Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Get $184 Worth of Post-Apocalyptic Books for the Change Under Your Couch Cushions

There are a lot of deals around where one can buy multiple e-books for one price, but I don’t usually bite. That’s because the packages are often filled out with lackluster titles that don’t seem worth a buck to begin with, or the range of genres is a little too diverse (I might like the mystery titles available, but not the fantasy or the young adult stuff in the mix). Most of the time when I see a package on offer, I zip over to Amazon and just buy the one or two titles I’m interested in.

That said, this Humble Bundle biz is really worth checking out. Their current package is not only themed (it’s all post-apocalyptic), but there are several big titles that are distinctly worth owning. And the kicker? You get to name your own price. For a mere buck (if that’s all you can spare), you can have eight titles, including acclaimed novels like Fritz Leiber’s Gather, Darkness, M. K. Wren’s A Gift Upon the Shore, and Hugh Howey’s recent insanely-popular Wool novellas. 



Pay more than the average of $9.56, and you unlock more novels, and man, they’re even more tempting: Mosley’s Futureland, for starters. Pay $15 or more, and unlock three more novels, one of which is Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, one of the greatest post-apocalyptic books of all time, if you ask me. That title alone is worth the price.

A couple of more reasons I’m really impressed with Humble Bundle: the e-books are available for multiple devices (including Kindle and Nook), and part of the proceeds go to charity. How much of it goes to charity? You decide. Once you enter the amount you choose to pay, you can use the slider to allot percentages of your money to the publisher, to one (or more) of the charities, and/or to the folks at Humble Bundle. 

Check the counter at the top right of the site to see how much time is left on the offer (at the time of this writing, there are nine days left to bite).

It’s one of those sounds-too-good-to-be-true deals that, for once, really is true.



Have you purchased any of the Humble Bundle collections or any other e-book packages? Were they worth it?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

10 Worst Typos and Errors of the Year for 2014

As TV and print newsrooms cut staff down to the bare bones, egregious mistakes seem to be on the rise. Some of them seem so obvious that you’d think even a staff of one would notice, but, as these gaffes show, almost anything can slip by. Here are ten of the worst slip-ups, especially in terms of embarrassment, collected throughout the year as I’ve come across them—presented in reverse order so you can ease into the hilarity.

#10) Education, schmeducation.

via The Independent

Salesian College says they didn’t see this supplement’s cover before it went to press, laying the blame squarely on the shoulders of the local Star Courier. Whoever is to blame, the cringe factor is high.


# 9) They’re coming for our typefaces.

via Newscaststudio 


CNN viewers were probably perplexed after reading that rebels were targeting fonts, although most agreed that they hoped one of them was comic sans. 



#8) Team vasectomy.

via Sporting News


 It sounds like an extreme overreaction to a loss, but in this case, the Miami Heat actually won—though you wouldn’t know it from the headline. (The word in question was obviously meant to be Nets.)


#7) Rhymes with “literal.”

via USA Today 


zoom via Book Dirt—cuz I know what’s important.


It’s one thing to make a typographical error that accidentally refers to female anatomy. It’s quite another to make that error in an official government proclamation. The office of the Nevada governor has since apologized—does that mean they don’t care about these particular resources?



#6) What’s the butt chill factor?


The Kansas City TV station responsible for this graphic claims an extra ‘s’ was added, but we all know that thirty degrees in fact doesn’t qualify as ass cold—so it’s not really much of an error.


#5) Clappy New Year!

via The Drum



They still haven’t topped calling  for a moment’s violence during the Queen Mum’s funeral, but you can’t say the BBC isn’t trying. Their mangling of the Chinese year of the horse just might keep them on the map.


#4) Say it ain’t so, Bill!


via Jim Romenesko



This one, courtesy of a news station in Huntsville, AL, makes its own jokes. Have at it. (And don’t forget to make at least one about “alligations” as well.)


#3) Copy editor’s job may be pretty screwed, too.

via The Guardian



The explanation for this insane front page of the Australian Financial Review is that an early mock-up was accidentally published. “The world is fukt,” along with the other mangled headlines, is supposedly an error, then. Personally, I’m not so sure.


#2) Lucky fan.

via Sportress of Blogitude



While this isn’t technically a typo (“fan,” as I’ve come to learn, also means “to strike out”), the meaning of the sentence is so unclear as to suggest something much more lewd.


