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Nightwise By R.S. Belcher

It’s been a few years since I read the last Weird Wild West book that was written by R.S. Belcher and needless to say I’ve been “jonesing” for more of tales from the Weird Wild West. So like any “junkie” that’s thirsty I reached for the next best thing for my literary “high” from Mr. Belcher. It’s like thinking that you settled for a whole bag of questionable bathtub meth and ended up with a bag of premium Peruvian blow … at bathtub meth prices. Meet Nightwise. But before I continue rambling on with drug metaphors that would most likely put me on certain law enforcement radars … I think it would be best if I just shut up with the bollocks and move on with the bloody book review. Yeah? Why not.

Nightwise takes place in the current world where magic, sorcery, necromancy, and alchemy goes by side by side with technology. Or as those immersed in it would call it … The Life. And we’re not talking about that Harry Potter, hocus-pocus-dysfunctim-erectus bollocks. Oh no, no, NO. This is the kind of magic that bring stuff that goes bump in the night into your room as you sleep at night while it sits on you and decides what to do with daft mortal that felt that they could mess with the unknown. Laytham Ballard is one such, immersed in The Life, known as a wizard (though he may correct you and say the actual term is Wisdom). He is Mickey Spillane meets Constantine meets Nathan Drake (from Uncharted … aye, I’m a gamer) meets Tyler Durden. Yes, your typical anti-hero. When a deathbed promise, to a dying friend, puts him on the trail of Dusan Slorzack (Serbian war criminal extraordinaire) the shit basically hits the fan (and quite early in the book). The problem with Slorzack is that he can’t be found on earth. All traces of him has vanished from the digital and magical databases. Even the Devil can’t find him, and Dusan owes him his dues. Needless to say, Dusan is into some really scary stuff that would make every who has ever bitched about Harry Potter books reconsider their perspective. Though Laytham is quite the solo act, he has no other choice but to team up with an usual bunch: magical hackers, a fetish model, a transgender Australian shaman, a Japanese gun master and Templar truckers (more on that … in another book). And it is good thing, since he’s up against vicious invisible hellhounds, backstabbing necromancers/summoners, magical boobytraps, scary god-like creatures, and bankers (yes, you are reading right). And in this world filled with magical ley-lines and other such bollocks it is hard divine who is trustworthy and who is not, and people are sometimes more than what they seem.

Written in first person (Laytham’s) perspective, Belcher does not hold back and it is quite THE ride. Along with acidic and dark humour, Laytham is the kind of chap that we can hate but still root for. And though this book is fiction (at least I’m really hoping it is) let’s just say I wouldn’t be picking up any white Bic lighters I find lying around especially in restrooms (trust me on this … it’s in the book). For those that miss Belcher’s Weird Wild West writings … fear not, he’s brought us into the 21st century and what a blast is … all the way down to the last page. Might not want to look too closely and ponder about certain symbols on your US dollar bills if you care about sleeping well at night after reading this book. And the silver lining about this is that … it is the first book in a series. Yes, we are not completely done with Mr. Ballard. Jolly good show, Mr. Belcher. Jolly good show.

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Ever since reading My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Mr. Hendrix has struck a chord in my mind. So as I was going through the list of books to select to purchase for my branch, I came across We Sold Our Souls. Needless to say, I gave it the green light because I am curious to see what delightful ditties this bloke is offering up in this new yarn. Spoiler alert: he did not disappoint. But enough with pleasantries and usual bollocks, and let’s get on with it. Yeah?

