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review 2018-01-16 22:45
Family Legacies
Carter & Lovecraft - Jonathan L. Howard

The Early 20th Century writer HP Lovecraft has spawned a whole sub-genre of horror dedicated to his ideas, often called the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian horror. Not surprising that nearly 100 years later, people are still re-imagining his work and characters. "Carter and Lovecraft" is a different spin on Lovecraft. What if Lovecraft, frankly a huge bigot and racist, had descendants of color and one of them ran a bookshop? What if one of his recurring characters, Randolph Carter, actually existed, and his descendant was a police officer? And they team up in a story? Well, that's this book. Daniel Carter is a detective who has lived through the trauma of his partner killing himself in front of him after they rescue a kid from a serial killer. His last words referring to "the twist". Carter resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Shortly thereafter, he inherits a bookstore from a person he never knew in Providence, Rhode Island. When he goes down there, he meets Mina Lovecraft, an African American woman who runs the bookstore for her uncle, who disappeared months ago and has been heard from since. Around the same time, Carter is hired on a case that leads to some very strange murders committed by a rogue mathematician. Could all these things be related? Yes. So this is a very strange book. It's relatively short, but there's a lot here to chew on. Howard knows his Lovecraft. This book is full of nuggets and easter eggs for Lovecraftian enthusiasts. I was encouraged to look up some elements of the story, and it gets deep into the Mythos. I think he captured the aspect of Lovecraft in that you feel like you have no idea about what's going on and you probably won't find out. He also touches on the visceral horror that is integral to Lovecraft. In some ways, he develops some aspects of the Mythos better. His characters are more fleshed out and are used as more than devices to spread the feeling of fear and fatalism about an indifferent universe. He picks up some concepts and themes from some of Lovecraft's stories and creates a new story out of them set in the 21st Century. But my favorite part is how Howard subversively dissects Lovecraft's bigotry and racism. Mina is a descendant would have done Lovecraft proud if he could get past his white supremacy and racism. She's thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally stable, well-read, and loyal and very strong. She had a matter-of-fact approach to weirdness, which is enviable, considering some of the events that happen in this family. She seems to be the antidote to Lovecraft's claustrophobic fear of the Other and conviction that some people are just genetically inferior. Daniel Carter is a good co-lead. He's a decent guy. As a cop, he tends to be a skeptic about things, but in the face of weirdness, he doesn't shut down, he follows the lead. I like that he had to confront his own hidden prejudices and comes out a better man after he did so. He does feel at times the helplessness in the face of events beyond their comprehension that is emblematic of Lovecraft's protagonists, but doesn't give into and doesn't allow it to break his mind. There's a developing connection between Carter and Lovecraft, but it's nascent. They become friends, and its likely what they go through will only strengthen that bond. It is possible that things may become romantic over time. But more importantly, they know that they have each others' backs. Of course, there had to be some weird people, because it's Lovecraft. The rogue mathematician, the Waites, femme fatales who are simultaneously sexy but also deeply wrong, and their brain dead spouses, the mysterious lawyer who informs Carter of the bequest. Enough to make any reader feel uneasy about everything. So why the <b>3.5/5.0 star </b>rating? The main feeling I came out of this was "What did I just read?" It feels short to me. It was a book that kept my interest, and I liked the main characters, but I also felt like there was a lot that I didn't get or understand when it ended. There are some gruesome elements to this story and subject matter that made me uncomfortable. This one is not for young readers. Frankly, I was a bit disturbed by some imagery. The rogue mathematician who discovers a way to manipulate reality is a profoundly damaged individual lacking in morals. His acts are unconscionable and bizarrely cruel. To him, murder is manipulating the odds. It's always hard to read about people like this for me. Readers who like having the questions will enjoy this book. I think I would have preferred a longer book that delved a little deeper into those unanswered questions. This is going to be a series, so maybe things will be more fleshed out in later books. I like the main characters and the concept, so I'll keep reading.

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review 2018-01-11 18:45
After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard
After the End of the World (Carter & Lovecraft) - Jonathan L. Howard

 

At the end of the excellent CARTER & LOVECRAFT there was a major cliffhanger and I felt compelled to request an ARC of the next book. I have to admit I was disappointed with AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD.

 

The things I loved most in the universe that Jonathan Howard has created was the weirdness of it-the mysterious Mr. Weston who started everything off by showing up and awarding Dan Carter ownership of a bookshop, run by Emily Lovecraft. (Emily is black and you can almost hear Lovecraft turning over in his grave.) I also enjoyed an area called Waite's Bill, an isolated place on the shore where creepy, mysterious people live. (Not to mention the large amphibian-like creatures emerging from the water!) Unfortunately, other than Dan Carter and Emily, most of the mysterious fun things I liked from the first book were not here. 