#1) Whatting the commentators?

via The Daily Edge 


I’ve been waiting all year to share this one, which appeared in The Guardian in January, much to their embarrassment. (They fixed it soon after.) The word they wanted is ranking.



Want more funny media typos and errors? Use the button on the right sidebar to like Book Dirt on Facebook, where I’ll be sharing some of the runner-ups, collected from a year’s worth of bookmarks.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Books Read in 2014: Another Year, Another Eclectic Round-Up

The books I read this year were an assortment of the good, the bad, and the ugly. If I have one reading regret, it’s that I perhaps spent more time reading review copies of less-than-stellar books than I did reading books I personally chose. Some of those review copies were worthwhile (Jon Bassoff’s Factory Town), while others … well, let’s not even name them. They’re best forgotten.

There were some diamonds in the rough, though, and if I have another reading regret, it’s that I didn’t write full reviews of them for Book Dirt. (Goals for the year, then: read more books from my own to-read list, and review them promptly as I do

Don’t think that because I read some clunkers in 2014 that my best-of picks only seem good by comparison. The following titles would be standouts in any year.  






I’m tempted to say very little about this unusual mystery novel, originally published in Latvian in 1972, and published in English by Peter Owen books in 1990, because I enjoyed discovering something about which I previously knew nothing, and everyone should do that sometimes. I bought The Cage in a used bookstore, intrigued by the packaging, and perplexed that I’d never heard of the author. The fact that it was translated and on a high-quality press seemed promising. It delivered. The Cage is different from other mystery novels in its almost-philosophical level of introspection, which might be a turn-off for some, but seemed refreshing to me. It concerns the investigation into the disappearance of Edmunds Berz, an architect. As we learn about what kind of man Berz was, we simultaneously learn about the detective, Valdis Struga, especially as he personally identifies with the missing man ("He had the feeling he was looking for himself"). As the book shifts gears halfway through to focus on what actually happened to Berz, it gets even deeper—and more compelling. It’s introspective and claustrophobic in a way that might be described as Highsmithian.






Some of you will be turned off as soon as I say “time-travelling serial killer,” but bear with me. What if I tell you that The Shining Girls is a book about a time-travelling serial killer that manages to be smart and literary? I’m serious. It’s best not to think too hard about why and how Harper Curtis can move through time—I’m not sure he understands it himself. But the fact is, he can, and he makes the most of it in a depraved way. The chapters from the killer’s point of view are as riveting as they are chilling. But, what sets this book apart, besides the unconventional plot, is Beukes’ treatment of Curtis’ victims. They’re all compelling women with interesting stories. They shine, which is why Curtis is drawn to them in the first place. Beukes has found a way, as impossible as it seems, to write a book about eviscerated women that manages to celebrate them at the same time. The historical details are also spot-on, whether she’s talking about fan dancers in secret prohibition-era bars or underground abortionists in the ‘60s. There’s a lot to like here. It’s several books in one, and they’re all good.






Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman is high on my list of all-time favorite reads, so I could kick myself for waiting so long to try another of his books. Obsession is one of my favorite subjects, and The Collector plumbs its depths in some beautiful and provoking ways. Ferdinand Clegg is a clerk, a nobody, who wins a bit of money, and uses it to purchase a remote house. He then kidnaps the object of his secret obsession, the pretty and privileged art student, Miranda Grey, and keeps her there, much like he keeps the butterflies he collects. What’s brilliant is how, as Fowles reveals the thoughts and feelings of the two, their roles blur. It’s easier to sympathize with Clegg than with spoiled and catty Miranda, but as we learn her backstory, we see that she, too, strives to have someone understand her. Nothing here is black or white (maybe there’s a reason Fowles chose the name Grey?), and the nuances are disturbingly lovely. The Collector isn’t just one of my favorite reads of the year, but ever.






This may be the most unusual book I’ve read by Shirley Jackson, and it’s a difficult one to write about. For starters, I’m not completely certain what happened in it—and that’s a good thing. There’s a blurring of reality here that makes even the mundane mysterious. And on the surface, the story is a little mundane, as 17 year-old Natalie Waite leaves her family to attend an all-girl college. She takes walks, she writes letters to her father, she befriends a professor’s wife—all fairly ordinary. The brilliance of Hangsaman is in the telling. The writing is masterful and deeply psychological, to the point that many people, like I did, misremember the book as being in first person. Natalie’s a bit of a fantasist, and she’s maybe even a bit mad (there are shades of The Bell Jar here), so there’s a dream-like quality to ordinary events. Then there are some unusual events that are never quite explained: girls being slapped in the middle of the night, stolen items, a voice behind a wall. I didn’t find out until later that Hangsaman is based on a true event, and I’m not going to mention it here, as it makes the ending somewhat of a spoiler—though still just as mysterious. The first thing I did when finishing the book was turn to the net to see what other people had to say about it. If you read it, I’d love to hear what you think of it.