All Kris Pulaski ever wanted to do was to play good rock music. Fame and riches were all extras. So back in the 90s (ah yes … flannel, grunge rock, Tamagochi pets, dial-up AOL internet), she was part of ragtag metal band called Dürt Würk and she was living her dream. Then along the way, she and lead singer, Terry Hunt, combined talent and wrote a masterpiece called Troglodyte. And then the shit (slightly) hit the fan. Terry Hunt along with their manager, Rob Anthony, pulled the rug from under the enter party by buying out the rights to Dürt Würk’s music and contracting out all the other members of the band. It was the night (known as Contract Night) that Dürt Würk died and Koffin was born. The funny thing about that is that there is a lot of missing pieces and hours about what happened that night Kris and most of the members of the group can’t seem to recall. So now Kris spends her days at a reception desk at the local Westin Inn as she constantly tangles with the one guest that likes to stroll around, during the early morning hours, naked with a paper bag over his head and urinating in the lobby. How the far the mighty has fallen, since Kris can no longer play rock music since the “contract” forbids her from playing Dürt Würk-type music (translation: she is forbidden to make a living playing rock music). And then Koffin announces its major tour, which not only irritates the hell out of Kris but forces her to reunite with the remaining (exiled) members of Dürt Würk. And then the shit really hits the fan … and things get darker. And for some of us, switching on the lights might be in order. There are murderous assassins driving around in UPS trucks, brainwashing spas, traitorous fans, some otherworldly hellish creatures (which might include the manager) haunting the night, and a conspiracy that is spawned from the depths of Hell itself (literally). On second thought some of these creatures might be from Hell (feel free to imagine Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden screaming this word for a better visual). And all are clamouring to get between Kris and her vengeful mission against Terry Hunt and his new band, Koffin.

Hendrix’s Souls is possibly one of his darkest to boot with enough hibby-jibbies to go around possibly till the next major election. Of course, there is a bit of (deserving) commentary on the late 90s “nu-metal” scene. Yes, we all remember that pile of buggering bollocks (though try as we may to forget it). Aye, as grunge faded into the horizon along came that hybrid abomination of rap and rock merged into (and I vomit into my mouth as I write this) nu-metal. Of course, back then the wanks that touted this rap-rock/nu-metal crap as “new” and “happening” forgot that folks like Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone (to name a few) had already pioneered that “hybrid” minus the constant whining about not getting laid and other such bollocks. Oh there, there. I think I’ve detoured a wee bit. Souls waste very little effort in sinking its claws into you and drawing you in, and then you find yourself in for quite a ride. And what a ride it is as you get towards the end. The ending reminds of scene from an obscure 80s, heavy-metal themed, adult, animated movie (from Canada,of all places) named Rock and Rule (check it out on Youtube and it features voices of Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop). It may not be your cup of tea, but back in Guyana, there was only one channel on the telly and this was on. So there. Funny thing about Souls is that I kept picturing Joan Jett in the role of Kris Pulaski. Don’t know why … though I might have to do with the fact that Joan Jett played a receptionist at a motel (or was it a bartender???) in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Big Driver. Who knows, my brain is weird like that … but I love it. And I know it sounds strange to say but Souls feels like another heavy metal love letter to those of us who miss those days of flannel, spandex, leather and denim. And you can tell by the fact that Hendrix does this quirky thing of naming the chapters in his book with titles of various metal tracks (though there is no chapter with the title “Ride The Lightning”). Good show, Mr. Hendrix. Jolly good show, mate.

Running title: The Angry Chef’s Guide To Spotting Bullshit In The World Of Food – Bad Science And The Truth About Healthy Eating.

