Manipulation, intrigue, and alcohol all coalesce into an enticing cocktail in this enthralling novel. Set in the 1920s during Prohibition, the story follows a typist working at a local police precinct, and the manipulative bootlegger- in-disguise whom she becomes obsessed with. The entire story is told from one point of view, so the reader is intentionally made to doubt the credibility of the narrative. It is an intricate and all-encompassing read that should not be read hastily.
I received a gift from my friend Michelle Anderson this Christmas. It's a very judgmental llama. The theory is that it's supposed to help me write by judging me when I don't. It works fairly well, I suppose, although it is a grammar nazi and I just find that emotionally draining.
Uncle Morty says it doesn't affect him one way or the other. I suggested that's because he never does anything and things went downhill from there. In all fairness, Morty has been working on a literature contest for our readers. We will have the details shortly, but we are excited to say there will be some cash involved.
No fear! The Judgy Llama is only judging me, not the contest! Get your weird on and prepare to write an unsettling story or two.
Today, it would seem that our society is obsessed with sex. It’s everywhere; television shows, commercials, and as a form of advertisement. Most importantly, we now see examples displaying unnecessary sex; for example, a Hardee’s commercial does not need to sell their burgers by marketing what is essentially soft-core porn, and it’s definitely true that these displays are more pornographic than they are actual sex, because displaying and exploring human sexuality through film, books and other media is fine and sometimes necessary, but we seem to have a culture that is obsessed with performing sex and sexiness, as we have a culture that is obsessed with performing gender. Modern culture is not obsessed with sex in itself, but a certain idea of what sex is and how it is performed. These are some of the issues that Levy wishes to tackle and attempts to explain. I will say that while I agree with Levy in most of her assertions, and she appears to correctly identify where our, “pornified,” culture has evolved from, she makes some insinuations and assertions that I don’t agree with, which is fine of course, as the book was not written just for me; however, these things, in my view, showcased an ignorance and a misunderstanding about certain topics.
In the first book of this series, we got to see the main character embark on an epic Tolkien-esce quest to destroy a powerful and evil king. Now, we get to see him fail in his endeavors, which is mostly what this second book entails. Much of the book’s plot is set up by a mess of Merlin’s own making. However, through his endeavors here, the author lays the ground-work for Merlin’s evolution into the famous mythological figure that we know today. Unlike the first book, the author shares more of Merlin the person, which includes his self-doubt and arrogance, both of which cost him dearly. At times, these humanizing qualities feel overdone, and leave the reader with an impression of the main character as whiny and bratty, at times, though it is worth noting that he is described as being only thirteen.
Merlin has been a prominent figure in mythology for centuries, with many versions of the character since medieval times, and as such he has become a common name, a prominent figure in the Arthurian mythos. However, while much has been written about his adult life, very rarely do his authors discuss his teenage years. This is what Baron wishes to explore in his series.
Novel by Robert Harris
Review by Jarad Johnson
Once again, Robert Harris brings the courtrooms of Ancient Rome to life with his vivid imagery and meticulous writing style. This is the first in the series, and it is narrated by Cicero’s slave, clerk, and confidante Tiro. Through his writing, the reader sees that Cicero, even from the start of his career, was a master at the game of politics, as well as a brilliant orator. He could change sides from one day to the next, but with the right turn of a phrase, somehow manage to keep the favor, even the adoration, of the populous. That alone takes talent. Moreover, through Tiro’s narration, the reader gets to see the beginnings of his first career, from his initial election, to his first criminal case in the courtroom, to his war on the aristocracy. All of it is fascinating, and anyone who loves ancient history or politics will greatly enjoy this book.
Your Uncle Morty has decided to help you out this Holiday Season. No, he is not available to string lights, and he probably thinks your Christmas party is lame. (Although...send him an email and pics of last year. You never know.) Uncle Morty is going to help you with your Christmas list.
Without further ado, here is the first annual Christmas List: The Music Edition.
Here begins the blog post of Morty:
Hello my flesh-covered friends. I have been discussing music picks with my friend and fellow blogger, Roy Peak.
We've come up with a list of suggestions to help you give different kinds of music to those who deserve it the most.
Music for your awesome or awesomely weird niece, nephew or cousin:
Bike Punk by the Worst Generation
Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1
Beetlejuice: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack
Germ Free Adolescents by X-ray Spex
Cry Baby by Melanie Martinez
Music for Folks who like accordions (this may require some digging on your part- some people are ashamed of this affinity):
Lonely à la Mode by Thee Shambels
The Best of Accordion Music by the Café Accordion Orchestra
Draggin' the Days by the Mahones
Revenge music for mean co-workers and relatives. Gage their personalities carefully to decide which of these will annoy them most. Uncle Morty doesn't want to get sued or anything so he didn't link to them. Find them yourself.
