him and the theft of his possessions before she was captured by hillmen. Tamira stops Conan from intervening, explaining that Jondra is in love with Eldran and would rather return to Brythunia with him than to Shadizar as a lonely, wealthy half-breed.

Tamira and Conan part from the Brythunians and ride out onto the Zamorian plain toward Shadizar.

First off, don’t click that “details” thingy above this. Some jamoke went and summarized the book instead of writing a synopsis and it’s 7 pages long. Who are these people who have that much time and energy to put towards something so futile? At least MY reviews will get read by me and millions of my nearest and dearest friends (and who have paid quite handsomely to BE my nearest and dearest) and adoring fans (who did NOT pay quite so handsomely, the cheapskates!)

Conan gets involved with trying to steal some jewels and then to protect a woman. A sorcerer is trying to unite a bunch of fractious tribes under the guise of “the old gods” and has some sort of creature semi in control. But the sorcerer needs the same jewels as Conan wants to complete his control over the creature.

Everything collides and Conan uses a magic sword to slay the beast. Which wasn’t really supposed to be possible, because only the Chosen One could hold the sword and he was already holding it. When the Chosen One lets go of the sword, it supposedly disappears back to its secret hiding place until a new Chosen One is born. So the current Chosen One tossing the magic sword to Conan for him to use just didn’t make sense. I don’t expect a lot from Conan books, but internal consistency is one thing I do want.

That’s why, even though I enjoyed this more than the previous book, I am giving it 3stars instead of 3.5stars. I know it might seem like a little detail to you and you could wonder why but I take my job as a Professional Book Reviewer seriously. I don’t get paid ½ million dollars each year for nothing after all.


No Game For Knights ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@22%

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: No Game For Knights
Editors: Larry Correia & Kacey Ezell
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars DNF@22%
Genre: SFF
Pages: 316 / 70
Words: 127K / 28K

From the Publisher

“Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights.” – Raymond Chandler

In a world of criminals, thugs, con artists, cheats, and swindlers, there must be a man to stand against the powers of darkness and corruption. A man not afraid to walk the mean streets—whether they be those of 1930s Los Angeles, an ancient fantasy realm, or some far-flung planet of a future star empire. He is a man who knows that a “good man” is not always a “nice guy.” But when the chips are down, he understands that a hero does the right thing, even if it means losing everything.

He’s a hard man, sure. But an honorable one. He’s a truth-seeker, a score-evener.

He is Sam Spade. He is Philip Marlowe. He is Rick Deckard. He is Harry Dresden.

He is all these men and more.

Now, join Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell as they present all-new stories of fantasy and science fiction with a hardboiled detective bent by today’s top authors.

Grab the bottle of Scotch from your bottom desk drawer. Light a cigarette. Tilt your fedora back on your head. But don’t forget to watch your back. This is No Game for Knights.

Stories by: Laurell K. Hamilton, Larry Correia, Christopher Ruocchio, Michael Haspil, D.J. Butler, Kacey Ezell, Griffin Barber, Robert Buettner, Sharon Shinn, Craig Martelle, Chris Kennedy, S.A. Bailey, G. Scott Huggins, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and Rob Howell.

DNF’d this due to the usual sexual deviancy issues.

Given Correia’s libertarian philosophy, though it is at odds with his mormonism, I’m not surprised. Especially considering the recent (well 2019’ish) changes the mormon leadership have made due to “continuing revelation” on the issue. Correia seems to be very much of a live and let live kind of guy and that’s reflected in his writing and the stuff he edits as well.


Earth and Sky (Bone #21) ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Earth and Sky
Series: Bone #21
Author: Jeff Smith
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 24
Words: 1K


The Two Stupid Rat Creatures bicker over whether to bake Fone Bone, Thorn, and Gran’ma Ben in a quiche, or make stew from their bones. They are interrupted by Gran’ma Ben, attacking them with her sword. They retreat, and Gran’ma gives Thorn her sword, which agitates the rat creatures. Gran’ma suggests that Thorn may be close to The Turning. She interrogates one of the Two Stupid Rat Creatures, who confesses that they have been ordered to evacuate the valley, but is interrupted by Kingdok, who knocks out Thorn and Fone Bone, and attacks Gran’ma Ben. Fone Bone comes to, and calls for the Dragon’s help.

Smiley hears Fone Bone’s faint calling, but Phoney has another problem – the customers are nursing their beers. The pair suggest various possibilities, and Smiley mentions the Midsummer’s Day Picnic, which Lucius kept secret from Phoney. Smiley and Wendell both hear Fone Bone calling, and a search party goes out to find them in the woods. Wendell and Euclid find blood all over the ground and trees.

