You don’t have to be a punk to enjoy The Hard Times—but it helps.
Why is it funny that The Ramones forced their studio’s janitor to change his name to Gary Ramone? Because none of The Ramones were related in real life and all changed their name to enter the band. Why did a punk survive the Kool-Aid at Jonestown? Practice, practice, practice (of ingesting all manner of substances at punk rock concerts).
The articles collected here are actual reprints from the magazine during the past four decades. In between the original stories are a behind-the-scenes look at the zine’s creation and a bit of punk’s evolution over the years. Beginning with the 90s, the zine began covering emo, grunge, and alternative rock bands too.
I was pretty heavily into the LA punk scene from the late 70s through the 80s so I really enjoyed The Hard Times. It reminded me of bands I haven’t thought of in decades. Even if you are not into punk, the stories frequently have a Mad Magazine sense of parody that is enjoyable. 4 stars!
Thanks to Mariner Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Serf and Turf: A Silicon Valley Mystery by Marc Jedel
How did you get started writing cozy mysteries?
I’ve wanted to write a book forever. For the longest time, it seemed I couldn’t come up with a good plot. Unfortunately for my prospective writing career, I had learned that having a plot is critical for a successful book. One day, I received this awesome birthday drawing from my nieces. And my kids, or nieces, or one of our friends’ kids had done some crazy things. Probably all of the above.
One thing led to another and the idea formed to loosely base a mystery with a self-absorbed, fashion-backward software engineer, his sister, and his nieces on my life. It’s clearly fiction. I mean, I’m not a software engineer. Check out the drawing on my blog (www.marcjedel.com/blog).
After that, the ideas kept flowing so I had characters, plot points, and concepts for more books. Although the books can be read standalone, they share many of the same characters. Serf and Turf, starts the day after Chutes and Ladder ends. And that book took place only about six weeks after book 1, Uncle and Ants, ended.
How do you flesh out the ideas for your books?
Much dog walking is involved. Well, the dog doesn’t seem to contribute all that much dialogue but he’s a good listener. My wife is amazing. She’s taken on an unpaid role as brainstormer-in-chief, but she doesn’t complain often. I also do a lot of outlining. That keeps me from forgetting who killed whom.
Are the anecdotes in the book autobiographical?
A frightening number are based on truth. The escapades of Buddy the Labrador are based on a family friend’s dog. The cat scene in Serf and Turf comes from another friend. And the ice cream truck story that finishes chapter two in Uncle and Ants is completely true, believe it or not. As for the rest, it’s loosely based on reality except where I’ve exaggerated, made it up or falsified my memories to fit the story.
Do you tell a lot of dad jokes?
Well I’ve been a dad myself for a long time so I’ll plead the fifth. Also, it’s not my fault that I did grow up with a master dad joke teller. But, don’t worry about too many stupid jokes in the book. That’s the best part about editors — they keep writers honest. Mine kept saying “that’s funny, but put more focus on the mystery.” Hearing that she thought my writing was funny sure felt good. After the warm and fuzzy feeling wore off, I followed her advice and made sure the story balanced humor with a crisp pace and an interesting mystery.
What’s different about your book from other cozy mysteries?
Besides the author? Well, my book doesn’t take place in a small, seaside town where the main protagonist runs a bakery, bookshop, or bed & breakfast. While I like those cozies as much as the next reader, I find myself getting bored by similar settings and characters over and over. Setting my novel in Silicon Valley allowed me to show a little more of its unique people and environment without delving into boring techno-babble. Many readers write me to tell me which characters they like best and I love that. Some of the recurring and other wacky side characters help and some hinder the protagonist’s progress in solving the cases.
Any last comments?
Serf and Turf, book 3 in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, can be read standalone. All of the books in the series are free for Kindle Unlimited readers. Buy them on Amazon at: amazon.com/gp/product/B07PHNT7XM and watch for the audiobooks of the whole series from Recorded Books coming later this year. For more about my books or me and to sign up to hear about special offers and free chapters, please visit www.marcjedel.com.
For another author interview with the same author for an earlier book in this series, go here.
The third zany mystery in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, Serf and Turf, is here!
Bumbling amateur detective, Marty, once again tries to juggle family, relationships, and work with determining who murdered girls’ soccer coach Gio. It appears that everyone who wasn’t sleeping with Gio hated him. So why does Marty’s girlfriend, Meghan, admire him so much?
