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Book Reviews

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The Breeze Horror
by Candace Caponegro

Jesus!

I remember seeing this book quite a few times since it first came out in the mid-80's. Though I've read hundreds of horror novels-there's definitely a much larger percentage that I have read than ones I
haven't-I never did pick it up. The cover art was, well, stupid and leads you to believe the book is about a haunted curtain or windowshade or window. I'd also never heard of the author before.

A friend who is also really into horror told me to pick it up, because it was good and 'one of this sickest things he'd ever read'.

Not only is the cover art lame, it's deceptive- neither the cover art, the description on the back, or the excerpt on the front page mention the fact that this is basically a zombie novel, with a some new twists. Like a lot of the best zombie movies and fiction, what caused the disease is vague- toxic waste, outer space, something like that. The book begins when a toxic chemical rain comes down, infectinge veryone it touches. The setting of the novel is an island (Sea Breeze Island, hence the title) where the main characters are trapped. Things are already bad, because the electricity doesn't work, anything with a motor doesn't work, they're cut off from any communication with the rest of the world (if the rest of the world even still exists), there's a limited amount of food and water, there's no way for anyone to get off the island, and those that try are melted into goo. other than the small problems those circumstances present, everything's great. No, wait, I guess not. The unlucky people that are infected grow sick and rot, are in horrible pain, but they don't crave flesh. Their minds still work, so unfortunately they're just as smart, and strong as before, and just to add to the fun, as they get sicker they start going completely insane. It doesn't take too long for the zombies or 'beachers' to get tired of being in quarantine with no food or medical supplies, and get pissed off enough to begin to organize to take over.

The book is divided into 4 parts, and beginning with part 4, becomes an out-and-out, free-for-all horrorfest. I could definitely see some easily disturbed or upset readers putting down the book well before the climax, however. I'm pretty jaded, and there were times when I just shook my head in amazement and disgust, wondering how much more unpleasant things could get.

This is one of those books that, before you're even halfway through, you learn not to get attached to any of the characters, no matter how likeable they are, because at any time of them could suddenly meet a
hideous, graphic fate with no warning whatsoever. You also learn not to be to optimistic about them escaping their situation, or to think, "well, things can't get any worse", because they can. The 'beachers' not only are smart and seemingly indestructible, but they keep developing horrible new features just as the humans start to think they might come out on top. If you like your humor pitch-black, you might find some amusement in parts of the book, but it still starts out depressing and just gets grimmer and uglier.

Try as you might, you can't help but care about the characters, especially the central character, Sandy, and her toddler. While others around her start to justifiably go crazy from the horrible events, or just not care anymore, she manages to keep it together. At first she seemed like kind of a Pollyanna to me, but less than 100 pages into the novel something so completely unexpected and horrifying happens to her which she not only survives but grows stronger as a result of.

The catch-phrase "death is only the beginning' has kind of gotten over-used in horror media, but in describing this book, doesn't seem strong enough.

Since the author makes clear early on all bets are off, and she's not going to go easy on the reader, it's pretty hard to predict what will happen next and how far she and her son will make it, so the suspense makes you want to keep reading...if you can stand to. I'd be reading and thinking, OK, this must be as nasty as this book can get, and then GOOD LORD! Some hideous image or event would unfold that made me surprised this book made it past a mainstream publisher. And by the way, don't even *think* about trying to eat while you're reading this. If you're hungry when you pick it up, food will be the last thing you want to think of by the time you put it down.

This seems to be the only book written by Caponegro, which makes me suspect she's the pen name of another horror author (James Herbert or John Shirley were the first ones to come to mind). Either that, or
writing the book made her so depressed that she decided to go into another profession. I searched all over the net for more info, but could only find the information that this was her first novel. In fact, there's very little information out there on this novel out there period, which kind of gives me the creeps. Maybe most people just automatically blocked it out of their minds after they read it because they were so traumatized.