I’m not the only person to include Revival on an end-of-the-year list, and goodness knows, Stephen King isn’t hurting for publicity, but I really did enjoy this. A small-town preacher, Charlie Jacobs, befriends a little boy named Jamie, who looks to him as a mentor. After Jacobs loses his family in an accident, he questions God in a bizarre public sermon that leads to his dismissal from the church—and the town. Years later, Jamie’s life converges with Jacobs again, but now Jamie is a heroin addict and otherwise down-on-his-luck musician, and Jacobs is entertaining carnival crowds with the electrical tricks that have always been his hobby. Things, as they are wont to do in a Stephen King book, become strange. What’s appealing here, though, is that if you remove the supernatural aspects, you’re still left with a well-crafted story about life, and change, and how you can’t go home again. You could also say the reverse: remove the character sketches, and there’s a neat supernatural tale here—one with debts to Lovecraft and Machen, but still fresh. If you’ve grown up with King, you’re getting as long in the tooth as he is, and you’ll find that he does ending-of-age as well as he does coming-of-age. It’s bittersweet, but never boring.




What were the best things you read in 2014? Any specific reading goals for the coming year? Comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

10 Most Bizarre Calendars for 2015


It’s become a yearly tradition for Book Dirt to feature the strangest calendars published for the upcoming year, and it seems as if the entries are a little more bizarre each December. While it may be that the world just gets weirder as time goes by, some of the credit lies in the curation. Having just about seen it all at this point, your dedicated blogmistress has to dig that much deeper each time. Nude archaeologists? Seen it! Sexy Putin? (Yawn.) Women covered in milk? That was soooo last year.

Click the links for ordering information if you’re somehow compelled to give one of these calendars to someone you have confusing feelings about.

1.  Puppies With Guns 




Some of the biggest sellers in calendars feature weaponry (usually toted by someone about to bust out of her bikini top). Well, someone smart noticed that puppies are also a favorite, and stuck the two together, much in the same way the commercials tell us that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were born.“So what, you hate puppies,” says the Kickstarter page: “You still like guns!” Pre-ordering has ended, but the mastermind is printing some extras to sell (Puppies With Guns)


2.  Shades of Play: Steamy Word-Search Puzzles 


It's probably hard to imagine anything sexier than a desk calendar, but you know what’s even hotter? Word searches. The breathless searching, the erotic curves of the pen marks … even the dirtiest Sudoku seems vanilla in comparison. (Amazon)


3.  New York City Taxi Drivers



There may be some unexpected contenders for the nickname “New York’s finest” once this 2015 calendar hits the streets. In fact, leave the men in uniform for women without imagination. If you dig chest hair and a bit of a roll (not the bakery kind), you’ll be in heaven. (Shopify)


4.  Emotionally Unavailable Guys



Hang this calendar on your wall, and it’s almost like having an actual emotionally unavailable guy in your life—though it might be slightly more communicative. Each month features a different guy, complete with a bio, and an explanation/defense of why he lives his life the way he does. (Amazon)


5.  Sock Monkey Kama Sutra



The Congress of the Cow has never been so adorable! Try a new position each month—just be sure you have safe socks. (Amazon)


6.  Bavarian Farmers Association’s Hot Potatoes





Potatoes aren’t one of vegetables more frequently associated with prurient thoughts, which is strange, considering that they’re the dirtiest. The potato farmers of Bavaria have released a wall calendar featuring twelve women (many of them literal farmer’s daughters) in various stages of undress while in proximity to tubers in their various forms (one young lady is buried in potato chips). You’ll need to know some German if you’re serious about ordering. (Bavarian Farmers Association.)



