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It is a new year. 2019. Bloody hell, and it has already started off with some fireworks , aside from what we may have experienced on New Year’s Eve depending where you were on this planet (for me it was a rainy New Year’s eve in NYC … joy). So to all my mates that drop and read this humble blog (in the tradition of “better late than never” and it is almost a month late) let me say: Happy New Year. Hope everyone had a great start to the new year.

And now a confession: I’ve been bad … nay, I’ve been naughty. I mean, spanking-without-access-to-a-safe-word naughty. Too much information? Dreadfully sorry. But here goes. Yes, I’ve been reading a great series that I’ve NEGLECTED to tell you mates about. Well for one I thought it was a trilogy and I was hoping that it would have ended sooner to present it in all its glory to you so you can indulge in a bit of binge reading. Alas, it turned into what “seemed” like a quadrology, but is really a pentalogy (well, according to the synopsis they mention words like “climactic conclusion”, so yes, it is safe to assume the series is coming to an end this summer. The first four (in sequence) are as follows: The Silent Corner, The Whispering Room, The Crooked Staircase, and The Forbidden Door. Coming in May (the climactic conclusion): The Open Window.

So what’s this all about? Ah, in other words , enough with the bollocks and let’s get this review going. Well, I don’t see why not. Yeah?

Jane Hawk could easily be a Victoria Secret model, but she is actually a tough-as-nails FBI agent that knows and does her job well. When a bunch of exemplary individuals across the country, inexplicably, start staging mass murder suicide or just plain suicide, Ms. Hawk is intrigued and wants to investigate. Things get dicey when her own husband, a war veteran, inexplicably commits suicide in the most goriest fashion which not only leaves Jane stunned, but now very suspicious and even more intrigued … and thirsting for some revenge. Then there is pressure from the top to cease her investigations into the suicides. And to make things better, someone threatens her about kidnapping her son, Travis, and selling him into an overseas sex trafficking auction. Yes, that would make most people back down. But this is Jane Hawk (think Agent Scully meets Sarah Connor with a hint Benecio Del Toro’s Sicario character) who simply replies by going off grid, hiding her son, and start hunting down leads. What she finds is a conspiracy led by tech wizards and members of national security that is bent on literally turning people into everyday Manchurian candidates … on global level. Hint: let’s just say if you’re paranoid about vaccines now, these books aren’t going to help ease that inner conspiracy theorist in you any better. And yes, the science is very possible. The Jane Hawk series (thus far) is suspense on steroids and never a dull page. Every page turn feels like you’re navigating in a large, dark mansion as you’re being stalked by killer with ninja skills … wielding machetes … and wearing night vision goggles. You’ll root for Jane as she dismantles the conspiracy, one cell at time along with the help of ragtag “resistance” : an Eastern European chain-smoking, female document forger, two wounded military veterans (that are Travis’s guardians), a no-nonsense sheriff from Minnesota that has personal stake in this, an amorous (and equally vicious) cartel bigwig that specializes in untraceable cars/weapons , and an autistic software designer and his two Dobermans. The bad guys are vile and so strategic that you’ll admire their brilliance and hate them with equal passion because some of the things that these wankers do are so dark and disturbing … that it might give some folks a ton of sleepless nights. But then again, our reality is not exactly giving us any sleep as of lately (yes, I’ll spare you the political blah blah blah and other such bollocks). A bit of a warning: don’t get too attached to characters BOTH good AND bad. Yes, the good guys get their share, but when the bad guys get theirs it such a delight, and in some case down right hilarious.

The Jane Hawk series feels like Stephen King, Robert Ludlum and Robin Cook had a strange ménage-a-trois and this was the love child (please try not to imagine that …PLEASE). Koontz spares little and most readers will find themselves basically inhaling the entire series only to find themselves “jonesing” for that quick fix that is going to come … in MAY (dear sweet heaven, why, WHY !!!). There is mention on the net that there is talks about a TV adaptation of this series. I’m guessing a toss-up between Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix (please let it be Netflix). Or heaven forbid, HBO or Showtime (in which case I’ll wait till it trickles down to DVD or Netflix … I’m patient). But in the meanwhile, you can beat the networks and simply binge read the books. Happy New Year, mates.

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Yes, I could not get enough of the R.S. Belcher books, so when this popped up in my library’s databases, I just simply had to get my claws on it. Of course, after having read the synopsis, I simply wanted to inhale the bloody book. Are you intrigued, about now? Well enough with the pleasantries and other such bollocks and get it on with it. Yeah?

Jimmie Aussapile is a truck driver, traversing the interstate highways of America delivering stuff, possibly to a some Amazon warehouse or other such bollocks. Nothing special … or so it seems. The truth is Jimmie is a member of the Brotherhood of the Wheel a secret group comprised of truckers, bikers, taxi drivers, RVers and state troopers that are derived from Templar lines. They secretly travel the highways stalking serial killers and bringing them to justice. They are the secret line between the lawless and the law-abiding. When Jimmie has a ghostly encounter with a hitchhiker that informs about children missing over the country and the strange eerie Black Eyed Kids (BEKs) that prowl the highways, like a moth to a flame he is drawn in. And no they are not strange fans of The Black-Eyed Peas group. Hector Sinclair is a member of the Blue Jocks, a Scottish-clan base motorcycle club, and unlike most MCs they make a legitimate living bounty hunting. When the leader of the club dies, Hector is chosen to become the head of the Blue Jocks but not until he fulfils his “apprenticeship” with the Brethren. Lovina Marcou is a hard-boiled, no-nonsense Louisiana State Police Investigator in search of some missing persons when she has a hair-raising encounter with the BEKs. When a bunch of teenagers are brutally abducted somewhere near Kansas, paths are crossed where Lovina, Hector and Jimmie find that they have more in common with each other as they form a team along with a cross-section of strange allies. Yes, even Elvis shows up. Yes, that bloke … Mr. Blue Suede Shoes himself. Interesting story. Read the book. I’m not going to be a wanker and spoil the fun. Soon the world of firearms and computers merge with the supernatural when this unlikely group find themselves teaming up against several supernatural foes that are a wee bit nasty. And blood will spill. A whole lot of it. We’re talking Incas-type sacrificial blood spillage. A bit too much? Aye, sometimes I do stuff like that. And (I know it’s cliche) survival of the world … nay, universe is at stake.

Quick note, for those that read Nightwise (my last book review) would have gotten a nice but quick introduction to Jimmie when Laytham Ballard needed a lift. Also interestingly enough Mr. Ballard’s name is mentioned several times in Brotherhood.

Once again, Mr. Belcher pulls us into his strange world of magic, technology, weapons, fists, and dark humour. And there is no slowing down to the intensity of suspense and action in Brotherhood. I can just hear Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” in my head. And yes, I think Sammy was better than David Lee Roth in Van Halen … but that’s just me. I’ve detoured … slightly. Every page turn is like peering around the corners of a dark mansion that is stalked by a stealthy, machete-wielding maniac. All the way towards the end it is a white-knuckled, adrenaline-induced ride towards a breathtaking conclusion. And even when you reach the end, you still want more. Good news on that front: it is a another series. Ah Mr. Belcher, you loveable bastard. And now comes the foaming and impatience in anticipation of the next books. And the page turns (don’t worry you’ll get this AFTER having read the book).

(P.S. Try not to get too attached to certain characters in this book. You’ve been warned. And I’ve saved you some tears. And yes, you are quite welcome.)

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.

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.