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deadsouls_cvr
Once in awhile, though seemingly quite often for me, a book cover or synopsis catches your eye and that’s all it takes to send you hurtling down that literary rabbit hole. December is a month of wishes. Wishes for things under your Christmas tree/mistletoe like Gillian Anderson, and before the day is done there will be wishes for the New Year. And we could really, really use some good stuff for the new year, since 2016 has been a wee bit surreal (and that’s just saying it nicely). So when I came across Dead Souls on the “New Arrivals” rack I was intrigued and like a heroin addict that’s been working overtime at a heroin factory… I had to get my fix. What was all that bollocks about “wishes” about, you might ask? Stick around, mate.

Fiona Dunn is having a tough time in her relationship with some bloke named Justin and on one rainy night in Oakland (California) she sees him getting in a car with a strange blonde woman on his way to a “business trip” to Seattle. It is also important to mention that lady was standing in the rain, bare feet, in pajamas, and locked out of her own apartment. So what’s a bare-footed, rain-soaked, woman to do when she’s locked herself outside of her apartment? Seek solace in the nearest drinking hole. There she meets a strange, enigmatic fellow named Scratch who chats her up, buys her drinks and makes an offer for her soul with the obligation of special favour that will be demanded of her at anytime. Yes, you didn’t read the last part incorrectly. Being the avowed atheist, she is, she thinks it nothing more than small talk and goes along with it. And then the shit gets real … and strange. First, Fiona discovers that she sort of project herself, invisibly, into places and spy on people. Apparently, she’s always wished that she was invisible. And if that didn’t make her stop and pass rabbits, then there is Scratch’s strange ability to be able to contact her at any place at any time. And then … when things couldn’t get any more weird, Justin shows up … with that strange blonde who is actually his (yes) sister and it turns out that Justin is down with something terminal. As Fiona drives around California trying to assess the how much crazy pills she’s been taking, she comes across another strange fellow, taking photos in a cemetary, named Alejandro and he seems to fancy her. Turns out that Fiona and Alejandro has a lot in common: Scratch. He introduces her to a sort of support group called the Dead Souls (hence the name of the book), sort of a support group for folks that may have unwittingly sold their souls to the Devil. And quite the motley crew they are: Renata (a professor of queer studies that wished to be straight and pretty crapped on her career and former gay relationship), Gary (a tech startup founder who wished that his company traded well), Jasmine (a woman that wished for the gift of clairvoyance), and of course, Alejandro (who wished that his photos will make successful). Sounds like a cute version of Daniel Webster meets an intervention. Not quite. The book gets really dark faster than the Northeast in early fall and people and things aren’t all that they seem. And as people wait for that dreaded favour to come in, many try to solve their way out of their contract with Scratch only to find that they are all part of some sick Macheveillian game.

To call Fenn’s tale creepy would be like calling the Mona Lisa a drawing. It’s dark like night in the swamps and as vicious as the serpents that slither through it as every page turn keeps you biting your nails as you brace for revelations within revelations. Don’t expect any happy endings in this one … just maybe a few silver linings and that’s it. In some strange way it might explain some of the unspeakable things that happen in this world: active shootings, terrorism, strange politics, Kanye West, the Kardashians. But what do you expect … when you make a deal with the Devil. Sure he delivers … but when it’s time to pay those dues… that’s the killer. So just be careful when you’re at the pub and some hip bloke “playfully” offers to buy your soul, you might want to walk away from that one … regardless what you believe. Just saying, mates.

Grunt by Mary Roach

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Running Title: Grunt – The Curious Science of Humans At War.

