I recently purchased three moderately priced fountain pens from the Goulet website. Each of them was under $30. Here are my reviews:
I filled the Lamy All Black Safari with Colorverse Anti-matter ink. From the Goulet website, “The LAMY Safari is a workhorse pen, known throughout the fountain pen community for its ruggedness, reliability, and no-nonsense functionality. The triangular grip makes it great for those starting out who have no idea how to hold a fountain pen, but it’s used and loved by fountain pen lovers of all levels of experience.” Overall, I tend to disagree. This pen looks sleek, but that is where the appeal ends for me. The medium nib wrote sloppy and uneven, it felt more like a ballpoint. I was frustrated after penning just a few lines. It is light weight (too light) and feels like a pen the waitress at Denny’s handed me to sign for the bill. The packaging is just a little better than a Bic pen you can buy at Walgreens. In my opinion, it is an inadequate fountain pen experience.
I filled the Nemosine Singularity with Diamine Onyx Black ink. The Nemosine packaging is quite nice for a pen at this price. I have seen lessor packaging with significantly more expensive pens. Per the Goulet website, the “Nemosine Singularity fountain pen features a clear translucent demonstrator resin body and cap with black trim. It has a lightweight plastic body and grip, a threaded screw cap which pushes to post, and a silver iridium-tipped German made #6 steel nib.” I purchased this one with the extra-fine nib. I tend to prefer a medium nib; however, I’ve become a little frustrated with absorption and bleed-through on cheap paper (especially at work where they buy the cheapest paper imaginable). The extra-fine nib will certainly help me overcome this frustration. The pen writes very smooth. It is lightweight and stylish. I generally lean toward demonstrator pens, but this one genuinely provided a nice fountain pen experience.
I filled the Monteverde Monza with Monteverde Moonstone ink. From the Goulet website, “This Monteverde Monza fountain pen features a translucent clear resin body with chrome accents and a #5 steel nib. Best of all, this pen comes with three different nibs – fine, medium, and omniflex – each with their own nib unit, grip, and converter for ease of swapping.” I used the flex nib to start, because I had never used a flex and I was curious. It wrote smooth, but I didn’t get the line variations I had expected. Perhaps I just need more practice. The multiple tips are definitely an appeal if you want to try different things and don’t want to maintain multiple pens. Of course, I already have multiple pens and that is part of the fun. All that said, I wasn’t very impressed with the Monza or the omniflex nib.
All three of these pens are decent entry-level fountain pens. Of the three, I would definitely recommend the Nemosine Singularity. It is sleek and stylish. It is also comparable to the Pilot Heritage 92 but at a fraction of the price. If you are willing to go without a gold nib, then you can’t go wrong.
A grisly murder opened old wounds for attorney John Coleman, the narrator and main character of Michael Jordan’s debut novel, The Company of Demons. The demons surrounding him were both literal and figurative. John’s subconscious motivation to find the psychopath and vindicate his father was compelling. I cared about John even though I didn’t always like him. I had genuine empathy for his circumstances, but I also wanted to slap him around at times for being such a stupid bastard. The complexity of that emotional connection made him very real to me. Sometimes the narrator was almost too honest, too revealing. All his sins and flaws were fully exposed for the reader, but to no one else. This was a narrator I trusted, but a character that probably shouldn’t be trusted.
The pacing in the early chapters was a little slow, but the story was enticing enough to keep me reading. It really starts to pick up about 100 pages in, and then it doesn’t let off. Jordan’s control of time was skillful and disciplined. The story unfolds linearly, almost in real-time, with very few gaps, and even fewer lengthy flashbacks. The time compression before and during the trial was a little jarring at first, but ultimately necessary.
I initially had some concerns about the limitations of a first-person narrator, but Jordan was adept at putting the narrator in the right place at the right time without being heavy-handed. Jordan also created a strong supporting cast to provide alternate perspectives through dialogue, without relying solely on exposition. The portrayal of the wife and sister-in-law was a little one-dimensional and tiring at times, but given the circumstances of the interactions, perhaps that was deliberate and justified realism.
Jordan’s story is packed with suspense and plot twists. You know it’s a good story when you start reading slower toward the end, knowing there are only a few pages to go, and still wanting the story to continue. It’s always bittersweet to say farewell to characters you have started to really know and understand.
The Company of Demons is really two books in one: A serial killer thriller and a Grisham-esque courtroom drama. If you like either of those, you can’t go wrong with Jordan’s debut. I’ve been shying away from my Kindle; I realized I missed holding an actual book in my hand. The print version of the novel did not disappoint. The simplicity of the cover is what originally caught my attention on Twitter; it is even better in person. The overall design and printing are quite nice as well.
Follow Michael Jordan on Twitter @mjordanauthor and check out his website.
I served on a submarine for several years. There isn’t much room for books on a submarine—the library was a drawer with maybe 20 tattered trade paperbacks—and, this was the pre-Kindle world. So, when we were at sea we told each other sea stories to pass the time. Some of the stories were personal (hellishly exaggerated childhood stories) and some were retellings of stories we had read. A friend once told me the story of Sandman over the course of many days at sea. Each day he picked up exactly where he had left off the day before. He described the images and captions and wove the story for me. Death was my favorite character before I even saw her depiction in the comic, but he explained every detail of her with stunning accuracy. When I eventually collected the comics for myself, I was thrilled that I was already a fan of the author; I had read (and loved) Neil’s Don’t Panic a few years before.