There is something that is darkly appealing about a book with scatological epithets (bad words) in the title. Even more this was one of those books that beckoned to me with a Marilyn Monroe-ish voice … er,maybe I should not have said that out loud (and I really need to get out more). So I gave in …to a book about food and healthy eating (and it wasn’t a slow month). But enough with the bollocks and let’s be on with it. Yeah?
Anthony Warner is a professional chef, blogger … and oh yes, has a degree in biochemistry and has been known to write for the likes of New Scientist. That’s some serious cred.
In Spotting Bullshit, Mr. Warner sets out to pretty much hack away at the noise in the health food industry that is generated by mostly bloggers, Instagramers and celebrities. It is a literary bloodbath. I’ve never been too keen on diets and other such bunk, I’ve always been the type to eat anything … but in moderation (or at least I try to). And for awhile I’ve always felt like an odd duck. Sure I’d come across ton of books on detox diets and diet du jours and I’ve never felt inclined to try any of them. As a matter of fact I’ve looked at some smoothie books and after a quick calculation as to how much raw materials would cost to make ONE smoothie, I decided against it and those books never made it into my house. What makes Spotting Bullshit works is that it is not just some chap spouting opinionated, vague trendy info (as most health bloggers seemingly do). There is a lot of scientific facts presented along with some good old fashioned common sense discourse … with a bit of acidic language tossed in, which only adds to its character. It does gets a wee bit technical (on occasion) but it is kept to digestible amounts for most people. For those that are addicted to health blogging sites, this book just might be your literary detox (though ironically detox shows up as a very dirty word in this book … and for good reason). There are things that are excerpted, in this book, from some of these health blogging websites that are downright hilarious … and then you realize that this stuff might actually be hurting people too. Certain celebrity bloggers did not fare well in this book and for good reason due to some of the things they’ve put out there: such as claiming that coconut oil is so bloody healthy that not only can it be eaten by the spoonfuls but also serves as a great mouthwash and sexual lubricant (preferably separately, we all hope). Yes, I kid you not. The book even shows how rigid diet du jours such as the Atkins diet and the Paleo diet along with really bad pseudoscience can weave itself into people’s psyche where the need to stay “healthy” overwrites all logic and circumstance. One of the most stunning examples: a patient in a hospice refusing to help themselves to some buttered croissants for fear that the carbs would feed the cancer cell growth.Translation: someone in a terminal situation as in point of no return as in facing death in the immediate future … is still worrying about carbs instead of enjoying a bit of fleeting indulgence. Sad. Troubling.
For most people Spotting Bullshit would most likely be a confirmation of what they’ve all suspected all along but got so caught up with being “trending” that somewhere along the way they got sidetracked. Spotting Bullshit makes a harsh revelation about the so called health food industry (hint: has little to do with your health and more about your money). Most of all it is an encouragement to simply … enjoy food. Without all the strange rules. And in moderation. Period.


Running Title: Touching The Dragon And Other Techniques For Surviving Life Wars,
Co-author: Christian D’ Andrea

This is one of those books that basically beckoned to me in the New Arrival section. I suspect one of my mates in Central Purchasing brought this knowing my taste in books. I was ready to take a break from the “Special Ops memoirs” but my curiosity got the best of me and that was that. Needless to say, this was a good read that I could not put down. Dragon is written in several parts but the book overall is really broken down into two stages: Hatch’s first battle during his tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and the second battle during his recovery from his battle wounds. It is a sobering and touching read. Mr. Hatch does not mind matters as he removes all the layers and puts it all out there … vulnerabilities and all. Some things stay with you such as the story with the woman and the shoelaces in Bosnia which basically shakes a rebuking finger at the current social atmosphere. And no, I’m not going to tell you the story for it is something to be read (and “experienced”). A lot of it was recapping his life and experiences during his 25 years in the SEALs. Bloody hell, twenty five years. But a significant part of the book chronicled his years recovering from his wounds and returning back to the civilized world (or something like it).
Like most military memoirs that seem to be centered around a certain person but always turns out to be a tribute to others, Dragon was no different and maybe this is why I am drawn to military memoirs. As Mr. Hatch goes through his journey of doubt, self-pity and anger during these early years of recovery, it took some strange “heroes” that came forward to put him back on the right path. And there are many of these stories littered throughout the book … all inspiring stories: a rape survivor, a machine gunner that survived a direct blast from an IED, some quilt makers from Montana, a 10 year old Girl Scout and Gabby Giffords. Dragon also introduces us to Mr. Hatch’s experience with military working dogs, four-legged heroes that don’t often make the news but put their lives on the line in service of this country and in some cases are probably responsible for a lot of our men and women returning home safely at a great sacrifice on their part. In his tribute to service dogs Hatch has started a foundation in memory of the dogs he served with in Afghanistan (www.spikesk9fund.org).
And then there is the Fly Fisherman, a fellow Navy SEAL. Throughout the book this individual’s name is never mentioned and is only referred to as the Fly Fisherman. And with great admiration. During the emotional rollercoaster of his recovery, the Fly Fisherman is seemingly a beacon and an anchor in Hatch’s life. I’ve never met this chap but I am envious of this friendship. In the end of the book, Hatch gets to pay tribute to the Fisherman in the most heartwarming and delightful way that would keep most readers feeling a bit fuzzy (and maybe misty eyed … or so I imagine). And probably wishing to meet the Fly Fisherman.
Truly touching, Hatch’s admiration for those military and non-military that brought him through his darkest hours is humbling, heartwarming, and somewhat enlightening. The fact that he still struggles with the “hero” title but willingly attaches this title to the people that he encountered, inspired him during his dark days is very noble of him (truly one of the best of us all). Or as I would say back home, good show Mr. Hatch, jolly good show.
And even though it has been said ad nauseum, I’ll never tire in saying it: thank you Mr. Hatch for your service and sharing a bit of your life with us.It is really inspiring stuff. God Bless you and yours, mate.


