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bf_exorcism__cvr

Yes it is almost the end of August which is basically the end of summer. And though the summer ends, technically, in three weeks there is still time to make the beach and curl up with that really great beach book. Which brings me to this strange ditty.
It was another one of those strange books that stared out at me on the “New Arrivals” shelf. Now one would think that the title would be compelling enough to get me to read it (aside from the fact that cover looked like a page from my high school yearbook). Not quite. Until I read the synopsis on the back cover: “A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession”. Now for most, the mention of the word “heartwarming friendship” would be deal breaker and threat to one’s manhood. But it was the whole “demonic possession” thing in the same sentence that reeled me in. Aye, that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. To make things worse (or best), depending on your perspective, the book was rooted in the 80s with chapters using 80s song titles. Ah the glorious 80s: glasnost, MTV (that actually played music before proceeding screw up ever millenial mind out there), Just Say No, AIDS, New Wave music (kids, you missed out on some really good music), and Samantha Fox. So yes, being an 80s aficionado (and a teen during the 80s), I couldn’t help it and it broke all will power and any sense of decent judgement … I had to read this book. So with a sense of nostalgia … and the ghostly smells of Vidal Sasson and L.A. Looks in my mind I plowed ahead. Well, so much for the pleasantries and all that other bollocks. To the review , I say.
Set in Charleston, South Carolina (did I mention in the 80s) the book is centered around the lives of Abigail (Abby) Rivers and Gretchen Lang. Abby is from the poor and struggling side of the tracks, whilst Gretchen is from a conservative family that seem to have a decent amount of dosh. In fourth grade, Abby had the distinct privilege of being stood up by her classmates whom she had invited to her (get this) E.T. themed birthday party at the local roller boogie rink.Sadly, the only person that ever showed up to her party was Gretchen … with a Bible as a present. Seriously folks, what is the world coming to when people turn down free cake and ice cream at a roller rink that plays Journey? Yeah, I know sick.Bunch of tossers. And so began the friendship of Gretchen and Abby. Gretchen lives a sheltered life with possibly the most crappiest parents that spare very little effort to treat her like utter crap, though she lives for want of little. Abby, as she moves on in the higher grades, lives with tolerable parents and has a part-time job (like every working-class teen in the 80s) at the Dairy Queen. After all Avia sneakers, Atari 2600s and Jerri Curl hairspray don’t grow on trees. One weekend , along with several other friends, the duo decides to sleepover at motel. But to make things a bit more exciting one of the friends had brought along “party favours” to kick things up a notch: LSD. Yes, I know it is the 80s that has swamped most of our minds with images of crack and cocaine …LSD , not so much … but there it was. Needles to say, they all tried a bit and Gretchen had a bad trip, where she stripped off her clothes and ran away into some nearby woods. After searching for her, her mates had found her in a strange deserted house in the woods, and eventually returned her home. And that’s when the crap really start hit the fan. First, Gretchen starts having strange mood swings and though this is lost on the rest of daydreaming twits, Abby realizes that something is really wrong with her best friend. Then out of nowhere, Gretchen has become the popular girl and has slowly re-aligned herself with newer friends (think rich friends). And even though this seems as teenager re-inventing herself, Abby suspects all’s not well in Denmark. It is only after a revival crusade run by a group known as the Lemon Brothers (think the Jonas Brothers as evangelicals) passes though the town and is attended by both Abby and Gretchen, that Gretchen is pointed out as possessed by one of the brothers. Abby, eager to help her best friend, finds herself dealing with more than she can handle, as the demon (Andras) sets out to turn Abby’s life upside down: framing her in terrible and compromising situations. The most heart warming thing about this is that Abby never gives up on her friend, through it all and even engages in an exorcism prayer that is unlike anything you’ve ever read or ever graced a seminary. As I was reading the last few pages of this story, I couldn’t help myself from listening to the Scorpions “Send Me An Angel” that was being played by the local classic rock station … and somehow it all fit together. Yes, a Scorpion song got me all weepy. If My Best Friend were to be thought of as a song, it would be Bette Midler”s “Wind Beneath My Wings” … sung by Angela Gosow (from the death metal group Arch Enemy). Actually, since we’re talking Bette Midler, the best way to sum this story up would be Beaches meet The Exorcist. Aye, I know.
A great story and summer read, Hendrix captures the 80s teenage scene ever so perfectly … down to the lingo. For me it was almost as good as being back in the 80s. No internet, no selfies, no Kardashians … just new wave, Alf, Jeff Spiccoli, and so much good times. Hey brah, let’s party. I miss the 80s. Badly.

