Monday, May 28, 2012

'Spartacus: The Gladiator' by Ben Kane

How many times can the same story be told?  How many times can we stand to hear about the sinking of the ‘Titanic’?  How many times can we hear about the 1980’s Hockey Team?  How many times can we hear about some poor kid “making it” out of out of the drug infested ghetto?  How many times can we read about the might of Rome?  How many times can we read about how the might of Rome was almost brought to heel by a slave named Spartacus?

I don’t know about the prior but Ben Kane answers the latter with a resounding “Utique unus magis vicis carus civis , utique unus magis vicis” (at least one more time dear citizen, at least one more time)”.

Either the universe loves me and wants to see me read good stories, or I’ve just been extremely lucky in my book selection, but I have been on a freaking tear of magnificent books since April, and Ben continues that streak.  One difference however… this streak is bathed in blood.  Before you read this book I must warn you of one thing.  It’s brutally violent.  And not just the fighting; rather what goes on during the fighting and (especially, good lord) what goes on after the fighting.  I’m still reeling from one scene that involved Crixis and his henchmen.  So keep that in mind should you choose to venture forth.If you do indeed go on you are in for one heck of a read.

 It has to be hard to write a story that has already been told.  We all know, or at the very least heard of, Spartacus and his slave rebellion.  The ‘Starz’ mini-series has recently brought it back into our conscience as well.  So Ben at the very least must follow Spartacus as a recent commercial success, not to mention the other books that have been written before this one. 

But you know what?  He does just fine.  Matter of fact, he did so well that I was getting pissed at Chronos for allowing thirty minutes to only BE thirty minutes (my lunch time).  For me this was easily one of those books that you really do set everything aside because it’s just that damn good.
Why is it good?  Well let’s see… our first taste of blood comes on page, I don’t know FIVE!?!  As readers we know from the outside looking in that Spartacus is going to wipe the floor with the entrails of his enemies, but it’s so much fun to read about these hapless individuals and think “idiots”.  In ‘Spartacus: The Gladiator’ you have your historically factual characters; Spartacus, Crixus, Batiatus, Oenomaus, Gannicus, and more than a number of Romans sent to their deaths… I meant sent to fight.  Ben does use creative license to tell this tale, so for you purist out there who will invariably get your tweed jackets in a knot, SHUT UP and enjoy the damn story!

Ben doesn’t spend a lot of time with Spartacus in the ludus, but he does lay enough foundation to set up the rest of this story.  After Spartacus and his band of gladiators escape the ludus, they set about claiming their freedom one dead legionary at a time.  Wait, that’s not entirely true.  (*cough ahem*) “After Spartacus and his band of gladiators escape the ludus, they set about claiming their freedom ten hacked, eviscerated, screaming, eventually dead legionaries at a time”.  As weird as it seems that might be the easy part.

Having to deal with Crixus and his bloodthirsty followers would probably be the hard part.  One issue: Spartacus must make concessions with the captured women or see his entire rebellion fall.  And because of such we see enough blood lust and rapaciousness to make the Mongol Empire blush.  Ben holds nothing back with the telling of these horrendous events nor does he about the battles either. 

There are two main characters in this book whom I have yet to decide if I like or not though.  Spartacus’s woman Ariadne, and his friend Carbo.  Oh don’t get me wrong, they are very good in this story… I’m just not sure if I like them or not. J  I need to read ‘Spartacus: Rebellion’ (hell yeah there’s a sequel) to make up my mind.  It goes without saying that I enjoyed this book.  If you’ve gotten this far in my review after searching for this book then do yourself a favor and buy it.  Read it.  Send me a thank you eMail for recommending it and send Ben a gushing eMail for writing it.  He’ll write you back, trust me.  He’s cool like that. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My short, open letter to the Department of Justice

Department of Justice,

Good evening.  My name is Jason Frost and I am a proud manager of an independent bookstore in Bakersfield, CA.  I just want to make my feelings known about your lawsuit against the major publishers, and I’ll try not to be repetitive to what you’ve already heard.  I don’t see how you can call the agency model “price fixing”.  The major publisher put that in place to keep Amazon from devaluing eBooks like they do everything else.  Amazon is the one making their own rules and using underhanded tactics to force everyone to fall in line.  As an independent bookstore we are already unable to compete with the deep discounts they place on books, and if allowed to proceed they will make it impossible for me to compete in the eBook market as well.

How you can allow Amazon to successfully make their argument that having a FAIR price for eBooks is beyond me.  The only thing they want to do is what they always do, treat books, authors, and publishers like toilet paper and only as a means to an end.  As a book seller that turns my stomach, and a member of society that scares me.  Books are not only intellectual property but they are financial property to all who write and who rely on those who write, for a living.  Your lawsuit puts both of those in jeopardy.  Why can’t you see past the smoke and mirrors that Amazon is throwing up?  Why can’t you see the bigger picture?  Amazon does not own the publishing world and they should not be allowed to make the rules.  Their childlike and baseless tantrums should be ignored with the same temperance in which it was given.

Forcing publishers to bow to this lawsuit is only going to hurt the publishing would and the only company, the ONLY company that is going to benefit is Amazon.  Why does a company that, by their own actions and history, devalues books get to set the rules for those who don’t?  Everything about this lawsuit is backwards and I only hope that you can see the logic in letting the entities that create the work; authors, publishers, editors, proofreaders, and others on the food chain, place a fair price on a product for which they own, and work.  Letting one company run rip shod to get a product only for them to turn around and practically give it away  is not only a bad idea.  It’s a bad idea wrapped in a mistake, stuffed with failure. 