Under the Mistletoe by Justin Bieber
Chasing Amy: Official Soundtrack
Knee Deep in the Hoopla by Starship
Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed
Music for that person you kind of knew in school but lost track of who found you on Facebook and always posts inappropriate stuff:
She's the Boss by Mick Jagger
Songs About People You Hate by Sick Thoughts
Here to Stay by Neal Schon and Jan Hammer
Music for Skeleton Uncles who still live at home:
For Your Obliteration by the Dead Deads
Tickets to See Puddles Pity Party in concert
Dead Man's Party by Oingo Boingo
Also...for almost any weirdo...and you guys know I'm talking to you...don't forget that Roy has an album over at Band Camp, All Is Well.
Roots, Rockers and Radicals: How Skiffle Changed the World
by Billy Bragg
Faber & Faber
Review by Roy Peak
Before I read this book, my knowledge of Britain’s skiffle scene was from reading little anecdotes in the histories of various English rock groups. Anecdotes such as “John Lennon met Paul McCartney when they both played in skiffle groups in Liverpool,” or “Pete Townshend played in several skiffle bands before joining the Who.” But what exactly was a skiffle group and why were they so influential to Britain’s music scene in the late 1950s?
The easy answer is that skiffle was a type of music played by young folks in England during the 1950s, influenced mainly by American jazz, blues, and folk as well as English folk songs. The longer answer is all that, PLUS add to it the fact that as much as skiffle had in common with—and sounded similar to—rockabilly and early rock ‘n’ roll, it had developed mostly on its own, independent from the pop music of the day. This was rebellious music of a D.I.Y. ethic often utilizing handmade instruments such as washboards and the one-string tea chest bass.
But what I really found intriguing was that this music started out as a lark. A local trad jazz band decided to add some variety to their shows by playing a few Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie songs on guitar between their regular jazz sets. Something to break up the regular jazz routine. One of these musicians, Lonnie Donegan, played with a great sense of abandon, ratcheting up the tempo and the volume on the songs to the audience’s delight. Eventually more people were showing up for the mid-show entertainment than the regular night’s jazz.
As the guitar was not strictly a popular instrument in England at the time, the critics were dismissive, but the kids were immediately won over. Once a few record labels got wind of the burgeoning popularity of this new sound and released a few albums, sales of guitars skyrocketed overnight as practically every teen in England started a band, if only to play at coffee houses or school cafeterias. Skiffle contests were a huge thing the country over, with groups of young Brits vying to win the local heat and advance to the next level, hoping to win the big prize: a chance to make their own record. I do believe that this helps to explain how the British Invasion happened to be so big, so explosive. The kids were already primed and ready, and the amount of kids in bands around the country, all fighting for attention, were a huge pool of talent just waiting to be tapped, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of fans waiting for the next big thing to happen. Throngs of school girls would scream their lungs out as their favorite bands hit the stage, in a prelude to Beatlemania years later. I always saw the screaming fans during the Beatles’ shows as coming out of nowhere, but now it all makes sense. This had been building up for years, the Fab Four were simply the latest and biggest band at the time to command that sort of attention, and the kids went wild as soon as they had the chance.
Being a gifted songwriter serves Bragg well here, as he’s economical, yet full of imaginative detail, his research is impeccable, and he has a strong sense of how to tell a story. A great, fun, fast, informative read.
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville.
Humbled Wise Men
by Dan J. Flore, III
I’m going to keep this review as simple as this short, delightful collection of holiday poetry. In this series of short poems, Flore captures moments of Christmas celebration, triumph and defeat. In his minimal memories of even commonplace moments of Christmas past, the author provokes nostalgia without rose-colored glasses.
The simplicity of the pieces makes them a window into personal Christmas memories. I found that I was looking through the poems into my own past holidays. The book ends by inspiring readers to create their own poetry, a gift they can give themselves.
Flore says it best himself in a note to his readers:
Literature about the holiday season has always helped me to feel closer to that sometimes elusive entity – the Christmas spirit. It is my hope that this little book of Christmas haikus will do the same for you and your loved ones. Many of these poems are simply little thoughts, images, or memories of mine and none of them were written with the traditional haiku form in mind. Some may not be what you expect. After all, aren’t tiny surprises part of what makes this holiday so endearing?
Dan Flore's poems have appeared in many publications, including Sick Lit Magazine and Lummox. His first poetry collection, Lapping Water, is published by GenZ Publishing.
Confessions of the Lioness
Review by Jarad Johnson
Confessions of the Lioness is a haunting, lyrical narrative told through the perspective of two journals, Mariamar Mpepe, a local woman who lives in the village, and Archangel Bullseye, a hunter who travelled there to kill the lions plaguing the village. Through these two diaries, the author juxtaposes the African Landscape against the pettiness and cruelty of the village where the novel takes place; however, one of the things I don’t like about lyrical poetry is that it’s meant to give an overall emotion or feeling, but rarely are there concrete images. At times, that’s what Couto’s writing felt like, especially toward the end, which took away from the rest of his excellent prose. Overall, though, it’s an enjoyable novel for the message that it presents and its unique take on anthropomorphizing lions.