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review 2016-04-05 16:33
Spellslinger: Legends of the Wild, Weird West - Joseph J. Bailey

I was first drawn to this story by the really cool cover (by Rodrigo González Toledo and Sol Devia).

The blurb presents a fairly promising idea for a spell-shooting, gun-toting, fast-paced weird west story, but it’s written in choppy, incomplete sentences. I'm okay with that in small doses, but the story continues in the same vein. For no logical reason I can fathom, all but a few of those sentences are used on their own as paragraphs. It wrecked the pacing for me, which is a shame because the story itself is pretty action-packed after you get through the initial laundry list of woes. Formatting error, I hope? 

The opening loses even more impact when the viewpoint character waxes poetic about the scenery. He’s in a really tight place (literally), and he’s hurt. Who cares about the scenery at that particular point? (Or at any other point when the main character is in danger!)

From there we go on to lists of descriptions, and modifiers on nearly every noun. The descriptions are vivid, which is good, but… better in moderation. The protagonist suffers from “tell-don’t-show,” and—

There’s potential here and the story is fast-paced, it just needs an editor.

(I received this book from Story Cartel in exchange for a review.)

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review 2016-03-12 12:31
The Weird Wild West
The Weird Wild West (The Weird and Wild Series) - Faith Hunter,Jonathan Maberry,Gail Z. Martin

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

A fairly decent anthology of western-themed stories with a twist, often of the paranormal or supernatural variety, with a bit of steampunk thrown in. A lot of the “western codes” are followed here. Little towns and farms on the Frontier, homesteaders and professional players, gunslingers and sharpshooters, sheriffs and outlaws, finding themselves dealing with something that one day comes to disturb their life. Even though having so many stories follow the same “rule”, so to speak, it was still enjoyable. While none of the stories blew my mind, none was truly bad either; I probably wouldn't buy the book, but borrowing it from a friend or the library would be in order here. It would also provide a good introduction to this “weird wild west” genre (because all things said and done, it does feel like a genre to me).

The ones I liked best:

“Ruin Creek”: a pair of paranormal investigatores go to the little town of Ruin Creek, on board a night train, to investigate the disappearance of another investigator, after the latter reported mysterious occurrences.

“Son of the Devil”: or the trappings of a small town where people are so entrenched in their religious beliefs that they fail to apply them to people who're not perfect but could do with some mercy, thus driving them to committing dark deeds. I always tend to find this dichotomy interesting, because it raises the question of who is to blame: the sinners, or the “pure ones” who could have helped but didn't? And were the sinners “bad people” from the beginning, or did they just turn to “evil” because they were alone and desperate?

“Mungo Snead's Last Stand”: a brave and desperate tale, with aliens thrown in the middle for good measure. (It is the Weird West, after all!)

“Frank and Earnest”: fun and cute, with a bit of slapstick comedy. Two outlaws find themselves looking for a kitten, and stumble upon what could destroy the world.


“Abishag Mary” wasn't my favorite, and it was a bit typical (homesteader trying to keep her land), however I found the twist at the end quite funny.

“Rocky Rolls Gold” had an interesting premise, but the way it was told didn't work too well for me, I get that the tone was to be light and funny, but the characters felt too silly to properly work (as if they were meant to be competent at what they did, yet the banter and their reactions made them appear as stupid nonetheless).

“Fifteen Seconds”: this one's a bit different, because of its contemporary setting (all the other stories are cleary 19th century Frontier adventures). I also thought it had a bit too much info-dumping.

3.5 stars overall.

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text 2016-03-04 17:41
Recent entries on thedollop.net (with books, of course, so many suggested books)
On Witchcraft - Cotton Mather
DEAD PEOPLE POSING: The Mystery Behind Dead Photographs (FULL EDITION: Photographs explained) - Alexander Coil
Saddle the Wild Wind: The Saga of Squirrel Tooth Alice and Texas Billy Thompson - Laurence E. Gesell
The Run of His Life : The People versus O. J. Simpson - Jeffrey Toobin
Another City, Not My Own - Dominick Dunne
The Museum of Hoaxes - Alex Boese

Podcast Episode 156: The Marblehead Smallpox Riot: Smallpox Blankie, or Why Are My Neighbors Bumpy?


