Wednesday, 24 July 2013 15:55

Heads in Beds'

Quality service . . . at a price

At one time or another, the service industry has claimed everyone, and may again. It is a giant industry that operates in the open and in the dark like black ops. If assistance is needed, somebody is waiting to help, either with reluctance or insane enthusiasm. And the bane of any service worker's existence is that one guy demanding the impossible, and then turning their frustration onto them. Jacob Tomsky has seen it all, and in 'Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality' (Vintage, $15) he tells all.

Published in Buzz
Thursday, 11 July 2013 09:54

Monsters and meth Fiend'

Debut novel offers fresh take on zombies

As with any art form, trends play a big part in the literary realm. Whenever a genre or subject sees a surge in popularity, more and more authors jump into the fray. This is a mixed blessing at best; while some writers have something new and unique to add to a subject, many others are simply along for the ride, attempting to cash in on something that has achieved a certain level of cultural prominence.

The paranormal has seen such a surge in recent years. Wizards and vampires have had their respective moments in the sun, while a current pop-lit darling is the idea of the zombie. Now, with such a wealth of material out there, it can be difficult for an author to put any kind of personal stamp on the walking dead.

Published in Buzz
Thursday, 11 July 2013 09:26

The grayness between black and white

I Wear the Black Hat' explores good and evil

What makes a villain?

That's the question being tackled by Chuck Klosterman in his new book 'I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)' (Scribner, $25). The noted cultural critic best known for collections such as 'Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs' has turned his sardonic eye toward a new subject the nature of villainy.

Have you ever wanted to read a breakdown of the major players in the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal (with a healthy dose of 'Basic Instinct' thrown in for good measure? You can find that here. How about a discussion of the similarity of attitude and impact between rap group N.W.A and the NFL's Oakland Raiders? That's here too. Or maybe you're looking for a deeper exploration of the O.J. Simpson case including a look at the absurdity of the mere existence of Simpson's 'If I Did It' memoir. If so, Klosterman has got something for you.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 10:35

Aliens among us The Humans'

Sci-fi tale offers outsider's take on humanity

The best science fiction acts as a sort of funhouse mirror, reflecting aspects of our existence back at us in ways that, while twisted, remain recognizable. The genre provides a certain degree of freedom when it comes to exploring ideas; it offers us a removed glimpse at ourselves.

Author Matt Haig has given us one such glimpse with his latest novel 'The Humans' (Simon & Schuster, $25).

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 10:42

A punter's passionate prose

Reviewing 'Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies'

'Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies' starts off in perhaps the only way it could: a reprint of Kluwe's Deadspin evisceration of Emmet Burns. In fact, the title of the collection springs from that letter after a fashion.

See, while the majority of Kluwe's critics used 'He's only a punter' as the foundation for their dismissal of him, others viewed his liberal use of profanity and other perceived vulgarities as a way to negate the validity of his views.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 13:23

The power of parallels The Beautiful Land'

Time travel tale an engaging read

Since 2008, has held a contest for aspiring writers called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Winners are selected from amongst thousands of entries; they are awarded contracts and their books are published.

Alan Averill was the 2012 winner. His book, 'The Beautiful Land' (Ace Trade, $15), offers an interesting take on the concept of time travel. There's also a love story, plenty of horror and a liberal dose of humor thrown in for good measure.

Published in Buzz
Friday, 07 June 2013 08:51

Playing through 18 in America'

Teenager recounts cross-country golf odyssey

It sometimes seems like every young writer has a coming-of-age story that needs to be gotten out of his or her system. Most of them tend to be semi-autobiographical after all, when you're young, your own experiences tend to feel incredibly significant.

However, few have the audacity to actually live such a story.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 11:32

The ride of your life Joyland'

King's powerful new novel defies genre definition

Truly great storytellers are a rare and precious thing. Few (if any) contemporary authors tell as good a story as Stephen King does. Back in the day, King was too often painted by the 'horror' brush and semi-dismissed. While things have certainly changed in the past decade-plus, there are still those who look at him as a penner of scary stories and nothing more.

But he's more than that. Much, much more. And his latest offering, 'Joyland' (Hard Case Crime, $12.95), is simply one more example of how truly great he can be.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 13:20

Roam if you want to

'The Kings and Queens of Roam' Wallace at his finest

Placing elements of the magical or mystical into a realistic world setting doesn't always work. Sometimes, it feels forced as if someone is trying to tell two separate stories simultaneously, with the disparate elements failing to synchronize.

But when magical realism works, it really works.


Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 14:31

Paternity pains Someone Could Get Hurt'

Parenthood memoir offers plenty of laughs

We all have writers whose work we enjoy. Whether they are novelists, biographers, historians or bloggers, everyone who reads has writers who resonate with them for whatever reason. And if one of your favorites writes something new, you check it out even if the subject matter isn't necessarily what you would expect.

My familiarity with Drew Magary springs primarily from his columns on the sports blog Deadspin and to a lesser extent his work as a correspondent for GQ. One of Magary's regular Deadspin features is a segment he calls 'Dadspin,' in which he relates the trials and tribulations of parenthood in his own wildly funny and impeccably profane voice. 

Published in Livin'
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