Kingdok continues to throw Gran’ma Ben through the woods, hitting her against a tree and discussing how much he hates the Flat-Landers. As he is about to kill her, Thorn ambushes Kingdok and slices off his arm with Gran’ma’s sword. He suffers an attack of the Gitchy Feeling, and hallucinates Gran’ma and thorn as queen and princess respectively. He cries out, and the Two Stupid Rat Creatures escort him off into the night. Fone Bone finds Gran’ma Ben and Thorn, and dress Gran’ma’s wounds as she warns Thorn that the Lord of the Locusts is seeking her.

Smith is an absolute MASTER at dragging things out, not telling the readers anything substantive and recycling whole pages of art.

With that being said, I am done with reading Bone issue by issue. I thought I could tough it out until issue #27, but this issue has shown me that I have reached my limit. Starting next month, I am going to be reading the omnibus versions which collect 7-10 issues in each one. I’ll be reading The Dragonslayer in July, which collects issues 20-27. I don’t mind re-reading 2 issues, as it won’t matter.

I am just stunned that Smith has defeated me this way. What boggles my mind even more is how he got through the whole series without the fans simply giving up on him. What kind of person does it take to hold on to a series like this and make it succeed? What kind of, waaaaaaaait for it, BONE HEAD puts up with deliberate shenanigans like this?


Let It All Bleed Out ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Let It All Bleed Out
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 172
Words: 69K

From the Inside Cover:

Alfie Doesn’t Mind Being Called Square

Alfred Hitchcock is frankly shocked by the temptations that surround us today. X-rated movies. Sweaty centerfolds. Naughty novels. Kids who used to cut grass now smoking it. All of this fills Alfie with alarm.

Let’s return to old-fashioned fun, he pleads. A nice gory stabbing. A neatly drawn strangler’s noose. A proper pistol shot in the dark. A scream of horror that makes you walk away whistling.

For, as the master shows in this nerve-twisting new collection, fads come and go, but evil is here to stay. So let’s strip the mod clothes off the victims, and—


Table of Contents:


     Jonathan Craig


     Nedra Tyre


     William Brittain


     Richard Hardwick


     David A. Heller


     Hal Ellson


     Elijah Ellis


     Arthur Porges


     James Holding


     Talmage Powell


     Stanley Abbott


     H. A. De Rosso


     John Lutz


     Henry Woodfin

As much as I really like the stories Hitchcock puts together, I am realizing that having a smaller amount actually works in its favor. Being left wanting more actually enhances the stories I’ve already read. Instead of being a book glutton and gorging myself and feeling sick, having just enough is the correct amount. Looking back over the various books, it seems like 300 pages is the upper limit. After that I start to feel too full and get cranky about stuff I wouldn’t normally.

Cold Night on Lake Lenore was a great opener. A man patiently waits for the perfect opportunity to kill his wife. It arrives but he is seen by another woman, who thinks he did it to be with her. He marries her and the last thought is of him thinking he just has to wait for the perfect opportunity again, and that he’s a patient man. It got me thinking about the kind of people who murder others. I’d like to think that the kind of person who could do something like this (murder someone and yet showing perfect restraint until the “perfect” moment) doesn’t exist, as the willingness to do the one would preclude the ability to do the other, but alas, all you have to do is read the news and you read about some guy who’s killed 3 wives and they only caught him because he got cocky about disposing of the remains of Number 4. Just goes to show humans aren’t just simple blobs of matter, even if that’s a negative example, sigh.

The Chinless Wonder was kind of on the other side. A loser of a man decides that he’s sick of being himself and gets a disguise and creates a new identity and hooks up with some chick. Everything is going extremely well until he gets mixed up with the mob. In the end, the girl and her boyfriend were playing him and set him up for the murder of his alter-ego and then to really nail him, the mob boss. Oh, it was priceless watching the pieces move into place. I wasn’t sure exactly where the story was going but after he helped sink a big sack in the river, I figured it out and like I said, just watched the pieces move into position. It was a thing of wonder.

This was just long enough to satisfy me and yet still leaving me wanting more. The perfect combination really.


A Pelican at Blandings (Blandings Castle #11) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Pelican at Blandings
Series: Blandings Castle #11
Authors: PG Wodehouse
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humor
Pages: 185
Words: 66K

From Wikipedia:

Lord Emsworth is in clover at Blandings, with the only guest, Howard Chesney, easily avoided by eating alone in the library. His peace is shattered by the arrival of his sister Connie, along with a friend she has met on the boat over from America, Vanessa Polk, and the news that Dunstable is soon to descend upon the castle adds to his misery. Desperate, he calls on his brother Gally for aid.