Podcast Episode 147: The Greenbrier Ghost: Meatless Mondays are Murder!, or Ghosts Make My Head Spin:

true story of the only known legal case where a ghost testified about her own murder


followup entry: Postmortem Photography: includes a premortem photography story about my great-grandfather


Podcast Episode 145: Squirrel Tooth Alice: No pithy Bullwinkle title because there are vintage nudes, yes sir you are welcome


Podcast Episode 126: RA Cunningham and Tambo: Nickels in the Dime Museum, or How to Buy Other People for Fun and Profit!


and, Resources: American Crime Story (and a personal fable, boogeyman and all): relates back to several episodes and ties them all together:


All of thedollop.net entries has the mp3 of the corresponding podcast episode embedded in the beginning of the blog entry, so you can easily listen as well as read. Also, all of the entries have many, many more suggested books to read than I have highlighted here. Because it's me.


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Patreon (help me afford to be here much more often, and there)

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text 2015-11-10 16:42
Saved from the Noose Romance
Shanna - Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
The Texan's Wager - Jodi Thomas
The Marriage Debt - Louise Allen
Seduction of the Phoenix - Michelle M. Pillow
The Wives of Bowie Stone - Maggie Osborne
The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection: 9 Historical Romances Begin After Saying "I Do" - Rebecca Jepson,Gina Welborn,Amy Lillard,Angela Breidenbach,Rose Ross Zediker,Angela Bell,Kathleen Y'Barbo,Mary Connealy,Lisa Carter
Beauty's Beast - Amanda Ashley
Shadow's Stand - Sarah McCarty
Wild West Brides - Cathy Maxwell,Ruth Langan,Carolyn Davidson
Border Wedding - Amanda Scott

I adore Marriage of Convenience tropes. Love all that forced proxmity with a stranger you have to build a life with....yeah... so gooood.


One of my very favorite sub tropes is Save From The Noose Marriage of Convenience. This is a plot where the hero or heroine is about to be hung or imprisoned for a very long time and gets out of it by marrrying. Yep. Love it. 


Can't seem to find out if this was actually ever a law but in Romanceland it is and my guess is there is some truth to the practice. 


Here are some wonderful Romances with this Theme. 


1. Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss


A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for a night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her with his name from an impending and abhorred arranged union. But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the gallows unfulfilled.


But Ruark Beauchamp's destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman's noose will deny Ruark the ecstasy that is rightfully his. 


2. The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas


Thrown off a wagon train with two other women and trying to avoid jail for a murder they committed, Bailee Moore agrees to enter a “Wife Lottery”—a ploy concocted by the Cedar Point sheriff to secure wives for the men in the small Texas town. For the sensible Bailee, however, marrying Carter McKoy is like exchanging one life sentence for another—especially since her new husband hasn’t even seen fit to utter a single word in her presence. But still, she can’t help thinking that something about this strong, silent farmer could be the key to leaving her troubled past behind…and making a worthy wager with her heart.


3. The Marriage Debt by Louise Allen


Marrying a highwayman awaiting execution is Katherine Cunningham's only hope - for that way her debts will die with him. But it turns out that her husband, Nicholas Lydgate, is innocent - and the son of a duke! Katherine is determined to save his life, as she is attracted to Nicholas, but she won't hold him to a union until he shows he cares for her...


4. Seduction of the Phoenix by Michelle M. Pillow


A prince raised in honor and tradition, a woman raised with nothing at all. She wants to steal their most sacred treasure. He’ll do anything to protect it, even if it means marrying a thief. 

Prince Zhang Jin is a man raised in honor and tradition, so it is a great surprise when he is compelled to claim a stranger as his bride who has neither. Francesca La Rosa is hardly a match fit for a prince. Though beautiful, she is a thief with one thing on her mind--stealing the sacred Jade Phoenix of his people. But the mystery doesn't end there. With the aid of the spirits of his ancestors he must discover who this woman is, why she would destroy the Zhang Empire and most of all, if she could ever return the love that is growing in his heart.