7.  Dull Men of Great Britain 




Even if you’ve got a weak heart, you should be able to handle this assortment of boring Brits—that is, unless you’ve got a soft spot for milk bottle-collecting or roundabout appreciation. (Amazon)



8.  Cats in Sweaters



You’ve got to appreciate this calendar, if only for the fact that you know the photography team is covered in claw wounds and missing various eyes. Totally worth it. If they could survive the be-sweatering, you can survive the cuteness. (Amazon)


9.   A Year of Mathematics



Just in case you thought it couldn’t get any more dull than those old men from Great Britain. Couldn’t they at least have juxtaposed the formulas with some attractive models or adorable baby animals? It’s like they don’t even want to sell calendars. (Amazon)

10.  Nude Artists as Pandas



Art F City figures that if you want to get people to donate to your art blog, the best course of action is to (un)dress up a bunch of artists like pandas and photograph them. So that’s what they did. (Art F City)



Bonus: Calendars from previous years’ lists that updated for 2015:

Goats in Trees


Nice Jewish Guys

Accordion Babes




Previous Bizarre Calendar Round-Ups:












Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Factory Town Review at Hellnotes

I've got a review over at Hellnotes.com of Jon Bassoff's latest psycho-noir Factory Town, and I'd love for you to take a look. You might remember that Bassoff's Corrosion was one of my top reads of last year, and I gave Factory Town a brief write-up in my Halloween round-up recently. 

If that's enough to sell you on it, you can peruse the ordering info by clicking below. Otherwise, check out my full review at Hellnotes, and let me know what you think. I'd love some visitors over there (and the issue with commenting appears to be fixed).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1940544378/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1940544378&linkCode=as2&tag=book0a46-20&linkId=QRYUODMOW2KBFWMY
Jon Bassoff's Factory Town is available as a print or e-book.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: Beat to a Pulp: Superhero

Beat to a Pulp: Superhero
Edited by David Cranmer, Scott D. Parker
September 2012, 1.99 Kindle

Beat to a Pulp: Superhero, available at Amazon.

The Beat to a Pulp anthology series may be a throwback to the era of pulp magazines, but don’t expect dusty relics. The collections have a decidedly modern sensibility, keeping the action and the grit, while discarding some of the more dated tropes. As a whole, the series encompasses all that the pulps once offered: crime fiction, noir, hardboiled detective stories, westerns, sci-fi—even the occasional weird tale. Usually bargain priced, the books live up to their imprint’s name, packing a lot of punch for the buck.

This collection may be the best of the Beat to a Pulps to date, and that’s partly thanks to the theme. Each story takes on the topic of superheroes, and the fun is in finding out just what that means to the authors involved, as each has a decidedly different interpretation.  The heroes (and villains) range from children to senior citizens, from masterminds to ordinary garbage men. Some follow a solid code of ethics, while others are out of control and bent on revenge. The story’s settings span from the Revolutionary War era to some time in the far future, though plenty take place in the here and now.

Don’t worry that the unusual settings and characters are just a gimmick. These stories show some writing chops, and even the simplest of them are just waiting to give you a wallop when you least expect it. Jake Hinson starts things off well with “The Long Drop,” in which a future New York City patrolled by caped super-cops is combined with an old-school frame-up. The ending manages to be both witty and satisfying, if not happy, but that’s the nature of noir—if anything seems to be going too well … just wait.

Kevin Burton Smith’s “Revenge of the Red Avenger” is narrated by a six year-old, yet manages to avoid sentimental cheese. While it just might get you in the feels with its world of secret clubs, best friends, and cobbled-together hero outfits made of towels and rain boots, the dark grimness of reality is painfully present. Even childhood wonder has another side. Liam Jose’s story (“Dark Guy in … Terror on the Digger!”) also features children, but gets even more gruesome. It may be the most brutal revenge story you’ll ever read that transpires in classroom coat closets and on the playground.

The characters aren’t all kids—not by a long shot. (And they’re not all good guys, either.) In “Spoiled,” Keith Rawson introduces us to an aging megalomaniac millionaire who is more villain than hero, and has become even more frightening as his mind starts to crumble. The heroine of Sandra Seamans’ “Moon Mad” would seem more at home collecting cans from dumpsters than busting up a sex slavery ring, but that’s the beauty of the story. A self-appointed (and mentally unstable) vigilante tries to keep his apartment building free of what he perceives as villains among the tenants in “Phantom Black and the Big Wide Open” by Garnett Elliott, even though it means frequent beatings for himself. In one of the strongest entries in the collection, Thomas Pluck’s “Garbage Man,” a trash hauler gets into a tense standoff with a neighborhood gangbanger.

There’s not a bad story in the bunch, though some will naturally resonate differently with different readers. Just as comic book fans have their preferred heroes, you’ll definitely have a favorite.