The books in the Silicon Valley Mystery series just keep getting better. Serf and Turf is the best so far! It reminds me of early Stephanie Plum mysteries. First, start out with a seemingly simple idea. In this book, it is for Marty to help his girlfriend investigate Gio’s death. After all, Marty is convinced that he is almost a police consultant. Unfortunately, the police don’t appear to agree with him. Second, mix in several odd settings and top with a witty sense of humor. The investigation involves many of Gio’s side hustles—from a science camp to a Renaissance Faire. Both are shown with humor and moments of pure hilarity. Reading this book’s description of the RenFaire inspired me personally to dress as an Irish maiden for Halloween—that is how far into this book I got! Finally, add an unusual family known for their eccentricities. Marty’s sister, two nieces, and their dog are uproariously human–yes, even the dog that has a sweet tooth.
Everyone who loves funny cozy mysteries should pick up this book. It promises to be a great series and this book is a fun ride. 5 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escape Book Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
About Serf and Turf
Serf and Turf: A Silicon Valley Mystery Release Date – October 7, 2019
Print Length – Approximately 200 pages
He’s afraid of losing his girlfriend. But maybe he should be more concerned about the dead body she’s crying over?
Marty Golden can barely string a voicemail message together, let alone keep up with his new love. This quirky uncle’s hectic Silicon Valley lifestyle needs a reboot when a youth league soccer game becomes a murder scene. And nothing can stop him from donning his amateur sleuth uniform when he discovers his sweetheart used to have quite a thing for the dead guy …
With a not-so-helpful paw from Buddy the Labrador, he does his best to sniff out a long list of possible suspects. But between gossipy soccer moms and the costume-clad members of a Renaissance Faire, Marty’s theories fall harder than a jousted knight.
Can Marty solve the case before the trail and his new flame grow cold?
Serf and Turf is the third book in the zany, Silicon Valley cozy mystery series. If you like laugh-out-loud comedy, dorky sleuths, and a festival of old-world fun, then you’ll love Marc Jedel’s humorous murder mystery.
Buy Serf and Turf to sign in to a great mystery today!
About Marc Jedel
For most of my life, I’ve been inventing stories. Some, especially when I was young, involved my sister as the villain. As my sister’s brother for her entire life, I’m highly qualified to tell the tale of this evolving, quirky sibling relationship.
My writing skills were honed in years of marketing leadership positions in Silicon Valley. While my high tech marketing roles involved crafting plenty of fiction, we called these marketing collateral, emails and ads.
The publication of my first novel, Uncle and Ants, gave me permission to claim “author” as my job. And achieving Amazon Best Seller status gave me even better adjectives to use in front of “author.” This has led to way more interesting discussions than answering “marketing.”
My family would tell you that Marty’s character isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination for me, but I’m comfortable with that situation.
Like Marty, I live in Silicon Valley and can’t believe that otherwise normal people would willingly jump out of an airplane and call it fun. Unlike Marty, I have a wonderful wife and a neurotic but sweet, small dog, who is often the first to weigh in on the humor in my writing.
Meg is helping her Grandfather run Owl Fest 2019 at the Caerphilly Inn at Christmas. When its 200 ornithologist guests are stranded by a snowstorm, one of the most cantankerous and least-loved professors is killed. Time for Meg to step in, with help of her extensive family, to solve the mystery in Owl Be Home for Christmas, the twenty-sixth entry in the Meg Langslow cozy mystery series.
I absolutely love this series. While this entry doesn’t involve the nuclear family dynamic as much as earlier entries, I still love returning to visit Meg’s crazy extended family. The new characters from ornithology were interesting. Each had a real personality and fit well into Meg’s humorous world. The mystery was solid and I enjoyed the twist at the end. Overall, Owl Be Home for Christmas is one of my personal favorites. 5 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Andy, the perpetually retiring defense lawyer, gets sucked into two cases involving dogs in the fun cozy mystery, Dachshund Through the Snow.
Andy is asked by an old cop frenemy to find a way to get the city to allow the cop’s K-9 partner, Simon, to retire with him in a few weeks. Simon has arthritis and could be hurt if he continues to work. So Andy sues the city alleging that Simon is a city employee who should be able to disability retire. It really is a case of species discrimination!
Laurie, Andy’s wife and an ex-police lieutenant, starts celebrating Christmas in November. So it is no surprise when she selects a wish off a tree in her local pet store. The child requestor, Danny, wants three gifts: a winter coat for his mother, another coat for his dachshund, and his dad to come home.