5. The Wives of Bowie Stone by Maggie Osborne


Knowing that she can save the life of a condemned man by offering to marry him, Rosie Mulvehey opts for a marriage of convenience to ex-cavalry man Bowie Stone, who promises to save her rundown farm as his part of the agreement.


6. The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection by Angela BellAngela BreidenbachLisa CarterMary Connealy, Rebecca Jepson Amy LillardGina WelbornKathleen Y'Barbo, and Rose Ross Zediker  


Come along on a romantic journey jam-packed with all the angst of marriages founded upon practical choices as well as coercion. Meet nine couples who barely know each other before they find themselves suddenly married—to please family, to stem the tide of gossip, to save the land—and joined for life. But can love grow when duty comes before romance? 


7. Beauty's Beast by Amanda Ashley



Fair of face and figure, Kristine is young, innocent, pure. Yet she has been condemned to the gallows for killing a man. The only one who can save her is a lord so infamous that some say he is the son of the Devil himself. . .

And the Beast

Erik Trevayne is called the Demon Lord of Hawksbridge Castle, but few know of the curse he lives under. Or the terrifying changes slowly gnawing away at his humanity. When he weds her, all he wants of Kristine is a son. But when he beds her, a wild hope is born--that love that can tame even the most monstrous of beasts. . .


8. Shadow's Stand by Sarah McCarty


Shadow Ochoa is lying low in the western Kansas Territory, waiting for his fellow Texas Rangers—the Hell's Eight brotherhood—to clear his name. That is, until he's unjustly strung up for horse thieving…and pretty Fei Yen intervenes. Invoking a seldom-used law, the exotic lady prospector claims Shadow as her husband and rides off with the bridegroom shackled to her buckboard.

Savvy, fearless Fei is single-mindedly devoted to her hidden claim and all it promises: wealth, security and freedom. A husband is just a necessary inconvenience and a name on paper to hold the claim she cannot.

Shadow isn't a man to take orders from anyone, especially from lovely Fei—except that the daily friction between them ignites into nightly blazes of all-consuming passion. Soon Shadow is dreaming a little himself: of the life they could have if only Fei could see past the lure of independence. If only bounty hunters weren't closing in on him. If only he's left standing when the impending showdown has ended….


9. Wild West Brides by Cathy Maxwell, Ruth Langan, and Carolyn Davidson 


Flanna and the Lawman by Cathy Maxwell

Desperate for someone to help her protect her land, a female con artist saves an ex-lawman from the hangman's noose by claiming him as her no-good husband, and finds herself wanting to turn their charade into a real marriage. 


This Side of Heaven by Ruth Langan

When a runaway and her young nephew find a safe haven with a solitary Montana rancher, three lonely people become a family, until their peace is threatened by the boy's father, bent on vengeance. 


Second Chance Bride by Carolyn Davidson

His mail-order bride's deceit had stung him to the quick, but the pregnant widow's care of his four-year-old daughter had Jebediah rethinking his vow to send her packing as soon as her baby was born.


10. Border Wedding by Amanda Scott


Captured in 1388 in the act of stealing back his own cattle, young Sir William Scott faces hanging, then gets one other choice--to marry immediately his captor's eldest daughter, the lady Margaret Murray, known by all as Muckle-Mouth Meggie. With the line between England and Scotland shifting daily, the Earl of Douglas wants to win back every inch of Scotland that the English have claimed; whereas the equally powerful English Percies (under Hotspur) want to win back the land between Northumberland and Edinburgh; and the Murray family is caught in the middle, shifting its alliances to try to survive. Uncertain whether she is English or Scottish and abruptly married to Sir William who is staunchly loyal to the cause of Scottish independence but who also has promised he'll never take up arms against her family, Meg Murray learns two things: first, Will's word is his bond; second, her favorite brother is spying on Douglas for Hotspur. As Sir Will faces the dilemma of honoring his word to the unscrupulous Murray without betraying Douglas, Meg must choose between betraying the husband with whom she is rapidly falling in love, or betraying her own family and best-loved brother.


