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Once in awhile, I would pick up something from a familiar and favourite author and though I have certain expectations, whether good or bad, I am often blown away (and then come the conflicted feelings). So when this novelette showed up on my stacks, I had my misgivings: “bloody hell, a Stephen King novelette, this can’t be good … it is too thin, hence not really good”. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the old wisdom of “not judging a book by its cover (or in this case, size)”. But it IS Stephen King and I was compelled to read it. So enough with the bollocks and other such pleasantries and let’s get on with it. Yeah?

Scott Carey is an easy going chap. Up there in age, a marathon runner and retired. But lately, there is something bugging his mind (well several things). Every morning Scott weighs himself and notices that his weight is decreasing and we’re not in fractions but high single digit deductions. The problem is that Scott is not on a particular diet and eats like a normal person that has never read or heard any of the health crap spouted by Gwyneth Paltrow. To make things worse, he goes to his doctor who informs him that he is … perfectly well (no cancer, tumours or any of that bollocks). Despite the increased eating that would put most buffet eaters to shame, the weight still keeps dropping. On the other hand is the problem of his new neighbours and their dog that likes to poop on his lawn. What’s even more is that his neighbour is a married lesbian couple that owns the only (struggling) vegetarian restaurant, named Holy Frijole (touted as veggie cuisine with at Tex Mex flair), in town: Deirdre McComb and Missy Donaldson. And though Missy is quite easy going, Deirdre hates him with a passion. When Scott encounters a Proud Boy type that was speaking terrible things about the couple, he simple defends them … and almost found himself in a fist exchange. Scott, emboldened by his stance, takes some other positive steps. As the town prepares for the annual Thanksgiving 12K run, unlikely alliances form as Scott struggles to figure out his mystery illness and unwittingly bringing out the best in people, some who’ve marinated themselves in horrible behaviour over the years. Yes, it seems that I may abruptly jumped ahead in my review, but keep in mind that this is a very small book and if I were to say more, then I would simply telling you the bloody story … and that would make me a tosser. So there.
Elevation is (very) quick read, but in those short pages King has packed some much goodness that made you wish for more, but … alas, the story had to end. And such a delightful yet bittersweet ending. Touching, a story that could be very easily applied to current dire socialscape that basically says what so many of us already know (though some are in heavy denial) that when you strip away all the political and ideological bollocks circulating out there, it is very easy for folks to get along and even find the commonness that bind us together. Touchy, feely you say. Maybe. But from Stephen King, you gasp. Yes. And it is good to know that warm fuzzy feeling you get from reading one of his books is not from fright-induced piss but this time, it is really from the heart.

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One of the things I get to do on a monthly basis is to sit down with a big list of upcoming books both fiction and nonfiction and decide which ones will make it into my library branch. It is a tedious, but it lets me know what’s out there and though not everything I desire do make it, at least I know that other branches have it and I can stalk their stacks. A few months ago, I came across Vigilance in one of those lists and as I read the synopsis, at first gave me a chuckle and I knew it was only a matter of time before someone wrote about this. And then I decided … why not. But enough with the bollocks of librarian life and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?

John McDean is on top of his game (literally) and the name of the game is Vigilance. Apparently, mass shootings have become as common as having cereal for breakfast in the morning, which someone decided to not only monetize this “phenomenon” but turn it into a game show. This John McDean’s Noble Prize moment. And yes, welcome to 2030 America, where your murder will be televised on ONT (Our Nation’s Truth) tv network. Yes, I kid you not, that’s name of the network … sound’s almost like OAN (but we’re not going to touch that mess … for now). To get on the show, anyone can register online and then they have to go through a “screening” process. Apparently, not just any backwater psychopath can muster the cut (to paraphrase Debra Foreman from Real Genius): folks have to have standards. Bloody hell, an actual Debra Foreman reference (Google her, folks). For those that make the cut, the rules are “simple”: if the active shooter dies, all of his contacts get one million dollars; the surviving shooter (yes, there are more than one) providing there are no civilians, other shooters or law enforcement official left alive in the “arena”, gets 20 million dollars; if a civilian or law enforcement official kills the shooter they get 5 million dollars. Now here’s the kicker, the “arena” could be anywhere at anytime on a given day. In other words people know the day, they just don’t know the when or where. Who knows, it could be the very bar that you are sitting in watching the next Vigilance broadcast (order something more than the hot wings for it might be your last meal). Or the mall. Or a metro station. Hence, this is why people are encouraged to be armed where ever they go, just in case. Hence, the name Vigilance.