If you like horror fiction (or horror/sci fi) and don't get upset or nauseated easily, I'd recommend this underrated, little seen book. The prose is great, the plot is extremely original (in fact, I'm now wondering if a couple more recently written novels ripped it off) and
genuinely frightening. Don't let the lame cover put you off- this is one genuinely frightening novel that delivers. There's only a few minor flaws that I found, such as some of the dialogue seeming unrealistic, and a couple times having trouble suspending my disbelief, but the impact of this book wasn't lessened any. I'm probably only going to recommend it to my friends that are into horror, though, and have read some pretty unpleasant, disturbing stuff already- otherwise they'll probably never want to read anything I recommend ever again. And even then I'm going to warn them, because this is one of the few things I've read that actually gave me nightmares. I do NOT recommend this to anyone who wants to read something pleasant or looking to cheer them up. You also might want to avoid it if you've recently had a death in the family, or if you're pregnant.

This one will catch you off guard.

I thought I was ready for this book. I wasn't.

Grade: A

Swingin' Chicks of the 60's: a Tribute to 101 of the Decade's Defining Women

by Chris Strodder


Yeah, baby, yeah!

I remember looking at the authorís Swinginí Chicks of the 60ís web site in 98, and thinking, Man, this would make a great book, if it was handled right. This book has not only been handled right, itís been handled superbly.

The packaging and design of this book, a little over 200 pages, is perfect (hey, itís got Ann-Margret on the cover, so to me at least, itís perfect)- colorful, with those groovy 60ís flowers all inside and out. Itís also a great price for a paperback of coffee-table book quality. I may sound like a pimp saying that, but take a look at what other books of the same quality and size cost and youíll appreciate it.

Each chick has such a nice section devoted to them that if youíre only really into, say, Barbara Eden and Julie Newmar, itís worth picking up just for that... and youíll probably find yourself reading the rest of the book anyway, discovering chicks you never knew about, or chicks you had only seen before but never found out their name. You liked that chick in the Elvis Movie Spinout , the tomboy drummer who fell for him? Hereís everything you ever wanted to know about Deborah Walley (filed under ďthe beach girlsĒ section of the book).
Nearly all of them get a two page spread.


Each swinginí chickís section includes photos (some of the chicks actually loaned the author personal photos from their collection) most in color, Her Swinginí 60ís Credentials (briefly explaining why theyíve been included in the book), Workiní It, (describing their career) behind the scenes (their personal life) and important dates in the 60ís for each chick. It also includes my favorite to read, Her 60ís Look, describing their personal style. Most of them have bonus swingability sections including their real name (they get extra points for changing their name) and little known facts (Raquel Welch supposedly almost became a Bond Girl and signed for Thunderball, but bowed out). If youíre really a fan of the chick, you might know most of them, but I consider myself pretty well informed about Sophia Loren, and never knew until I read the book that she was originally going to play the love interest in North by Northwest instead of Eva Marie Saint. If the chick has a web site, the URL is included-- youíd be surprised how many of them have official web sites and not just fan or tribute sites.

The 60ís chicks are diced up into categories, by the way, so the book has sections for The Beach Girls, The Bond Beauties, The Elvis Girls! Girls! Girls!, The Look, The Movie Stars (a section for the all-americans such as Stella Stevens and another section for the British invasion)The TV Stars, and way more than I have the energy to type out. Itís obvious that a lot of care went into this book; not only does the author genuinely care about each chick, and discuss them with the respect they deserve that is sorely lacking from many similar books, but itís incredibly well researched and documented. In most articles or features about Ann-Margret, I usually find a mistake. Here, I discover Ann-Margret and longtime husband Roger Smithís first date was to see Ike and Tina Turner show (talk about a date you wish you had double dated on). Though I thought Iíd read most of the biographies and books about the area, thereís a selected bibliography that included books I never knew existed that Iím gonna be running to the library with a list of.

Into Angie Dickinson? Thereís a great foreword where she answers 20 questions, and thank God, the author asked all the right ones (what was the best party she attended in the 60ís, for instance) The interview, and the book itself, just make me feel everything I do when I immerse myself in that time: how incredibly cool everyone looked, how great the music was, how fun and entertaining the movies were, and the little bit of sadness I get knowing that the decade is over, and thereíll never be another one like it, including the wake-up jolt that these women donít look like this anymore (though some of them, like Julie Newmar and Barbara Eden, come pretty damn close) and are in their late 50ís or older. Angie Dickinson says she has a favorite 60ís pink crocheted mini dress, which doesnít fit anymore but she loves to look at it.