Thank  you for your time,
Jason Frost

Monday, May 7, 2012

'Going Down: Oral Sex Stories' by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Lawd have mercy.  Either Rachel must have fingers with the strength of Hercules or she must have the most wanton sex life this side of Susie Bright.  Her books are so saturated with sex that I’m almost afraid to read them within ten feet of any woman.  ‘Oral Sex’ is another in her long list of good, short, lusty, sweaty, erotic short stories.  I tell you what, there are some women in these pages that I would love to nominate for ‘girlfriend of the year’.  Where or WHERE do these women exist?!  We each have a fetish and if yours is engaging in, reading about, or watching oral sex, then this is your vice book.

The stories in here are very descriptive, very sweaty, HIGHLY erotic, and very lewd (in a good way).  I’ll give you a few of my favorites:

‘Pretty Dull’ – a great story to start and sets the tone because it sets up the daydream for me. 

‘Milk Moustache’ – pretty much the only time would be OK with cloning would be if they found a way to copy Phoebe.  She is the PERFECT girlfriend who is dating a dud who has no idea what a sexual nympho he has living with him.  But he finds out.  Hell yeah he finds out!

‘Etiquette’ - is a delicious treat.

‘Stacked’ is about two guys, which is usually not my cup of tea, but something about this story was just… good and nasty.  Remember earlier when I mentioned ‘sweaty’?  This is the story I was thinking about.

‘Sucking Casey’s Cock’ – Weird, weird, weird, but sexy, sexy, sexy.

‘Clean/Dirty’ – One of the few stories that includes actual sex and I think that is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.  The language in this story is just as raw as the sex.  The descriptions leave nothing to the imagination and this will be one short story that you read over and over and over again.

‘Trimming’ – my favorite of the bunch!  The classic “sleep with the gardener” scenario that plays on the tension between two people and the lust between two people.  I LOVED this story!

‘Your Body is a Temple’ – A workout routine gone… good.  Real good.  Really, really good!

‘Snow Job’ – Second favorite short story and another very good “tension between two people” story that will make you erupt in laughter and other things if you aren’t careful.

Honorable Mention goes to ‘The Thousand and One Ways’.  And I don’t mean honorable mention like you got back in grade school for your stupid science fair project… this story… good heavens… let’s just say that in order to do the things Naiia does you have to have the work ethic of a Roman engineer and chops with the strength of Jaws.  Tupac wanted to know if Heaven had a ghetto.  Don’t know if he ever found out, but I DO know that if heaven had a brother (forgive me God) then this lady would be the madam.

These short stories are all about the joys and pains of oral sex.  Giving, receiving, and watching.  Really, if this is your fetish then I think this book would fit nicely in your freaky repertoire of oral media.

One last thing... can this woman pick book covers or what!?


Friday, May 4, 2012

'The Wind Through the Keyhole' by Stephen King

‘The Dark Tower’ is the best series I have ever read.  So upon hearing there would be another book in this series… it was something that I had to see to believe.  When I finally saw this book, I believed.  I’ve always told myself that I would reread this series when I’m an old man, retired, and chasing the college girls that come into my bookstore (Yes, me owning a bookstore is a dream that will never die).  However, after reading this book I don’t see how I’m going to wait until I’m an old man to reread this series.  (But I won’t wait until then to chase the sexy coed’s). 

Stephen pens this as being ‘Dark Tower book 4.5’, and that you “don’t need to read the series to enjoy this book”.  I was about to vehemently disagree with him, until I got lost in the story.  ‘The Wind Through the Keyhole’ is like a story within a book within a series.  We again are well met with Eddie, Susannah, Jake, Oy, and of course, Roland.  A young Roland.  Way back when, when I first read this series I remember that I wanted to know more about the young gunslinger.  This book gives me a little of that history.

But only a little.  As I said earlier, this book is more like two stories told by Roland as him and his ka-tet follow the path of the beam.  But the little we do read about is such joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!  The young gunslinger has been sent on a mission to kill a “skin man” that is brutally murdering people.  (Brutally murdering, as opposed to compassionately murdering.)  Anyway… he must do what he must and reading about this early adventure is pure fun.  So I do say.  But as he is going about we are drawn into yet another story, one that is the basis for the name of this book.

There are few authors living who could pull off such a stunt and not make it seem cheesy, and King is in slot #1 and #2.  And even fewer of them can come back after eight years and drop a book right smack dab in the middle of an epic series… and make it work.  Now let the age old argument begin as to where you should read this book; in chronological order or published order:  I haven’t made up my mind what I’ll tell people yet.
This book pulled out so much of what I thought I forgot from the ‘Dark Tower’ series.  So many good feelings and a sense of awe that I was reading a series that would be remembered as one of the best ever.  Still.  I keep getting off topic here… on Roland’s and Jamie’s (another gunslinger, say he is) mission to kill the “skin man”, we are treated to a story told to Roland by his mother.  And while the rest of the book was utterly enthralling, THIS part was what kept me up late, reading for hours, and putting off everything except for the true necessities of life.  You know; food, bathroom, work, Jeep stalking…

One of the many geniuses of King in writing this series was his ability to create an entire language from ours that pulls off the impossible paradox of being unique and familiar at the same time.  That and writing other book characters in the story… Merlin, Asland, and although he didn’t make an “appearance”, I felt the fingers of Flagg… ‘The Wind Through the Keyhole’ tale can easily be its own short story, but its presence here makes it magic.  ‘Dark Tower’ fans will (are) salivate over this book and Stephen King continues to steam roll his way up the list of the best storytellers in the world.  This world, Mid-World, any world.