Believe it or not, Vigilance is a bit of sci-fi dystopia as we deal with exquisitely vicious uses of big data, AI that produce computer-generated, ex-military, tactical commentators (yes, there are commentators during the bloody show) or can real-time CGI an armed Vietnamese girl into an apple pie Nordic American female spouting all kind of propaganda bollocks as she squeezes off rounds. Then there is virtual and holographic sex involved. Just going to leave it at that. The book is mostly centered around to perspectives: John McDean and Delyna, a waitress at the South Tavern Bar. A new game of Vigilance is about to begin and McDean is about to cream his pants as he and his staff analyzes possible game arena prospects. On the other side of town, Delyna is serving up hot wings and drinks to bunch of mostly armed patrons all gathered there to watch the next exciting game of Vigilance. Yes, hot wings, alcohol … and armed patrons … what can possibly go wrong? I’m afraid that you’ll have to read that for yourself. Trust me, it’s good.
Slightly under 200 pages, Bennett packs a ton of suspense, gore, dark humour and surprising twists (with a smattering of racism and misogyny) … all done at a decent pace. Vigilance doesn’t come across as preachy (as some might logically assume) but it entertains while subtly screaming a wake up call of sorts. It is simply a story projected into a stark future using a social plague as an exaggerated background. It is the Purge meets the Running Man meets Battle Royale. And whether you are pro-gun, no-gun or in-between you’ll start reading Vigilance with one reaction and end with another. And for the most … one can only hope that Vigilance remains condemned to the white pages of fiction (in light of all the bollocks we are enduring) and is not a harbinger of things to come. And for some, might actually give us something to think about. Bloody hell.

I’ve been watching a bunch of recent “horror” releases on DVD and it is sad to report that the art of horror movie making is becoming an endangered art. Has anyone seen that pile of buggering bollocks called Searching? Aye, at the end of the movie you’ll be “searching” for those 90 minutes of your life that you gave to watch this “thriller”. Thankfully, the world of literary horror is alive and doing quite well. I keep running into such delightful writers (i.e. through books that appear on my stack). So as I was reading the synopsis of Siren, I was, most naturally, intrigued especially when Mr. Janz was being heralded as the next best thing in modern horror. And maybe it was that exquisitely haunting book cover. So enough with the pleasantries and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?

David Caine is a famous skeptic of the paranormal/supernatural world. That’s just a nice way of saying that this bloke doesn’t believe in ghosts and other such bollocks. Then one day, David is invited by an old friend (Chris and his wife Katherine) to spend a month in the most haunted house in Virginia: the Alexander house. A house built in the 1700s by a land baron to simply contain the depraved whims and fancies (sprinkled with a shitload of madness) of his eldest son, Judson. As David takes up the challenge and moves into the Alexander house, he finds himself surrounded by the strangest set of neighbours: a family that rewrites the definition of dysfunction (nymphomaniac housewife with a penchant for kinky porn/sex with a very enabling husband and two children are witnesses to the ongoing debauchery), a very reclusive neighbour that fishes and own shotgun, a no-nonsense female sherriff, a fiery woman that reminds him of a past love, and a precocious convenient store clerk. It doesn’t take very long for things to go bump in the night (actually on night ONE) and the novel does keep up the pace … and then accelerates. There are very dark ulterior motives and secrets at play and some folks aren’t what they seem to be … or know. Along with demons of the past of certain woman that he turned away (with tragic consequences) David is forced to deal with crazy neighbours, strange happenings going in the Alexandria house and strange woman that haunts the nearby bay with an alluring singing voice (in case you missed it, that would be the siren). But in that little hamlet, in Virginia, things aren’t all they seem, dark forces and secrets are coming forth, some folks know more than they’re saying and there are things that are going bump in the night aside from David’s new randy neighbour. David skepticism in the paranormal is about to take a flying leap out the window and to make things worse, he is closely evaluating his friendship with Chris. Stars, paths and events align from his past, reach out and converge with his current quest in the most shocking manner that will cause your jaw to drop right into that puddle of fright-induced piss.
Though he has written prior to this title, this is my first book by Jonathan Janz and it impressed the heck (among other things) out of me. Siren spares little, starts early, and amps up the terror that’ll make you, calmly, put your book down and turn on a few more lights in the house, especially on a cold windy night. With tree branches hitting your window. And though the art of horror movies are fast becoming a dying art, it is pleasant to know that written horror forges on with newer faces and talent. I look forward to his next book … as I try to get some sleep.

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.

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.