Gally is in London, meeting his godson Johnny Halliday, who announces his engagement to Dunstable’s niece Linda. He hurries to the castle, sharing a train carriage with Dunstable, who tells Gally how he has bought a painting of a reclining nude, having heard how anxious the wealthy Wilbur Trout is to buy it; Dunstable plans to bring Trout to Blandings to sell him the picture at a large profit.

At the castle, Connie urges Dunstable to cosy up with Vanessa Polk, her father’s wealth proving an easy lure, and Emsworth’s woes are compounded by his beloved Empress’ refusal to eat a potato. Gally hears from Linda that her engagement to Halliday is no more, and Halliday himself visits, to explain the incident, a grilling he was obliged to give Linda as a witness in a court case he was defending, which led to their split. He begs Gally to invite him to the castle, but Gally, explaining his position in Connie’s bad books, sends him home, promising to do his best on his behalf.

Wilbur Trout arrives, and we learn that Vanessa Polk was once engaged to him, and still harbours tender feelings. He tells her the tale of Dunstable’s treachery, and she hatches a plan to steal the painting. In London, Halliday hears from his partner Joe Bender that the painting sold to Dunstable was a fake, and he calls in Gally’s help. The capable old Pelican arranges to swap the real picture for the fake, but decides to take a bath before replacing the original in the empty frame.

Emsworth, visiting his pig after a worrying dream, falls into the muddy sty, then finds himself locked out, Gally having turned the key on his return from meeting Johnny. He enters the house via Dunstable’s rooms, waking up the Duke when surprised by a cat, and later returns to wake the Duke again when he sees the empty frame. When the rest of the household see the picture, now replaced by Gally, the Duke’s low opinion of Emsworth’s sanity persuades him to call in psychiatric help; Gally recommends Johnny, who he pretends is Sir Roderick Glossop’s junior partner.

Vanessa Polk, having spotted him for a crook, persuades Chesney to help her steal the painting, but he recognises Halliday, newly arrived at the castle, as the attorney who defended him after an earlier crime went wrong. He plans to leave to avoid being unmasked and return by night for the painting, but seeing Halliday at the top of the stairs, pushes him down. Halliday falls, taking Dunstable with him, and while he angers the Duke he endears himself to Linda, who finds herself kissing his face as he lies prone in the hallway. Linda, now firmly in favour of Halliday, reveals she cannot marry without Dunstable’s consent, which he refuses after the stairs incident, and also having recalled Halliday’s father, who he never got on with.

Connie calls Glossop’s office, finds Halliday is an imposter and ejects him from the castle. Trout and Vanessa meet up in the night to steal the painting, but Chesney fails to turn up, having crashed his car on the way. The two realise they love each other, and leave next morning to get married. Connie insists that Dunstable write to Vanessa proposing marriage; but the letter is intercepted by Gally, who shares with Dunstable his knowledge that Vanessa is not really an heiress, and makes the Duke allow the wedding of Linda and Johnny in exchange for the return of his letter, under threat of a breach of promise suit if it were to reach Vanessa. Connie is recalled to America by her husband, and the Duke returns home, leaving Emsworth once again master of his domain.

A nice light and amusing read that kept me happy for a couple of hours. That’s all I ask of these books and thankfully, they provide it in spades.

My only issue is that I know I only have one more Blandings Castle book to read. So that kind of cast a melancholic cloud over the time.


The Yellow Sign (The King in Yellow Anthology #8) ★★★★✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Yellow Sign
Series: The King in Yellow Anthology #8
Editor: James Hodge
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 199
Words: 72K

From the Publisher &

FBI Agent Erica Blaine has suffered more than most. After narrowly escaping being at the center of a cult sacrifice she’d been tasked with infiltrating, Erica has spent the last few months hitting the bottle, trying to avoid dealing with the trauma of what she experienced and those she couldn’t save. Her ruined hands, always gloved, are an unavoidable reminder of her pain and anguish.

As is the voice that won’t allow her a moment of peace.

But when her old Army buddy goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Erica is pulled back into the Lovecraftian world of cult infiltration. The Yellow College welcomes her with open arms, but as her sanity crumbles beneath the weight of hallucinations, old traumas, and lost memories, how can she expect to save her friend when she can barely tell what’s real and what isn’t?

Have you seen the shores of Carcosa?

The Yellow College believes that Erica is the chosen vessel for the King in Yellow to manifest himself in. This will usher in a new age as the King reigns openly. What they don’t know is that the King has his own plans, for them, for Erica and for the world.

In the end, the college sacrifices itself in a feeding frenzy of madness and despair and Erica becomes a synthesis of herself and the King in Yellow, a new being called Nihilo. Who will bring death, destruction and madness everywhere she walks.