Got more? Gimme! 


Vote for the best of the best on my Goodreads list: Saved from the Noose Romance 

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review 2015-11-09 21:47
Big Books of Factoids
The Big Book of the 70's (Factoid Books) - Jonathan Vankin
The Big Book of the Weird Wild West - John Whalen
The Big Book of Conspiracies - Doug Moench,Ivan Stang
The Big Book of the Unexplained - Doug Moench,Andrew Helfer,J.H. Williams III
The Big Book of Urban Legends - Robert Fleming,Robert F. Boyd Jr.


Paradox Press' "Factoid Books" Big Book of fill in blank is a series I have fond memories of, though I never bought any of them. I recall spending time flipping through them while hanging out at Barnes and Noble and Borders book stores, back when I was not really that into comics but intrigued by weird historical stories, legends, and mysterious events. This series was one of the sources that, I think, started to get me to change my mind on the idea of graphic novels. Full of "100% true" stories of aliens, gruesome murders, and drugs, it was like Ripley's Believe It Or Not for the nineties.   


Over time, I've managed to gather a small collection of my favorites at various library book sales and stops at Half Price Books, and recently I read through a few of them. As products of an earlier period of pop culture, I can't say they really hold up. It was funny to see how rooted to the period they are. The series strikes me as being particularly, inescapably '90s in style, topics, and conception. Anthologies of comic vignettes depicting various topics, stories, and people, the Big Books reflected the pop culture interest in this stuff that was big at the time. Written in a tongue in cheek, overly "irreverent" style, little really sticks. All black and white, the artists included were, in general, pretty standard comic book styles, with some detail lost due to the lack of color in a few of them. 


The Big Book of the 70's (Factoid Books) - Jonathan Vankin                 The Big Book of the Weird Wild West - John Whalen 


The Big Book of the '70s and the Big Book of the Weird Wild West were the most historical, focusing on the current 1990s nostalgia for all things seventies and all the over the top tall tales of the "Wild West" stoked by recent revisionist westerns. Both of them had some interesting, little known stories included, in particular the Big Book of the '70s, which did a pretty good job painting a picture of what American society was like at the time. The Weird Wild West occasionally got a little bit speculative for it's "100% true" billing, drawing strongly from period penny dreadfuls rather than vetted historical accounts. Still, both of them have some pretty good and comprehensive bibliographies to look into.  


The Big Book of Conspiracies - Doug Moench,Ivan Stang                The Big Book of the Unexplained - Doug Moench,Andrew Helfer,J.H. Williams III  


The "100% true" descriptor falls on even shakier ground with these two, which felt particularly dated to that period when everyone was watching the X-Files and 9/11 had not yet struck. There's something that just feels so quaint about the Kennedy Assassination and the Hopskinville Goblins after the events of the last twenty years. I have to admit feeling quite bored getting through these two, though perhaps its because I've seen these same stories repeated again and again in all this paranormal conspiratorial literature. Even the addition of comic Charles Fort narrating did not really save them. There were still a few good strips, though, like the entry on Chupacabras (appropriate, since the beast was only a year or so old at the time).


The Big Book of Urban Legends - Robert Fleming,Robert F. Boyd Jr.


The Big Book of Urban Legends was, of course, my favorite of the lot, simply feature comic adaptations of famed folklorist Jan Harald Brunvand's popular urban legend accounts from his various books. From the funny to the horrifying, they're all here and in probably the best art of the series. On the other hand, this may be the most disturbing of the series as well, with frequent sexualized violence, misogyny, and racism, which of course reflects the fears of such "friend of a friend" tales. Still, the artists did a good job depicting a diverse cast of characters in many of the stories.   


In the end, the Factoid Books are pure nostalgia, from a time in which Men in Black (the mysterious figures who show up after paranormal events, not the movie) and a hook handed killer were seen as scary. 100% true, maybe not, but 100% nineties! 


*Theme music for entry: "Flagpole Sitta," Harvey Danger, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, 1997

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