The coats are no problem. Unfortunately, Danny’s dad is accused killer, Noah. Fourteen years earlier, he met Kristen at a bar. After a few dates on the down-low, they meet in a remote spot. Kristen asks Noah to take her with him when he leaves for college in a few days. When Noah refuses, Kristen becomes distraught and accidentally scratches his face. He leaves. He finds out that she is killed later that night. Fourteen years later, Noah’s brother spits into a genealogy website’s test tube and Noah is caught by his DNA—found under Kristen’s fingernails so long ago.
A Christmas setting has everything I love about cozy mysteries. Family interactions and murder. Okay, I’m not trying to wish up a murder at my next family Christmas party, but it would stop everyone from gossiping—at least for a minute or two. The Andy Carpenter series is always entertaining and this installment is no different. I love the interaction between the characters, who all seem realistic and relatable. However, the trials are also a smart addition to all the books in this series and that is rare in cozy mysteries. You might even say that Dachshund Through the Snow is a legal thriller set in a cozy mystery world. Plus Andy’s sarcastic asides are hilarious! Overall, I continue to love this series and wait each year for the next to appear. 5 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Papers of A.J. Wentworth BA was first published as a humorous contemporaneous study of life in a boy’s boarding school immediately before England joined World War Two. It was serialized in Punch magazine over several years.
Poor Wentworth is an overwhelmed teacher who frequently loses his temper with his young charges. In a roomful of Bart Simpsons, Mason is the worst prankster and malcontent. Wentworth throws things at his students and seems perpetually lost.
I guess this passed for humor in between the two world wars in England. Now it is best read as a historical document of a time never to return. The Papers of A.J. Wentworth BA is not funny to a modern audience and is also filled with British’isms incomprehensible to modern American readers. It is a pass for me unless you are researching the time period for an English literature class. 2 stars.
Thanks to Farrago and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Take a large portion of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, add some additional pure absurdity and bad puns, and whirl madly in the blender of the author’s brain and you have Battle Beyond the Dolestars. A laugh-out-loud novel of when machines take over the world and humanity’s greatest hope is a hairdresser, a pilot impersonating Hans Solo, and a sentient toaster named Pam. What could, and does, go wrong makes for a hilarious journey around the cosmos.
Once again, the Battlestar Suburbia (my review) is trying to gain Earth back from the machines. If you read and enjoyed the first book in the series, this is more of the same joke-y play on science fiction tropes. And RuPaul, which might have something to do with the author’s history of being a burlesque dancer—or not. Still, I love assistant chief Rita telling the Rockettes, who are female and literally going to be pretending to be an asteroid belt, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” Highly recommended! 4 stars!
Thanks to Farrago Books and NetGalley for granting my wish for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Joan Dixon is having a bad year. She’s an unemployed journalist who can’t even get listicle jobs. This new reality has forced her to sell her car and move in with her parents—at age thirty-six. She truly is one of The Nobodies.
Joan interviews as a junior copywriter at Bloom, a tech company selling digital storage space without using server farms.
Note from my internal armchair detective: how can you sell storage space without any space to sell? Tech, am I right?
Back to review: Bloom is so trendy that its conference rooms are named after dead singers regardless of genre like Tupac, Freddie, and Selena. Not feeling hopeful, Joan is surprised when she gets the job. Unfortunately, once working there, her journalistic Spidey-senses start firing. Is Bloom hiding a deep secret that could be Joan’s way back into journalism?
I have yet to find a Flatiron Book that was not fantastic and innovative. The Nobodies is no exception. Despite being a millennial herself, Joan is a great foil to an entire company full of their nonsense. As the mother of a millennial, I enjoyed the gentle joshing. But if you are 20 and work at Google, you may not. Underlying all the thought-provoking questions bothering Joan, this is a book for women. Joan does find romance at Bloom—and with a younger man. She also finds empowerment in taking control of her own life. 4.5 stars!
Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
I adored Imaginary Corpse! It is an inventive take on a noir private investigator plot using a fantasy setting.
The Stillreal is where ideas that are too real go when their creator abruptly sends them away. Tippy is a stuffed dinosaur who solves crime in the Stillreal. However, even he is perplexed when Spindleman is beaten to “death” by The Man in the Coat. The problem is ideas can’t be killed in Stillreal, they quickly regenerate. When Spindleman doesn’t, Tippy must investigate.