bone_tree_cvr

Ah yes, another one of those books that “whispered” to me. A cry for help, or perhaps the need to get out more? Oui? Non? Time will tell. This is my first book by Greg Iles and an 800-plus page to boot at that. Yes, quite the risk of my time … which turned out quite well (thank goodness … I’d hate to add this bloke to the list authors that owe me the life of their firstborn for my time wasted on their books). Well, enough of the bollocks, and let’s start with the bleedy book review. Shall we?

It starts with the murder of an Afro-American nurse, named Viola, in Louisiana. A murder that turns Dr. Tom cage into a fugitive and creates a rift with his son, Penn. Penn Cage, on the other hand, has a pile of steaming bollocks to deal with: he has started a war with a KKK fringe group called the Double Eagles. Penn’s fiancée, Caitlin Masters (yeah, I know thanks to a certain reality star that name creates a lot of neural twitching) is a journalist (that is probably part bloodhound) is on the scent of one of the biggest stories, of her career where Tom Cage is key to it all. In the center of it all, is the Bone Tree (hence the title of the book), a legendary killing site, somewhere amidst the tons of roving marshes and bayous, that was used to by the Double Eagles to conceal more than the remains of the forgotten. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse we get to encounter the Knox clan. An A-class racist, misogynistic, psychopathic clan that literally has this stuff interwoven into their DNA and has ties to (no surprise here) the Double Eagles. The murderous ringmaster that leads this mayhem is a crafty, vicious little bugger named Forrest Knox, that is beguiling and calculating as serpent, and exceedingly vicious with probably just as equal a venomous bite to match. He also owns a “hunting lodge” that has been known to provide its members with occasional carnal delights from the local trough and the opportunity to hunt a bit more (allegedly) than exotic animals (hint: the ones that walk on two legs). And somewhere in there, is a connection to the JFK assassination, which dominates the book and Iles does a fascinating job on this that debunks the grassy knoll bollocks and offers another interesting possibility. And yes this is a linked with the Double Eagles.
Bone Tree waste little effort in grabbing readers by the throat and keep them riveted. The book reads like one big Machiavellian chess board, except some of the pieces aren’t really what they may seem and there is a lot of blood. Blood that flows hot and thick like humidity in Louisiana during hurricane season. Vendettas, revenge and murder are exacted with the stealthy and calculating viciousness of pissed off, silent, slithering water moccasin (on steroids). And this is not even half-way through the book. It is the South like you’ve never seen or read it. None of that hat-tipping, curtsying, mint dew lip drinking bollocks. Oh no, no, NO. And if you’re expecting happy endings … well … it is all merely perspective. Huh, you ask? Aye. There are little conflicts both internal and external. There are different quests: the quest for truth, the quest for revenge, the quest for power. And all paths converge on the enigmatic Bone Tree.
Iles uses a hybrid format, which apparently, is becoming rather common in most novels: first person narratives (Penn Cage) combined with third person narratives (everyone else). And at first it may throw folks off … for about a few chapters … but it is only matter of time before you find yourself wrapped up in the story and binge-reading your way through bodily functions, feeding times and possibly sensible sleeping hours. Caution to most readers: don’t become attached to characters. Trust me. You will love me for this. Or not.The good news is that this is part of a … (wait for it) … TRILOGY. The really good news is that this is the second book, and now I’ve got to go read the first book (bloody hell, what’s a bloke to do … decisions, decisions).

