I haven’t posted a book review in quite some time. This isn’t’t necessarily intentional. I just spend so much time driving on my days off now that there isn’t time to read the books and/or write the reviews.
I am breaking that silence now with hopes of pointing you toward Bruce Hartman’s latest work. His latest book is called Potlatch and is a story told with the same wit and humor as Big Data is Watching You!.
If you aren’t familiar with Hartman’s satirical works, let me paraphrase what I wrote in regards to another of his stories: “Bruce Hartman does to contemporary fiction what Douglas Adams did to Science Fiction and Terry Pratchett did to Fantasy.” Please note that I only call it contemporary fiction because I don’t believe what he is writing about is dystopian; it is all happening in the real world, right now!
Here is what I had to say about Potlatch in particular:
Potlach is essentially a story about Alice Coggins and her lazy but industrious scam-artist father Ray (although the term politician could be used interchangeably with the much-less-offensive term ‘scam-artist’). Ray has long known that the entire world economy is a house of cards -or hundreds upon hundreds of card houses stacked one on top of the other like a slightly less stable game of Jenga®- but he’s never had the resources to get to the top level: Non-profits. If you want to make real money, you have to be in the Non-profit game. Ray has a spark of genius when he realizes that he could add his own house of cards right to the top level with nothing but a winning smile and a worthless scrap of paper -all perfectly legal and proper. All he has to do is outsmart a sea of corrupt politicians (or just politicians, if you prefer), ponzi schemers, dubious insurance companies, devious bankers, and shill-bidding Non-profit companies to make it happen. Many have tried to navigate their way through this before, but none have come armed with Ray’s most valuable asset: a worthless scrap of paper.
Bruce Hartman is a master of satire and with Potlatch he really raises the bar. Potlatch is chock full of clever wit and satire, but the characters never wink to the camera. The narrator’s improbable explanations are all so clearly and logically stated that the layman may miss the tongue-in-cheek nature of them. Hartman’s ability to translate false logic into believable fact is legendary in Potlatch. Potlatch is a definite must-read for any fan of satire… Just make sure to put on your tinfoil hat first.
After reading the heady The Rules of Dreaming, I was looking for something a bit lighter to cleanse my palette. I found that book in Perfect Sex by Robin Storey, which I rated five stars on Reader’s Favorite.
While I’m sure this book was written for a very female market, I was intrigued enough by the cover blurb to give it a go and I’m very glad I did. Storey has a way with words and worked some of the best one-liners and turns of phrase I’ve ever seen into this book. My favorite single line is this one from early on: ‘If that profile puts me on a level playing field, then I’m lying at the goalpost with my legs open yelling, “come on fellas, score a goal!”’
Here is my official review Continue reading Perfect Sex
The Rules of Dreaming is a very unique book. It has one of the most complex stories I have read in years, with equally important narratives from half a dozen primary characters. The amount of action and introspection from the primary characters makes keeping track of everything a bit laborious, but well worth the effort. The esoteric nature of arguing the merits of different schools of psychology and complex literary theory make for a recondite mental workout — If you’re looking for a light cozy mystery, this isn’t it.
Much of the story revolves around the interpretation of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffman (the 1951 version of which can be found online from a variety of movie archives if you’re interested). I can’t claim familiarity with the story, but the frequent references to the opera’s history almost make me want to watch it. Almost. Continue reading The Rules of Dreaming
Book Review: Three Men on Tour by Richard Mapes ★★★★★
Three Men on Tour is a lighthearted novella about one man’s decision to outright avoid making a decision about whether or not to marry his girlfriend. It was well-written, so much so that it was only after I’d finished reading it that I realized I had just read what was basically a romantic comedy -though much heavier on the comedy than the romance. The humor is mostly dry, as British humor tends to be, but quite entertaining. At under 30,000 words, this one is a rather quick read, but well worth the time. This story also bears the distinction of having the shortest note to the author I have yet written for a Reader’s Favorite review. The only notes were that it needed a proofread to catch a couple of typos and I felt that one of the characters was kind of left hanging -both very minor points. Continue reading Book Review: Three Men on Tour
Book Review: Celluloid by Holly Curtis ★★★★☆
I’ve been fortunate in my recent book choices on Reader’s Favorite. The last few that I have made it through have all been good (which is not to say I’ve made it through all the ones I started because some haven’t been even good enough to finish, but that’s neither here nor there).
Celluloid was a delightful surprise. When I chose this one to review, it had been collecting virtual dust on the reviews list for a while. I oftentimes chose books that have been there for a while because, as an indie author myself, I know that any feedback is helpful feedback and I hate to see them make it through without getting reviewed.
Here is my official review Continue reading Book Review: Celluloid
Book Review: A Butterfly in Philadelphia by Bruce Hartman ★★★★★
A Butterfly in Philadelphia is the first book I’ve read in some time that wasn’t on my review list for Reader’s Favorite. The story doesn’t fit neatly into any genre, but if I had to choose an audience for it, I’d say that audience should include everyone. That means you, mister (miss?). If you haven’t read it, you should put it at the very top of your ‘must read’ list. Rush out and buy it right now (or just click the image to the left to get it on Amazon).
Reader’s Favorite requires reviews to be in a certain format, and while this one is not reviewed for that site, I’ve used that same format for my official review. Continue reading Book Review: A Butterfly in Philadelphia
Book Review: Bad Publicity
by Brian C. Baer ★★★★☆
Completely ignoring what my mother, every schoolteacher I’ve ever had, and the old idiom say, I chose to read this book purely based on its cover. Well, that might not be completely true, but the cover didn’t dissuade me, at the very least. Continue reading Book Review: Bad Publicity by Brian C. Baer
Big Data is Watching You! by Bruce Hartman is another wonderful find on Reader’s Favorite. This one also has the dubious distinction of being the first book I have reviewed before it was released. What that means is that my ★★★★☆ rating may not apply to the finished work. Continue reading Book Review: Big Data is Watching You! by Bruce Hartman
Black Plastic by Ryan Kirtz was an … interesting book. When I began to read it, I thought it was certainly going to be a single star (and thus not reviewed publicly). However, as I read, I found it funny enough to keep turning the pages. Kirtz dances the line of comic genius and idiot very well. Just when I would think I had figured out which he was, the events would make me question my decision. I mulled over how to rate it for a couple of days before deciding to rate it ★★★★☆ but with the caveat that it only earned those four stars for a very narrow audience. Did you like Airplane!? If so, this book might be for you. Continue reading Book Review: Black Plastic by Ryan Kirtz
Karma for Hire by Hennessee Andrews was another great find on Reader’s Favorite. This one is listed in humor, but also tells a love story (two actually) while the fate of humankind hangs in the balance.
What I didn’t know before I read it is that Hennessee Andrews is a rather prolific writer of erotica. I began to suspect that was the case during the first ‘love scene’ in the story. While the love scenes in this one don’t go so far as to be erotica, her vivid descriptions of actions that most authors would skim over made it fairly clear. Continue reading Book Review: Karma for Hire by Hennessee Andrews