Wow, I love this clever book! I admit I requested this book more for curiosity than for a great plot. I was surprised by the author’s ability to suspend my initial skepticism by chapter two.
All the noir details are here. Tippy has a root beer problem and drinks it out of a flask. He reads Encyclopedia Brown, the real children’s detective series that started my love of mysteries. Despite being a stuffed dinosaur, Tippy is a fully fleshed-out character haunted by his person’s rejection of him and the rain that caused that rejection.
Setting it in an It’s a Small World-level childhood dream is a brilliant counterpoint to the usually depressing noir world. Who doesn’t love the concept that beloved ideas live elsewhere after their creators abandon them?
Don’t worry that the Imaginary Corpse will be too kitschy. It will suck you into its universe quickly. If you have read one too many standard mysteries or noirs and feel like a palate cleanser, please take a chance on this book. You won’t be sorry. 5 stars and one of my favorite books of 2019!
Thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
An outer space fungus wakes up due to global warming and attempts world takeover. It reads like a cheesy b-movie script and that’s a compliment. Even the characters in Cold Storage seem to be in on the joke.
“What are you, all science-y and shit?”
It takes some time to realize that the author’s tongue is very firmly in his cheek. Once you do, Cold Storage makes for a fun comic read. 4 stars!
Thanks to Ecco Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Mittens is a typical cat. He has a healthy obsession with boxes and shampoo caps. His girlfriend, Fiona, thinks he is romantic when he suggests her coming up to his cat condo to rub their faces on an old sock together. He suspects his (human) mother is hanging out with her “sketchy raccoon gang friends”. Mittens helpfully suggests boyfriends for her on an online dating website, “How about Jeff? He owns a seafood shop! Great catch! LOL.” His best friend, tomcat and playa Stumpy, may be involved with a catnip trafficking ring. Overall, Mittens is just your typical house kitty…who texts.
While only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, Texts from Mittens is cute. Many of Mittens’ obsessions will be familiar to cat owners. Garfield fans will recognize Mittens disbelief at the absurdity of roommate, and “filthy hound” Earl, who carries sticks for no reason. This book would make a good gift for the “crazy cat lady” in your life. 4 stars!
Thank you to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
You know that something is wrong when your mo-fo’s (aka human’s) eye falls out of his head and he isn’t concerned. So begins the totally original post-apocalyptic tale of the Hollow Kingdom.
S.T. is a pet crow. His mo-fo, Big Jim, is sick and won’t stop poking his finger at the wall. Eventually, Big Jim gets hungry for a live dinner forcing S.T. to leave home with Dennis, his none-to-smart bloodhound brother. As S.T. and Dennis search for a cure for Big Jim’s illness, they encounter both domestic animals and zoo escapees.
Filled with both humor and pathos, Hollow Kingdom is a unique post-apocalyptic tale. This must be the only book written from the point of view of a domesticated crow. It is strongly recommended for anyone looking for something different to read. 4 stars!
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
In the Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Nina is a book lover, a list manic, a cat owner, an introvert, and a nerdy trivia player. Nina is also me! (if I was a Millennial of course).
Nina loves her quiet, well-ordered life working in a bookstore, serving her cat Phil, playing on a pub trivia team, and above all losing herself in books. When she finds herself with a new large extended family after her unknown father’s death, her world threatens to teeter into disorder (or what OCD’ish Nina calls chaos).
While that is the plot in a nutshell, the heart’s blood of the Bookish Life of Nina Hill is Nina herself. All “bookworms” like myself will feel an immediate kinship to Nina. She’s adorable! While outwardly an introvert, Nina’s thoughts are full of snarky side eyes at the people surrounding her and pop/literary references like a book-reading Bart Simpson. Even with her love of her second favorite 19th century novel, Pride and Prejudice, Nina still is of the current century. She is a member of many clubs that sound like they came straight out of the nerdy section of the Meetup app.
Anyone who is female and likes to read will see themselves in Nina and truly enjoy this book. How can a reader not love a book that starts out with a quote from Sally Brown from Peanuts waxing poetic about library cards! It is highly recommended. I loved it and didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!
While I received an advanced review copy from Berkley Books and Edelweiss+ in exchange for my honest review, I also bought it on audio. The narrator, Emily Rankin, is exceptional and improved this already great book. I wish I could give it an extra star in audible form.