Host by Robin Cook

robin_cook_host_cvr

I can’t help it, but I love having my wits scared out of me … one way or another. Whether it’s things that go bump in the night (excluding my neighbors extra-curricular activities at 1AM in the bloody morning), or being around medical institutions and deserted buildings (don’t ask). Ever since seeing Coma in the 80s with Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold (I had a serious crush on Bujold), I was pretty much drawn into the world of Robin Cook. So when this strange, ominous cover showed up in my stacks (feel free to look at it … pretty creepy isn’t it), needless to say, I lost all will power and gave into my urges. So here we are. Enough with the niceties and other such bollocks … and let’s get on with the bleedy review … shall we?

Lynn Pierce is an up and rising medical student completing her residency at the South Carolina’s Mason-Dixon University. She lives with a cat and an adoring boyfriend, Carl Vandermeer (a lawyer). Life seems perfect and all’s sunny in her life … until a knee injury puts Carl under the knife. Sounds simple, routine. Bloody hell, you might say, it is knee surgery for crying out loud. So it seems, but this is a Robin Cook novel where the most simple thing can take a turn for the worst faster than Kanye West’s mood changes. So yes, needless to say, everything goes horribly wrong and Carl is placed into a medical-induced coma. To make things worse, Lynn discovers the truth to a special “trip”, that she and Carl were to take in the near future, in his desk drawer at home: an engagement ring (possibly from Jared’s …hence this was really serious). Considering that her future fiancée was in great health and the fact that a simple knee surgery should not have bollocksed up to such epic proportions, Lynn decides to really investigate further. Joining her in her quest is Michael Pender, her academic, Afro-American “twin”, that is very resourceful and intelligent as he is an occasional wiseass. And yes, the “twin” thing is an inside joke by their peers, since they’ve been exclusive study partners since the beginning of their schooling at Mason-Dixon University. The intrigue is ratcheted up when the doctors decide to move Carl into a building called the Shapiro Institute: a windowless building, shrouded in secrecy and with more security that would make most national security agencies green with envy. As the duo digs further, they encounter an Scandinavian ice queen doctor, a Russian pharmaceutical billionaire, ex-Spetsnaz-turned-mafioso assassins, and a very dark, twisted side to the world of medical science (I truly hope doesn’t exist in this country). Oh bloody hell, you might say at just the mere mention of those little ditties. Yeah. Now you’re probably wondering what could be so dark and twisted? Sorry mates, but I’m not going to a do tosser move and vomit out that bit of detail. But it is enough to give you a couple sleepless nights.
Yes, Cook occasionally spits out a bit of medical jargon that would make most folks eyes glaze over or cause intra-cranial bleeding, but it is dished out in tolerable doses and spread out to accommodate most of us non-medicals out there. Lynn will, sometimes, get on your nerve as she constantly and impulsively dash off into situations where most angels fear to tread, as she drags poor Michael (who seemingly is the one with a level head amongst the two) along with her into her nerve-wracking escapades. Think of the one person, in horror movies, that always feel the need to run into every dark basement or attic … just because. There is no lack of intrigue or suspense in Host which is very reminiscent of Coma … which drives you to that OMG moment as you tumble into that dark and twisted conclusion that, for some, just might result in some sleepless nights. And if per chance you are about to have knee surgery, then be a good luv and … yeah … pass this one by.

11.22.63_cvr

One would think that a self-professed Stephen King fan, such as yours truly, would have devoured this book ages ago. Sadly, it took me a while to come to my bloody senses and (finally!!!) read this book. Well, in actuality, it was the prodding of several patrons (who are also King fans … and apparently better at it) and the fact that Hulu decided to make it into a mini-series. And since I don’t have a Hulu subscription … well, you know.

The best part was the moment I picked it up, I realized that it was going to be very hard to put down.