Running title: Army of None – Autonomous Weapons And The Future of War.

Several years ago, I wrote a review for P.W. Singer’s Wired For War: a book that talked about the growing use of robots in the military. In the 80s, movies such as Short Circuit (Johnny 5 alive !!!) and the Terminator was among many factors that drove me in the arms of undergraduate engineering academia. And though I don’t work in the field, like a really great ex-wife, the interest still remains (just don’t mention that to my librarian career … she can be vicious). So, needless to say, when I discovered that this book was sitting on the (library) shelves, I homed in on it like a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone (yeah, I couldn’t help myself … and yes, I need to go out more). But enough of the bollocks and be on with it, yeah.

Drones have come a long way since their debut in the military. They’ve practically infiltrated many facets of society which, in some cases, seem odd but over the years have become one of those “what-would-we-do-without” moments. From aerial shots/videos in real estate listings and weddings to research to the occasional tosser out there that wants to watch female neighbours undress (yes, grade A wanks have been caught doing this … sad commentary there). Drones, love them or hate them, have become that the tool that we’ve always wanted but never knew. Written by Paul Scharre, a former Army ranger that served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, None is a well-researched and informative piece about what is quite active and what’s on the horizon in military automatons. And some of it is possibly , downright scary. Are we talking Skynet? Not quite, and as we speak there is still some reluctance in folks to commit Artifical Intelligence (AI) onto some decent and lethal weapons system (with no human interaction) and expect something “good” will happen. An even scary revelation about this is that America isn’t the only person with the cool “toys” on the battlefield, for there are now over 16 nations that employ robotic weaponry in their military. And to make you sleep even more soundly at night: they are finding themselves in hands of groups like ISIS and Hezbollah though not as sophisticated as those in the US military. But … still. Though based around military uses, the book explores the development of non-weaponized autonomous machines such as self-driving cars, etc. Apparently, we are in a sort of an AI development race. Interesting terms that’ll be added to your mental database: supervised autonomy and loitering munitions. Currently weapon systems that exist today and categorized as autonomous are actually a supervised autonomy (i.e. there is human that is still in the loop when using these systems). Unlike nuclear weapons, it is refreshing to see that there is a lot of thought going into developing and using fully automated, AI controlled systems and not usher in the age of SkyNet. Oh well, there goes my hopes of running off into the desert with Linda Hamilton. Of course it only takes one person to open that Pandora’s box and drink from that forbidden fount … and before you know it … SkyNet (and desert living with Linda, fingers crossed).
Like Wired For War, Army of None is informative and yes, a very cautionary about the use of autonomous military vehicles, but riveting and eye opening to the wonderful and promising non-military applications. Makes you wonder what the world would have been like if someone had spent the time writing about nuclear energy with the same passion of Singer or Scharre. BTW, as I always like to take the time and extend a bit of salutations to authors that have served in uniform and so I say to Mr. Scharre, thank you for your service and God Bless you and yours, mate.