This starts out slow. But being familiar with how the mythology of the King in Yellow always works itself out, I was expecting that. I could see how that would be off putting to those who are either familiar with King in Yellow mythology or have not read much beyond the original 4 stories by Chambers. I would NOT recommend this as a starting place for people to read more of the King in Yellow.

This was published in ‘22 and I think I’ve made the right choice at placing it as #8 in this “series” about the King in Yellow. It is also a full novel. Most of what has been written before has been short stories. Those are easier to pull off and can rely on The Idea. A novel takes a lot more work and has other limitations that a short story doesn’t. Like characterization and plot.

I felt like Hodge did an admirable job of writing up a full length novel around the concept of the King in Yellow. With an FBI agent as the main character investigating cult like behavior, I wasn’t sure if he was going to try for the “happy ending” or the real deal King in Yellow type ending. Thankfully, he chose to go with a real King in Yellow ending and that pushed this from a 3.5star rating up to it’s 4.5star rating. I was very pleased with just how gruesomely this ended, with the promise of continuing madness (not that there is more story to tell, but that the character of Nihilo will continue on the Earth).

There are two things that kept this from getting a 5star rating from me. First and foremost, was the just plain gratuitous use of the word “fuck”. I felt like it was thrown around like a teenage girl uses “like yeah, duh”. It didn’t really convey anything except Erica’s dissatisfaction with a situation and that was already shown in other ways, so it just felt gratuitous. If you took them out, nothing would have changed. The second, which is more of a niggle than anything, was that Hodge’s interpretation of the King is more Cthulhu’ic than pure King in Yellow. When Erica meets the King, he is described in terms that are more fitting to an eldritch tentacled horror than the King of Madness as Chamber’s described him. I like my King in Yellow to be completely separate from the Cthulhu mythos, even while I realize that particular boat has sailed. Like I said, a mere niggle.

I believe this was Hodge’s debut work and as such I am planning to keep an eye out for anything else he writes. I couldn’t find a website for him, but I also didn’t look that hard. I’m not a fan of authors as people, just authors as authors.


The Drawing of the Dark ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Drawing of the Dark
Series: ———-
Author: Tim Powers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 311
Words: 111K


The year is 1529, and Brian Duffy, a world-weary Irish mercenary soldier, is hired in Venice by the mysterious Aurelianus to go to Vienna and work as a bouncer at the Zimmerman Inn, former monastery and current brewery of the famous Herzwesten beer.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turkish army under Sultan Suleiman I has achieved its most advanced position yet in their march into Europe, and is prepared to undertake the siege of Vienna. With the Turkish army travels the Grand Vizier Ibrahim, a magician who intends to use horrific spells as part of the siege.

Duffy spent time in Vienna years ago, and as he returns, he is haunted by memories of past events, and also finds himself having visions of mythical creatures and being ambushed by shadowy people and demonic monsters.

Upon arriving in Vienna, Duffy reconnects with Epiphany Vogel, a former girlfriend, and her father Gustav, who is working on a painting he calls “The Death of St. Michael the Archangel”. It seems the painting is never quite complete, and the elder Vogel is continuously adding additional detail to the work, causing it to gradually become more and more obscure.

Then Duffy finds himself not only drafted into the city’s defensive army, but also led by Aurelianus down mystical paths from the surprisingly old brewery to even more ancient caves beneath the city, in search of defenses against the approaching army and clues to Duffy’s very nature.

As it turns out, Aurelianus knows more about Duffy and his past than Duffy himself knows, and his real purpose in hiring him is to protect the hidden Fisher King, secret spiritual leader of the western world, and to defend him and the West against the Turkish advance. And the real reason that Vienna must not be captured by the Turks is that it is the site of the Herzwesten brewery. Its light and bock beers are famous throughout Europe, but the dark beer, produced only every seven hundred years, has supernatural properties and must not be allowed to fall into enemy hands.

Meanwhile, others are drawn to Vienna in anticipation of significant events. The so-called “dark birds”, magically sensitive individuals from far flung corners of the world, arrive in the city hoping for a sip of the Herzwesten dark, and a small group of middle-aged Vikings have improbably sailed their ship down the Danube River to Vienna, having sensed that the prophesied final battle of Ragnarok will take place there.

This book can be summed up with the tabloid headline “Magical Beer Saves Western Civilization – read more on page 3”. It is ridiculous.

Not a bad novel, but I simply couldn’t get past the ridiculousness of the premise. Powers like playing with history and showing a “secret history” behind the events we all know and as such, I thought he did an excellent job here.

But I cannot get past Magical Beer saving civilization as we know it. I can’t. So 3 stars for a solid “secret history” fantasy but that’s as far as I’m willing to stretch here.