Jake Epping is an English teacher that lives in Maine. During the day he teaches regular school and on some evenings teaches GED classes. One of Jake’s little pleasure is stopping by Al’s Diner for a burger and shakes that are sold at ridiculously low prices and the meat is rumoured to be derived from stray cats. Hold your horses, even King would not be that sick (um … I think). Then one day, out of the blue, Jake Epping is approached by Al Templeton and is told the most bizarre tale: there is a portal that leads into 1960s and it is located in the diner’s pantry. I know. Considering the tales and rumours surrounding Al’s “cheap” burgers, it would be enough to start a red flag parade in one’s mind. Except for one thing: Al had aged, progressively, within a very short period of time and was dying from cancer. Giving into curiosity, Jake takes the plunge (literally) down the rabbit hole and finds the portal that leads back into the 1960s … where burger meat was less than a quid per pound. But as intriguing as it is to go back in time, the portal comes with its own set of rules. For one, you can spend many years in the 60s which may only turn out to be a few hours in the present. Secondly, any alterations you make in history can be reset if you re-enter the portal (e.g. let’s say you go into the past to and shoot Jim Jones, you’ll emerge to find that Jonestown never happened and my birthplace doesn’t have a historic black eye that is related to Kool Aid – but then you forgot to buy those Apple penny stocks by the truckloads and so you go back in – and voila, my country of birth gets to contribute to the saying “drinking the Kool Aid” … sure, you’re filthy rich while the only way I can stop people from confusing my birthplace with an African country is to mention “Jonestown” … I have seriously detoured … parenthetically speaking). Well you get the point. So as Al faces his last days on earth, he wonders what life would have been like, in America, if JFK wasn’t assassinated. Jake, at the same time, is haunted by a GED essay that was written by Harry Dunning (a janitor) that spoke of the time his father murdered his family with a sledgehammer and almost killed him (Harry). So Al convinces Jake to go back in to the portal to try and twart the death of JFK. It is apparent that Al has spent a lot of years in the portal as he gives Jake “notes on Oswald and sporting events and their outcomes (that he can bet on to make some serious money). Soon Jake is on a strange odyssey that takes him from Maine to Florida and eventually to Texas, as he encounters murderous bookies, vicious rednecks, doctor-endorsed Lucky Strikes cigarette commercials, artery clogging diner food, a wife-beating loser named Oswald, and a gorgeous Sadie Dunhill who becomes his love interest and indulges in copious amounts of the good old in-out in-out.
Over 1,000 plus pages, King spins a really intriguing yarn that sinks it claws into you and reels you in and it is time travel like you’ve never read it before. No fancy gizmos, or some old dude chomping on cigars screaming at some computer named Izzy (yeah, I just threw in a Quantum Leap reference), or girls in latex outfits speaking in British accents. Just a strange portal lurking in some bloke’s diner pantry. There is intrigue and suspense as Jake starts getting to close to Oswald and into other situations that should have really stayed clear off. And then there is Sadie, with her own secrets, sort of like Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy, except this husband isn’t beguiling (or possibly handsome) as Patrick Bergin and he’s got some serious issues (something about sleeping in bed with a broom … yeahhh). Now you’re probably wondering if he succeeded in saving JFK’s life and what was the world like. Yeah. I try not to be a bloody tosser and ruin stuff for folks, so I’m afraid that much you’ll have to read that much on your own … but, oh the trip you WILL have on the way there. Once again, premium King that doesn’t disappoint and being the sicko that he is, he has actually enclosed a ton of 1960s-type diner recipes at the end of the book in all of their artery-clogging glory. Demon. I will try a few. Maybe a couple times.