The only omissions I can think of are Yvonne DeCarlo (Lily Munster) though it wouldnít surprise me if sheís in there and I just spaced out and missed it, and Candy Johnson (main go-go girl from most of the beach party movies-- if youíve seen her, you wonít forget her), which I canít fault the author for because trust me, Iíve dug and dug and spent hours on the net trying to find info for and coming up with absolutely zip other than her filmography. I got all excited when the IMDB had some brief info on her, only to find out they had her mixed up with another actress of the same name.


Maybe one of the best compliments I can give this book is that, if someone asked me, Ďso why are you so into the 60ís?í I could hand them this book and all theyíd have to do is flip through it briefly before saying, "Oh. Okay.Ē If youíre at all into 60ís pop culture, even mildly interested, this book is worth picking up. If youíre really into 60ís pop culture, you probably already have it. If you donít (shame!) go to your favorite online bookstore right now, and pick up a copy fast. Youíll be blown away.

Groovy.

Grade: A+

Sex and Violence in Hollywood

Ray Garton , copyright 2001, Subterranean Press

Grab it!

Let me get two quick recommendations out ot the way: first, the Publisherís Weekly review for this book, posted on most of the major online retail sites, is accurate, but the second half contains some spoilers; if I read it, then read the book, I would probably be angry over at least one twist ruined. Second, I would advise you to not begin reading this book right before you have something important scheduled, such as performing surgery, or need to get anything constructive done, because you will NOT be able to put it down once youíve started. I had planned to sort of dole it out to myself a little at a time, but by 20 pages in, I thought ď f&* everything else, it can wait till I finish this bookĒ. Took me about 3 days to catch up with everything I blew off reading this book, but man, was it worth it.

Iíve been reading Garton for over 10 years now; about 7 years ago I got to the point where I would simply pick up anything with his name and purchase it without even bothering to check the price or flip through it (thereís a dozen or so authors in this category for me, which may explain my high credit card debt) After Shackled and Biofire blew me away, I didnít think Garton could top himself, but he does it with Sex and Violence in Hollywood.

The plot-- which can get convoluted when I try to sum it up, but it works in the book-- centers on Adam, the son of a vulgar, successful producer/screenwriter Michael (the guy dubbed his yacht the Money Shot, so that should give you an idea). Adamsís a cool kid, horror movie lover, embarrassed (to say the very least)by his father, who keeps trying to get him into The Biz somehow. Adam writes, but sticks to poetry while Michael--who may or may not have killed Adamís mother-- is constantly trying to bully Adam into screenwriting. He lives with his father and stepmother Gwen ..who he also happens to be sleeping with. Then Gwenís daughter Rain comes to live with them; sheís an unhinged, wild, thrill seeking sleaze barely into her teens, who wants to sleep with Adam. Throw her into the mix, and things *really* start getting wild and complicated from there. Calling the plot and the novel Ďwildí is a ludicrous understatement, trust me. I donít want to say more about the plot and spoil the fun... not to mention, take up a hell of a lot of room here.

One of the things that I enjoy about Gartonís writing is almost never being able to second-guess what happens next, and this book... well, I think the book holds the record for the amount of times I've laughed out loud in shock at some sick and/or vulgar line or action, or just muttered, "Jesus!" at how shocking or ballsy some development or dialogue was. Whether the book is describing a wild, dangerous party in Compton or some especially nasty new evidence coming up in Adamís trial, I had so much fun that I was just disappointed when I realized only a certain number of pages were in the book, and it was going to end. My favorite scenes were most of the first half, with Adam, his best friend, and all the sleazes they encounter along the way. I admit, when I realized a lengthy portion of the novel would be spent on the trial (and preparation for it) I winced- but Garton still made it surprising and a hell of a lot of fun to read. I especially liked the questioning of Adamís 8th Grade English teacher... youíll know it when you get to it.