 

The world has unfolded, (the major event which ended CARTER & LOVECRAFT), and we're now in a universe where we are great friends with Germany and the Holocaust never happened. A group of Germans working at Miskatonic University are trying to build a machine that will provide unlimited power without draining any natural resources. Mr. Weston makes a brief appearance and Carter gets involved as a security guard at MU.

 

From there, I feel like the tale crept away from the components that I enjoyed and veered into the area of weird science-fiction, with the entire group of scientists, (as well as Carter and Lovecraft),  traveling to the Aleutian Islands to continue their work on the power machine. The pacing slowed way down and I really couldn't have cared less about the machine, the Germans, or anything else for that matter. Events degenerated until the story was more like an action movie than the dark fiction horror story I was expecting. I don't care for action movies.

 

I still love Dan and Emily and am fascinated by Mr. Weston and the weird creatures, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series if there is another book. This case is one of those "It's me, not you" situations, I think, because everyone else seemed to love this book. While I admired the world building and the banter between my favorite characters, the meat of the story just didn't appeal to me. 

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. I'm sorry it's a little late.*

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review 2018-01-07 08:38
Reasonably good comic collection continuing the Image tradition
Magdalena: Reformation (The Magdalena) -... Magdalena: Reformation (The Magdalena) - Tini Howard,Ryan M. Cady

 

 

Bringing back the Magdalena character from the Image comics of last century, this collection is reasonably interesting as it deals with how the mantle of the Magdalena is passed on with an appropriate amount of demons involved.

 

Unfortunately the artwork is not as good nor clear as in previous incarnations and that sorted of spoilt the general end result. It's OK but nothing particularly special.

 

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review 2017-12-11 09:25
"Snow" by Howard Odentz - not worth the time it took me to read its 34 pages.
Snow - Howard Odentz

I bought "Snow" as a short story to help read myself into Christmas. Even though it's set in October, it is a Christmas-related story albeit in an unconventional way.

 

I won't go into to the story, other than to say that it involves some teens doing things they shouldn't, a big bad who is a threat to them and some snow. Although the opening sentence reads:

"The night my friends and I almost triggered the next ice age, I was with Danny McDermott and Jackie Kagan"

I didn't feel any real sense of threat in this story and certainly nothing that meant anything to anyone except some high school kids with a lot of growing up still to do.

 

The writing is slick and skilful. The pace is fast. The idea is novel. It's a good goosebumps story to tell around a campfire.

 

But mostly what it is is disappointing. It fizzles out rather than ends. It never gets beyond a cartoon view of the world. This idea, in the hands of King or Simmons, might have been chilling. In Odentz's hands, it's a draft for pitching an episode in a teen high school drama.

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review 2017-12-07 00:00
Lord of Samarcand
Lord of Samarcand - Robert E. Howard Lord of Samarcand - Robert E. Howard I got so bored with A Room with a View that I decided to try something else for a bit. This was that something else, and it was pretty horrible. I'm sure some folks like this kind of stuff, but war making, brutal revenge killing, people covering themselves with gore as a sign of manliness, and so forth isn't my cup of tea. I claim it's because I spent too much time in Sunday School, but I know other folks who spent equal amounts of time, if not more, love this kind of crap.

So we're around 14oo. The Turks, cruelly lead by the scurrilous Bayazid, crushingly defeat a bunch of European Christians who were invading so as to steal land from the Turks, or something. But one of the Europeans, a Scott, Donald MacDeesa escapes with his life and hooks up with Ak Boga, who who had secretly been spying on the carnage. Ak Boga works for the Amir of Samarcand, one Timour the Lame. Something like that. Upon seeing how noble, gore-covered, manly, ruthless and strong Donald is, Ak Bogo takes Donald back to Samarcand to work for Timour. Donald goes along, because he sees it as an opportunity to get revenge against Bayazid. So then we have endless scenes of mass destruction in which everyone dies happily covered in gore and dried blood. Something like that.

Oh, I forgot, when not cleaving people's heads off and getting splattered in gore, manly men drink each other under the table, the more manly one is, e.g. Donald MacDeesa, the longer he can drink while others are on the floor snoring in a stupor. Once in a while they do take a break from the killing and drinking to engage in the manly sport of molesting young women. Yuck!

I have a friend, who is a sort of English teacher, who claims that Robert E. Howard is a vastly more entertaining author than Jane Austen. Once again, I'm not seeing it. This book's only virtue was that it was short, only about 40 pages or so. To be fair to Robert E. Howard, the other three of his books that I've read, were stupid, but not totally disgusting. Whatever, I've deleted all the Robert E. Howard books in my possession from my kindle.
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