jacobtracy_cvr

I across this book in my stacks and was immediately drawn to it. Did it whisper to me as so many other books seem to do, you might ask? Yes, and I don’t think I’ll ever need electro-shock therapy. I just might need to get out more. Possibly, date. Maybe.
Set in 1880 St. Louis, we are introduced to Jacob Tracy: a seminary school drop-out, and a veteran of the Civil War that has recovered from his war wounds and vicious morphine dependency. Ah yes, Mr. Tracy has the uncanny ability to see … and speak to ghosts. Along with his partner, a former slave named John “Boz” Bosley, they encounter the strange and enigmatic Sabine Fairweather who hires them for a job: to find a certain rosewood jewelry box that belongs to her. But in the Weird West there is no such thing as straight forward mission and some things are more than they seem. Soon Jacob and Boz are plunged in a world of ghosts, demons, werewolves and vampires as they do jobs for the enigmatic Fairweather. Aside from being their employer, Ms. Fairweather seems to have knowledge and abilities of a supernatural nature. It is what keeps Jacob drawn to Ms. Fairweather, since it seems that she might hold the clues to his true abilities. In every battle that Boz and Jacob encounter, there is one name that often surfaces: Josef Mereck.
Mereck runs a circus that employs people of various supernatural capabilities and even though, on the surface they are probably used to entertain, in the big scheme of things they are being used as supernatural weapons in the most terrifying ways.
Messinger in her debut novel has a good handle of the Weird West, from the lingo to the characters. It the Wild, Wild West in the most terrifying of ways and every page turned sucks you in as Tracy and Boz’s battles grow more intense and frightening towards the final meeting of Mereck.

diviners_cvr

I’ve always looked at reading young adult books in public the same way I would walking into a Hello Kitty shop filled with middle-school teenage girls: with some apprehension and the feeling that I am violating some law. But since I am put in charge of the reading advisory for young adult at my station, I have no choice but to swallow all my apprehensions and unnerved feelings … and simply read some young adult books. Work, work, work. And so when The Diviners whispered to me sweet-nothings from the corner of a YA shelf, I knew I had found my book. It also occurred to me that when books started whispering sweet-nothings to me, that there is a critical need for me to go out more. And so we begin.

Set in the 1920, Bray introduces us to a delightful protagonist named Evie O’Neill. Yes, the good old 1920s: Prohibition, Clara Bowe, the jitterbug, speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, two-cent newspapers, and back-alley abortions. It starts with Evie, gathered with her friends at her home, in sleepy Ohio, playing with a Ouija board (and after countless horror films with this premise, it is needless to say that this a bad start) and ends up contacting an ominous entity named Naughty John. Yes, this all happens in the first chapter, but it is so delightfully sinister that it is all you need to suck you in. And it gets better.
What makes Evie O’Neill quite appealing is her charm, her intelligence, her brashness, her boldness and her bluntness. And on top of that, she’s got a mouth that writes more checks than her mind and body can cash. It is that mouth of her that gets her shipped off to New York to spend some time with her Uncle Will. Uncle Will runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (also famously known as the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies). Think Louis Vendredi from Friday the Thirteenth minus the part about making deals with the Devil and other such bollocks. Aside from the items displayed in the museum, the only thing that is more hair-raising in Evie’s encounters is the cross-section strange personalities she meets in New York City (not much has changed): Jericho (Uncle Will’s tall, handsome, and mysterious assistant), Memphis (a Harlem numbers runner, who has the ability to heal with his hands), Isaiah (the younger brother of Memphis, that goes into trances), Theta Knight (a Ziegfeld girl with a secret pass), and Sam Lloyd (a smooth-talking pickpocket with the uncanny ability to render himself invisible). And the list goes on, but I can’t have all the fun now, can I? Aye, that would make me a bloody tosser and less enjoyable read for you.
There are gruesome ritualistic murders that start occur in New York City as Naughty John materializes into the world … and Evie’s mind. Needless to say, Evie is a bit special. And as a dark mysterious force threatens the world with a frightening apocalypse on the night of a comet’s passing, these collection of characters race against time, and a white supremacy cult (from upstate New York) to defeat Naughty John and his plans. Spine-tingling terror and roller-coaster suspense, keeps you riveted and eager to turn every page, as you defy the need to eat, sleep, and take care of pesky bodily functions. And there are hints that the world (and Ms. Bray) is not quite done with Ms. Evie O’ Neill. Needless to say, I can’t wait. And YA has come a long from Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and the Twilght Saga (yes, I’m afraid I did go there).