Which leads me to the usual disclaimers-- if youíre easily offended, youíll last 2 pages, tops. Iím not exaggerating. The book lives up to the title; a little more sex than violence, maybe, but it gets pretty... graphic . If you view Hollywood as a benign, glamourous magical place and donít want to be disillusioned (or snapped out of your delusion) you may want to skip it. If you are a Garton fan, and you havenít picked this up yet, do it fast; it may be a hardcover but trust me, youíll get more than your moneyís worth. Fans of Jackie Collins would enjoy it, just be ready to have the sleaze and fun factor amped up about 70 times more than hers. If you want a fun, thrilling, shocking read, pick it up. If you havenít read Garton before, this may be a good book to start on, Sex & Violence in Hollywood (the title alone sold me) is more Ďmainstreamí then his straight horror fiction- heís got a great eye for visuals (I kept Ďcastingí the movie as I read the book.. .picture Topher Grace as Adam, for starters), writes some of the best and most realistic dialogue (and the funniest), and bottom line, is simply an excellent storyteller. You wonít be let down.

The most fun Iíve had with a book all year...grade A

Girlfriends
by Patrick Sanchez, 2000

It's hard to believe (and a little bit scary) that from reading the acknowledgments, Patrick Sanchez knocked on many agent's doors before getting this published. Yes, if you read the plot description and look at the cover, it does look like ' a typical book of women on the dating scene', but you'll be pleasantly surprised. I looked at it in the bookstore, read the author bio and saw how friendly, accessible, and happy he was to be published, and how hard he worked. That usually gets my attention (I definitely respect and admire such authors that appreciate their readers), so I flipped through, read a few random paragraphs, bit my lip to keep from laughing and making the clerk think I was a weirdo, and picked it up right away. I was into it from the first page, and would have read it in one sitting if I hadn't had to take a break to drive somewhere.

The tagline compares the novel to Sex and the City, but as far as I'm concerned, that's not giving the book enough credit. Girlfriends is much more amusing, addictive, and has characters you can identify with. One has a dreary customer service job--oh boy, have some of us been there-- unlike characters in typical women-in-the-dating scene novels who seem to usually be making salaries in the mid-five figures, at the very least. The characters are hardly unoriginal, as the PW review says. I've read hundreds of books in this genre (I guess if you have to pigeonhole it, it's the mainstream, women's fiction, single women looking for and unlucky in love genre) and I don't think any of them were embarrassed at their class reunion when the man they introduce as their date is recognized by a classmate as her gay hairdresser. There's also not a lot of genre books with sympathetic, bisexual, African American women with a sense of humor. Not a whole lot of stereotypes here.

It's not all fun and games, but includes a couple of realistic, close-to-home things that happen to single women on the dating scene, even if they're a little depressing; the central character cries after a one night stand, because she's so disgusted with herself for sleeping with a gross guy (who leaves his baseball cap on during sex, if you can believe that, which turns out to be a fun plot point later) she met in a singles bar the night before when drunk and desperate. But that's about as 'down' as it gets; you'll have a blast reading about Gina's dog Gomez, and what she does to a group of thugs who try to get between her and her beloved (if messy) doggie after she's had the day from hell. You'll have a blast reading about the jaw dropping practical joke she plays on a bisexual friend from high school, and the friend's revenge, and when the two of them get together for some SERIOUS revenge on an ...who has been begging for it for 200 pages...well, I don't wont to spoil it, but it's one of many VERY satisfying payoff scenes in the novel.

Sanchez has worked hard on his craft and making the book as fun, readable, and enjoyable as possible for readers, and believe me, it shows on every page. As another reviewer said, you'll not only laugh at and with but identify with the characters. if you're looking for a fun, entertaining, satisfying novel that will let you escape and that you'll find yourself reading passages to your friends out loud from because they're so hilarious, pick up Girlfriends. You'll get your money's worth, and more; I plan to pay HC price, if I have to, for Sanchez' next book. I'm happy to see this novel got a second printing... the book, and the author (do check out his website, if you liked the book) definitely deserve it.

Grade: A

All contents of this website copyright © 2001 by D. Reinert. No part of this website may be reproduced in any form, unless otherwise noted, without express written permission from D. Reinert. Use of this site and/or contents implies explicit unconditional acceptance of this policy.