Bone Music is centered around Charlotte Rowe. What can we say about Ms. Rowe? She’s had a strange life and it only gets stranger as the book goes on (p.s. the “stranger” thing might be the biggest understatement … ever). Born Trinia Pierce, stuck on the road during a rainy night, her mother had the misfortune of crossing paths with a husband and wife serial killing team (Abigail and Daniel Bannings). No surprise, the mother was murdered … but Trinia was spared. Now before you start getting all weepy and calling the Bannings “serial killers with a heart of gold” … let’s not. Turns out that they were at odds with killing an infant, though they had no problem with raping and killing women. So in some sick way they had adopted her and decided to raise her in their “ways”. Daniel raped the victims, Abigail cut their throats, and an unwitting Trinia operated a home-built incinerator that burned away their existence. Fate intervened eventually and Trinia was freed from their clutches as the FBI had closed in on them. With the Bannings in prison and Trinia back with her father (her surviving parent), one would think that all’s well. Not quite. Trinia’s dad decides to make some money off of his daughter’s trauma by selling her story to movie studios which in turn makes some slasher sequels. Along with that, they travel around the country on speaking engagements and … encountering a stalker fan named Jason Briffel. On top of it all, she’s being bullied at school by a tosser named Luke Prescott who gives her the nickname “the burning girl”. Rosy adolescence it is not. She eventually moves on, after school, separated from her father, and changes her name to Charlotte Rowe. Eventually she finds a therapist named Dylan … and the healing begins. Um … not quite. Somewhere along the way, Dylan “prescribes” some pills to Charlotte to help her “stabilize”. On the very day she starts taking the pills she returns home only to find Jason (stalker) waiting for her, with some possible dark deeds in mind (let’s just say he’s not planning on having tea and crumpets as they discuss current events). Unfortunately for him, the strange pill that was prescribed by her therapist (Dylan) did more than stabilize her … it bloody unearthed her inner She-Hulk. Needless to say, it did not go well for Mr. Briffel. On her way out of town, she’s run off the road by a local (the fictional town of Altamira, California) meth dealing outlaw biker crew, who, marinating in alpha-male bollocks, decides to exert themselves on this “lonely” girl. Alas, they learn the hard way, and in the most vicious fashion. Confused by the turn of events Charlotte turns to the only person she can trust … Dylan … only to find that Dylan may be more than he appears to be. Apparently a former Navy SEAL with degrees in biochemistry and neuroscience … that worked for a giant pharmaceutical and tech company (Graydon Pharmaceuticals)… that may have engaged in some dodgy research. And just when Charlotte’s feeling betrayed and torn … a new sheriff comes to town. Luke Prescott … the wanker that bullied her in high school. To make things worse, Graydon found out about Charlotte’ s abilities … and they have a very, vested interest in her. Oh yes, there is a new serial killer in town known as the Mask Maker and he’s gotten Charlotte’s interest. Along with a motley crew consisting of a wise-cracking but tactically sharp uncle Marty, Luke Prescott and his brother Bailey (hacker extraordinaire), Charlotte finds her life hurtling down a turbulent, vicious wormhole as she navigates the shenanigans of Dylan and Graydon, zeroing in on the Mask Maker like the avenging angel she’s become.
Mr. Rice has written many books, but this the first one I’ve ever read (aside from his collaboration with his mum on Ramses). For some reason this book resurrects Stephen King’s Firestarter in my mind. Company experiments, female girl endowed with abilities, shadowy folks, and even more interesting … they are both referred to as Charley. Yes, I know King’s version involves Drew Barrymore burning stuff with her mind along with a great Tangerine Dream soundtrack (yes, nerd cred and … possible loss of marriage prospects … what’s new). Grips you from the beginning and keeps you riveted in what seems to be literary version of Fast and Furious chase scene … throughout the bloody book. And you never want it to end … which, unfortunately, it does. Though I must note the book is noted as “A Burning Girl Thriller” … which could possibly signify that Mr. Rice is not completely (and thankfully) done with Charlotte Rowe. To quote Martha Stewart: this is a good thing. Good show, Mr. Rice. Good show. Just don’t keep us waiting (like a certain author of certain popular show on HBO … yeah, I’m calling you out, Mr. Martin).