beautyskingdom_cvr

It is February, the month of romance. The coldest and shortest month of the year. The most dreaded month (by many singles) in the year. A chance for many corporations to make a killing as they pedal romance in the form of card and chocolates and jewelry to the chagrin of long-suffering single folks out there. But nothing says “in your face corporate romance” like being single, and chowing down chocolate nougats as you watch The Crow with Brandon Lee (or so I’ve been told) on Valentine’s Day. Dear, oh dear. It seems that I’ve detoured a wee bit … and I haven’t even started the blooming review as yet. Very well, on with it. Shall we?
So as we welcome Cupid and his bleedy misguided arrows, the Evil Parrot decided to do the unthinkable. Yes, it was something I claimed I would never ever, ever attempt … to read erotica. Gasp. Yes, the Evil Parrot decided to take one for the team, well for some decent reasons: a way to finally use the erotica category on my blog; it was written by Anne Rice, need I say more; and had to satisfy my curiosity as to why it appeals so much to the ladies (naughty, naughty, naughty … very naughty …tsk, tsk). I guess next I’ll be singing It’s Raining Men at our next after-work karaoke meet. Like bloody hell on that one.
Back in the early 80s, a time when there was no Web, Twitter, Facebook, Kardashians, and music that were eclectic though very listenable and delightful, Anne Rice (under the pseudonym, A.N. Roquelaure) had written a trilogy based on the Sleeping Beauty … with a slight BDSM twist. Let’s just say it made 50 Shades seemed like Sunday school required reading (though I would worry about such a “Sunday” school). Needless to say, I’ve read bits and pieces of this trilogy, and at the time I had yet the courage to completely read much less borrow such a book from the library. What can I say, I was a teen during the 80s, might have been a bit randy … and faced the possibility of embarrassing myself by standing/walking and looking like Robert Plant as he did “Piece of my love” back in the days, after daring to read those books from cover to cover. And yes, my wonderful memory has a tendency to loop things, many times at inappropriate moments. Not much has changed. Too much information? Aye, I think so too, probably destroyed more potential dates.
Beauty’s Kingdom continues from where the trilogy left off. Enter the kingdom of Bellavalten. A kingdom that thrives on what is called pleasure servitude. And yes, feel free to read as much as possible into that phrase, and you’ll probably be right. Imagine a world where carriages are drawn “ponies”: naked, toned human males or females bound with reins, bits and yes, saddles. Gardens filled with “slaves” willfully submitting to all desires. Where punishment is pleasure, and sometimes pleasure can be its own punishment. When the current queen, Queen Eleanor, is lost at sea, there is worry about what will happen with the kingdom of Bellavalten and its …ahem …way of life. Queen Beauty is sought, along with her king, Laurent, and brought to Bellavalten. Upon hearing about the arrival of Beauty to Bellavalten, many lords and ladies arrive from other lands to willingly enter into the wonderful world of pleasure servitude and most of the book is devoted to this titillating, tantalizing process that is written ever so sensually yet yielding the potential of literary weapons-grade Viagra. Along the way there is mention of the mysterious Prince Lexius, whom upon appearance near the end of the book basically turned the erotic world upside down (and might force a few blokes to question their sexuality … be warned, chaps). Anne Rice’s writing of all things sensual and erotic is very natural and doesn’t seem forced. Like many of writings about preternatural beings there is a subtle sensuality and an erotic undercurrent that does not go unnoticed. Her descriptions of feasts, and celebrations, are so vibrant that you long to be in this strange world taking part of the festivities, spankings and all (um .. or so some might think). In her writing of Beauty, the leash (pun possibly intended) is off where there is no subtlety and undercurrents and like all her books, aside from the whips, paddles, slap, tickles, and what’s not, the characters pull you in and for some reason you keep reading. Despite the fact you get weird stares by folks that read over your shoulder on the public transit. Or your sexuality questioned at some points. And the occasional winks from certain scary women. Note to self: if I must read erotica … again …(which may be never … again) … go e-reader.