Greer is a self-described “dumb teenager” at the mature age of fifteen. In the Last of Will, she breaks the fourth wall by asking “I still can’t fathom how you got in here to watch this train wreck unfold. Seriously, I don’t recall sending out invitations. But since you’re here, try and keep up.”
Greer’s father Will is newly unemployed from his long-time accountancy position. Good thing Greer’s mother still has income from her florist shop. However, money is tight. When Will’s unemployment is about to run out, he impulsively gets a job as a gravedigger, which was a job he held in college. His first job is to carry a man’s ashes home to his family beginning the crazy road trip with Greer, which is the center of this novel.
Greer is the perfect teenager: sarcastic, witty, somewhat manipulative, who overthinks every event and decision within her life. Greer is us all—either now, soon, or in the past. Reading her story was laugh-out-loud funny in spots and heart-breaking in others.
Here is Greer’s assessment of world history, “I mean, yeah, some vaguely interesting stuff happened along the centuries, but all I remember after a chapter is that most wars are about land or religion, most geniuses come off as initially crazy, and most conquerors are shorter than you’d expect.” A succinct explanation of both history and Game of Thrones!
If you think the two quotes above are funny, then you will enjoy this teen/young adult’s journey across the country. 4 stars!
Thanks to Black Chateau and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Everyone has heard of the country club lifestyle enjoyed by the rich prisoners at Club Fed, or federal prison. Whether you are just tired of your 9 to 5 life or trying to avoid a vindictive ex-spouse, sometimes you just want to know How to Become a Federal Criminal.
From literally killing a mockingbird to offering to barter for a flamingo, federal law has some strange laws on the books. Some are profit-making activities for the government. The US seizes billions of dollars each year from foreign nationalists traveling to the US with more than $10,000 who fail to complete the proper form. A little more enforcement of this law could make President Trump’s border wall a reality. Some are just silly like the prohibition of dressing like a mail carrier on Halloween (or any day). Not the first choice of costume with so many superhero movies out now though it does add a frission of fear knowing it is illegal. And don’t get me started on the legal issues with margarine…
How to Become a Federal Criminal appears to be fairly easy and reading about it is entertaining. With three square meals, room, and board, it sounds like I have a new retirement plan that doesn’t involve a 401(k)! If you like to reflect on life’s absurdities, this is the perfect book for you. With the lack of legislation during Trump’s term so far, it can even be used by him to support his claim to be the best president ever. At least his congress hasn’t created a law making it illegal to create a wine bottle label that insults another wine. 4 stars!
Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The next time you upgrade a perfectly good phone because of a rebate that is denied two months later, don’t feel bad. Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up will introduce you to much worse human errors in judgment.
We celebrated when our hunter-gatherer ancestors started farming. Wrong! That practice started class divisiveness and wars over land.
We romanticized the middle-class Shakespeare fan who brought Henry IV’s starlings to New York City. Wrong! The starlings ate our crops and spread disease like salmonella coast to coast. The starlings’ kinsfolk also killed 62 air travelers in 1960 while forcing a plane to crash land.
There are many more examples of unintended consequences here. If you enjoy irony, Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up is a gem. It also explains history with an eye to the human factor. Disneyland’s Cinderella’s castle is based on a Bavarian castle created by theatrical set designers at Mad King (really just homosexual) Ludwig’s behest as a tourist attraction. It is ironic that it worked for current and olden day Bavarian sightseers but also for copycat Disney. Killing Ludwig after he had built only three castles was the gaffe here.
Other reviewers characterize this book as funny and depressing. However, I think it is empowering knowing that everyone makes mistakes. 4 stars!
Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In Soul Remains, the hapless and unlucky accountant, Sloot, is still trying to save his beloved city, Salzstadt, from everything bad. Everything bad now includes the walking dead and goblin multitudes plus the increasingly bizarre inability of city residents to see that anything is wrong.
You can’t keep Sloot down. Though he was killed at the end of the previous book in this series, he is back as a ghost. That doesn’t stop Sloot from being just as willing (and unfortunately incompetent) to save his city and the Dominator, long may he reign. The Dominator, in the meantime, has disappeared.
Readers will either laugh along with the puns and humor here and have a great time…or not. The best way to tell is by determining if you think Monty Python and/or A Fish Called Wanda is laugh-out-loud funny. If so, you will enjoy this deep dive into the creatively weird world of Sloot and the Old Country as much as I did. Soul Remains is highly recommended to those who enjoy something completely different. 4 stars!
Thanks to Black Spot Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.