The first time I read Anne Rice’s The Mummy, it was more than a decade ago and way before I started this blog. Sure, since then they have made several movies with the same title (yes, the Brendan Fraser movies were great, but the last one with Tom Cruise … let’s just say that someone owes me the life of their firstborn, the deed to their houses or for the most, about 11 quid … I can negotiate). I’ve detoured a wee bit.

Ramses continues from where The Mummy ended (now this is the part where folks who’ve never read The Mummy should feel free to exit … because it is spoilers from this point … for The Mummy, that is). If you’ve read The Mummy or you’re very cool with spoilers (such as yours truly) then read ahead. Awakened, unwittingly by Julie Stratford, Ramses now roam the streets of early 20th century England as Reginald Ramsey: a rich, enigmatic stranger that imposes himself into Stratford’s life. Of course, somewhere along the way, Ramsey decides to awaken his former lover, Cleopatra, who basically turned out to be a very strong, psychopathic revenant. Oh yes, like Ramsey/Ramses, she is immortal. There is an accident and a fire and before you can sing “Walk Like An Egyptian” Ramsey and Ms. Stratford are running for their dear lives (and no, I’m not going to spell out the bleedy story for all … feel free to read The Mummy). Damned continues (after several decades of Rice almost going R.R. Martin on us) where The Mummy left off. Ramses and Julie Stratford have become an item. Cleopatra is carrying on a passionate affair with a certain Dr. Theodore Dreycliff. Let’s just say that Dr. Dreycliff rescued her from a scorching situation (to avoid spoiling The Mummy for those that didn’t read it). Also Julie has become an immortal thanks to a special potion from Ramses. With Dr. Dreycliff by her side, Cleopatra is on the hunt for Ramses for she has a score to settle with both him and Julie. With supernatural strength, Cleopatra is terrifyingly vicious and the unwitting Dr. Dreycliff is unaware of the asp that he’s coddling. Then there is Bektaten an ancient Egyptian queen and her two bodyguards/lovers, Aktema and Enamon. And somewhere along the line, another fine (immortal) gentleman named Sagnos is awakened. Sagnos has an army of followers and he has some terrifying plans in store for Julie and Ramses (but mostly Julie). Bektaten is not just some ancient resurrected Egyptian queen: she has knowledge of creating potions that can do all sorts of strange things such rendering immortals mortal and vice versa. And then there is Sibyl Parker: an American mystery writer whose books are centered in ancient Egypt. The funny thing about Sibyl is that her books are so good thanks mostly to the strange vivid dreams that she has about herself walking around in ancient Egypt. Reincarnated memories of a past life? I’m not telling. So as Ramses and Julie hopscotch over Europe into London, they find themselves engaged in cat and mouse game as they dodge a raging, vengeance-bent Cleopatra who is actually dealing with some internal struggles (along with vicious headaches and strange case of immortal dementia). Oh yes, there is the case of Sagnos and his army of immortal creatures that is also gunning for Ramses and Julie. In the midst of all this an unwitting Sibyl is cast into this strange violent theatre: a key to one of the characters life. And so the convergence begins.
A brilliant collaboration between son and mum, Ramses, is a long (with a capital L) awaited sequel to Rice’s The Mummy (1989 …aye, that long) another addition to Ms. Rice’s universum noctis: vampires, witches, werewolves … and yes mummies. I truly hope this is not quite the end the Ramses Chronicles (aye, did I just do that … yes, now Ms. Rice has to write another Ramses book … as I silently implore … with a nice PLEASE). Along with the sensualities that frequently lurk in (and adds to) Rice’s novel, it filled with suspense that grips you in the nether regions (in a nice way) and the only respite you get, as worlds converge towards a thrilling conclusion, lay on the next page. Thankfully, that respite does not come too soon and the ride is quite delightful. Brilliant collaboration … just hoping that the next sequel comes out a bit sooner than a few decades. There IS a sequel? Yes. Pretty please. With sugar. On top. And other such bollocks