The reviews: Love and blood in the modern west

Kirkus

Riveting, wickedly funny, existential, brilliantly written, authentically western …

Introducing racial issues isn’t the only adjustment the authors have made to the vampire mythos, but it’s more than just the details that set this series apart. Rather, it’s the way the authors utilize those details to create meaningful conflicts and world-altering choices for the characters. Riveting. – Kirkus Reviews

One of the funniest and most engaging series I have read in a long time. - Bitten by Books

Pour yourself a shot of the good stuff and settle in for a wickedly good read. – The Eastern Oregonian 

Unremitting fun, and a damn good read. – Fresh Fiction

Go ahead. You’re trying not to laugh at the title. Let it out! It’s funny and so is the book; sly and adult. – SF Site Featured Review

One of the weirdest stories I have ever read. It’s right up there with Neil Gaiman’s man-swallowing woman parts and talking tents. Instead, here we have rocket-launching, womb-sucking, Bible-bending, non-pointy-toothed vampires. And love. And cowboys. Depending on what you are looking for, that might be a good thing. If I had to liken this book to a movie, it would either be to Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, or maybe more appropriately, Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk to Dawn. – The Avid Reader

A choice and very much recommended read, not to be missed. – Midwest Book Review

Ask a Cowboy!

Dear Cowboy, So I’m a senior in high school and I am going to meet my boyfriend’s dad. He’s a massive cowboy. My boyfriend is not. I know the basics about horses and that is about it. I thought I knew a lot but now that I’m realizing it, I know nothing at all. So how do I impress his dad?

Signed, Looking to Shine

Dear Shiner, Thinking you can impress someone by knowing as much as them is a surefire way to get off on the wrong foot. The best way to impress someone is to be your authentic self. The bigger the difference between who we are and who we show the world, the greater the odds of disaster. I’m reminded of the time I tried to make friends with old man Campbell. He lived up the creek from us on a ramshackle little place and everyone thought he was a nasty piece of work. He had barbed wire strung up everywhere and a sign that said “Strangers will be shot.” And next to that sign was a sign that said “I mean it.” Well, I didn’t think he meant it. I figured he was just lonely and misunderstood. Read more of the Cowboy’s answer>>

The third annual cool stuff we read (and recommend) in 2014 list

Requirements for this list: great prose and good storytelling for both fiction and non-fiction, and — when the last page is turned ­— something within us should be changed: an opinion, an understanding, a geographic point of view, a cultural appreciation, or if it’s really good, a revelation. These listed books — presented in no particular order — leap over one or all of these criteria. We don’t worry about when they were published, only that either Kathleen or the Cowboy read the book in 2014. We offer thanks (with a little wide-eyed envy, at least on Kathleen’s part, the Cowboy never gets jealous) to these sixteen writers.

Back to Back back to back
Julia Franck, Grove Press
Sister and brother Ella and Thomas are innocent, young and happy children when post-World War II’s newly borne East Germany begins its descent into isolation, paranoia and institutionalized cronyism. Even as a translation from the German, a nearly perfect and wrenching book. Not to be missed. Read the rest of this entry »

Climbing Goat Mountain: When art imitates life

Goat Mountain by David Vann is a dark, brutal, crackling story about a boy, his father (and his friend) and his grandfather who go deer hunting ingoat mountain the mountains of California in the late 70s. Kathleen read it, liked it, and then recommended I give it a try because she thought I would appreciate the similarities with my own childhood. As I’ve described to her, probably to the point of mind-numbing boredom, I grew up on a ranch in Montana in the late 70s.

I read it in one sitting on a flight to DC (the very best circumstances to have a great book in your hands) and, more than finding a few similarities, the story at times felt like a cut and paste of my life. The set up is that the boy, excited to make his first kill, is given the opportunity to look at a poacher through the scope of his fathers’ hunting rifle. Bad things happen and it all quickly spirals out of control into madness and violence.

Here’s the crazy part: I have a vivid memory of deer hunting as a boy on some private property up in the mountains – this was probably in Junior High — when I saw a friend across the canyon confront a poacher who wasn’t supposed to be there. Read the rest of Clark’s soapbox post>>

Shrooms with a view: Welcome to the psychedelic toolkit

Stylized image of hyperconnected neural networks, from Wired Magazine,

A new imaging study shows that people tripping on magic mushrooms have a “hyperconnected” brain, creating temporary networks between regions that don’t typically communicate with each other. Another recent study showed that the “hot” neural areas for mushroom trippers are associated with emotion and memory, specifically in discrete areas usually most active when we dream, the same areas some people call proto-evolutionary, meaning, the roots of human consciousness.

Many of us who have experienced trips understand this on some instinctive level, though we may not have articulated it well. And that’s probably how these studies came to be. Eventually, enough trippers, writers, philosophers, dreamers and other people say things about their experiences, a hypothesis is articulated and a study is designed to explore the underpinnings of that which people have experienced. Put data on it. Categorize it. Prove it. Regulate it. That’s the way science progresses.

With human consciousness, however, this process has been halting and labored. In part, it’s because of the challenge to the buttoned-up establishment that psychedelics posed when they first emerged as a tool to manipulate our senses in the 1960s and 1970s. Timothy Leary and his ilk started down a path of inquiry that was cut off hard by the criminalization of this class of drugs. Read more of this post>>