Neil challenged my imagination during those many days at sea. He inspired me to pick up a pencil and write. I had scribbled stories and poems in grade school, but never with much purpose or conviction. Neil made me realize I wanted to be a writer and tell stories like he did. I wanted to write stories that other people would want to retell.
Now, Neil is everywhere. He has a show on television (American Gods), a show on the radio (Anansi Boys), he has a film or two in production. He has countless books. And comics. His advice on writing and craft is sage. His generosity is endless. His contributions to the arts seem to have no bounds.
To this day, every time I see him or hear him, I am reminded to just keep writing, to just keep creating. Write. Finish things. Keep writing. I keep the message as my wallpaper, my daily inspiration.
I encourage everyone to read his books, give his books as gifts (there are ones for children, and adults, and adults that want to be children), and follow his twitter feed. Listen to him read The Raven or A Christmas Carol. Support PEN American and UNHCR, and any other cause Neil supports. Let him inspire you to do more, to be better this year.
Neil’s tweet for the new year 2018:
We love you too, Neil. Keep doing what you do.
My creed for 2017 was “Wake up. Try not to suck.” I was moderately successful. Some random musings for the year:
- My life is so much better now that I stopped watching The Walking
- I discovered the novels Denis Johnson and Jennifer Egan. I don’t know what took me so long.
- I may add “Bat Wrangler” to my resume. See Flying Vermin if you are curious.
- I attended 5 concerts, the best of which was either Blue October or Sammy Hagar. I change my mind every time I think about them.
- I watched Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones, and Peaky Blinders, but my favorite binge series was The Punisher.
- I decided that Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber is probably the best piece of music ever composed.
- I published a few stories and poems; one was even nominated for Best of the Net.
- I grew a beard for the first time in my life.
- Looking forward to 2018, especially with the new venture at Genre2.
- Official creed for 2018: Drink coffee and be awesome.
- Unofficial creed for 2018: Just write the fucking story.
Veterans deserve more than a day. This month is dedicated to Veteran Authors. Buy their books! Post reviews! Support veterans!
Rajani Chronicles I: Stone Soldiers, Brian S. Converse
“The day was gray as the rain fell softly in downtown Detroit. It was a spring rain, meant to wash away the snow, blackened from passing cars, which still clogged the gutters and sidewalks; yet it only succeeded in giving the day a feeling a melancholy for all those who bore witness to the tragic scene laid out before them.”
To be fair, I typically cringe at descriptions of weather in the opening line, but I enjoyed the way the scene was set in the second line and the way it gradually transitioned me into some ominous present action. I enjoy a good tragedy. I also like the word “melancholy.”
Secrets Revealed, Willis Bullard
“My last official act while still in the military was working under assumed identity trying to retrieve information from a usually friendly country on a group of terrorists that were planning to conduct an attack against a significant embassy in Germany. I was working with the State Department in conjunction with agents from the CIA conducting an investigation on possible espionage activity within the embassy.”
This sounds like the plot for the next season of Homeland, so it scares me just a little that this is non-fiction. Non-fiction as in, this shit is real. I love the last line of the prologue, “Buckle up… this gets bumpy.”
The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
This is one of my all-time favorite opening lines. Salinger was drafted into the Army, landed on Utah Beach, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Oh, and he met Hemingway while he was over there. Hemingway said he had “a helluva talent.” I tend to agree.
Veterans deserve more than a day. They also deserve more than one sentence. This month is dedicated to Veteran Authors. Buy their books! Post reviews! Support veterans!
Bishop’s War (Bishop Series Book 1), Rafael Hines
“Hours before the deadly desert sun rose above the low hills in the east, Clayton Unser walked over to one of the Valdez prison guard to ask a few questions. The moon had been full, bright enough to cast shadows, and the guard wore NVG’s (Night Vision Goggles), but Clayton made sure the man heard him coming. No reason to startle anyone in the dark when they’re holding an AR-15 assault rifle and wearing a .45 Colt Commander in a hip-holster. Clayton raised his hands palms up as a sign of reassurance, not surrender, and to make it an easy reach for the 9mm Glock 17 in his shoulder rig in case things got dicey.”
I immediately sense that Clayton is a bad-ass. If I ever need a bodyguard, I will look for someone exactly like Clayton. I may even pay him more if he will let me call him Clayton. Clayton has some skills that you can’t learn in books. Clayton is cool. Clayton is also someone I don’t ever want to anger.
The Vampire of Rome, Lincoln Farish
“Waking up on the scratchy, bare concrete floor of an underground cell beneath the Vatican in a puddle of my own saliva wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to me that day. Father Guillermo was the nicest torturer one could ever imagine.”
What could possibly be worse than waking up in a cell? In the Vatican? In a puddle of spit? Oh… torture. Got it. This is book four of the Inquisitor Series. If you haven’t already met Brother Sebastian, you need to fix that. Check out my full review of Book One.
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
“First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack.”
I couldn’t resist including the quintessential veteran story here. I expect that most people have read it, at least the first chapter. If you have not read it, or if you have only read the first chapter, then you should probably fix that too.
My 3rd annual Veterans’ charity promotion begins November 1. As in the past, 100% of all book proceeds will be donated to organizations that support veterans and their families. This year I have chosen to divide the proceeds between the following organizations:
Throughout the month, I will be posting Flash Reviews of books written by fellow veterans. Please support these and other veteran authors out there!