Aye, it is that time of the year. We cave into our materialistic lust as we answer the Siren call of Black Fridays, and tons of sales “events” … and other such bollocks. It is also that time of the year when we look forward to drinking eggnog, with our our bearpaw slippers on as we curl up and watch another screening of Love Actually. Oh wait, that’s just me. Hey mates, don’t judge me. But enough with the bollocks and one with the review. Shall we begin?
When you combine the sciences with … well … war, you are bound to capture my attention, so with a running title like “the curious science of humans at war”, it was only a matter of time before this poor book was plucked from the stacks and nestled in my grasp for a few days. Yes, as you can easily surmise that Grunt does something is not so often reported when it comes to the world of war. Sure, we’ve read many books written by Special Operations warriors and military personnel about their brave and valiant deeds, but how often do you get to read about the science that goes into war that not only helps and protects our brave soldiers, but sometimes even save or heal them. Roach’s Grunt does an excellent job of this, though I must warn those who don’t have a strong stomach that they may want to reconsider reading this book during … say … eating times. Sure for the inwardly forensic fans such, such as yours truly, this great reading even whilst scarfing down mounds of lasagna. Others, maybe not so much. There is a lot of science that goes into war, and I really mean A LOT. Some of it may seem trivial, but to the folks downrange it is a big deal, such as zippers being a no-no on sniper clothing. Trust me on this one. Or (the best one) diarrhea being a threat to national security (hint: it’s every SEAL’s worst nightmare when on a mission). I bit you didn’t know that scientists have built a chicken gun that is used to propel dead chickens at turbines to test the effect of birds on aircraft engines. Some folks have all the fun. And then Roach hits you with the a literal blow to the minerals: penile reconstruction. Yes, many times when an IED goes off more than just arms and legs get injured. And for several chapters Ms. Roach explains this in great but understandably cringe-worthy detail: apparently strip of mucus membrane from the inner cheek is used to recreate urethra in penile reconstructions. There is a really dirty joke somewhere in that fact, but the science behind is amazing, and apparently it is doing wonders many of our soldiers’ lives. Occasionally, we are treated to some historical tidbits such as the REAL use of codpieces, and …no … it was not about enhancing or even protecting one’s manhood. In fact it actually stored materials that soaked up syphilitic discharges of blood and pus you get from sleeping around with wenches after beheading your wives. Yummy. I guess that explains why they were popular with hair bands in the 80s. Paging Lawless from WASP. And yes, I’ve seemingly gone there. Astounding fact: the scent of a seal and used tampon has the same effect on polar bear salivary glands. I kid you not. So ladies, be a bit wary if your mate is planning trips to the Polar-type regions and is somewhat inquisitive about your cycles. I’m afraid the love may not be there anymore and his plans for you may be malevolent. Slight detour there, everyone.
Roach’s Grunt is a fascinating read about the sciences that impact our soldiers both on and off the frontlines. If your fascinated with the sciences or just curious about what is going with our men and women in battle, Grunt is a delightful read. For the curious in mind that are not so scientifically-minded, fear not, for Roach practically keeps at a layman’s level that can be enjoyed by all but well appreciated by us nerd-types. Plus she’s got a scorchingly delightful wit that makes me wish I could marry … um, never mind. And I’ve said that too loud. Ignore that part. Please.

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As promised I’ve decided to put out a second review for October featuring my good man Stephen King, since after all this IS October. You know horror marathons on the telly, horror movies in the theatres, Halloween and (for this year) the inevitable ending of the 18-month circus known as the Election 2016. Aye, that last one has its own horrors of horrors. But enough with the bollocks and on to the review. Shall we?
In Mr. Mercedes, retired Detective Hodges had managed to put Brady Hartsfield into a mental instition on the account that he was somewhat brain-damaged. When we last encountered Brady, it was in the Finders Keepers which was mostly about some murderous tosser wanting to retrieve some old manuscripts. Here in Finders we were beginning to see that even though Mr. Hartsfield was seemingly brain-damaged, there was strange things happening in his room such as pipes turning on and photo frames falling over. Did I mention he was pretty much stuck in a wheelchair? And some point after having read Finders Keepers, many of us must probably suffered from a case of the “goosebumps”. Needless to say, it was foretelling what was to come in King’s next installation.End of Watch, the last in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, opens with a retelling of the Mercedes Massacre from the perspectives of two EMT workers and evolves (for a moment) around the life of one of the survivors: Martine Stover. Then somewhere early in the book Ms. Stover dies. But then so has some of the staff that worked at the hospital that housed Brady Harsfield who noticed strange occurances like photo frames being moved or pipes turning on and off with no one around except a crippled Brady. Yes, it seems that our bay may have developed some preternatural abilities. So how pray tell, did this happen? Enter Dr. Felix Babineau, douchebag and tosser supreme, who took it on himself to test out unapproved and experimental drugs on the supposed sad case of that is Brady. Of course, there was some side effects. Yes, we all seen this movie before. Ambitious doctor decides to test crap out on disabled psychopath … um … yes, it is not going to end great, especially for the doctor. Using some old Gameboy type game consoles called Zappits that features some game involving fish (aye, seriously), Brady extends himself beyond the confines of the hospital in the most spinetingling manner that could evolve from the mind of King. Could’ve been worse it could have been a modified version of the Pokemon Go app. As the bodies begin to pile up, Bill Hodges along with the brilliant, wisecracking, Afro-American sidekick Jerome Robinson race to stop Brady and his dark plans of vengeance. The suspense grips you by the throat at each turn of the page, and hurtles you at a blinding, fiery speed towards the end. And yes, there will be blood.
A delightful end to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, it is , as usual, premium King. As usual. And to expect less … um … seriously, mate?

The Fireman by Joe Hill

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I know, there is no postings in September, I apologize. I was catching up on my Netflix binges. And then there was that sudden decision to spend my vacation in someplace other than New York City (where I bloomin reside), so I settled for Vegas where I gambled little, hung out on the Strip a lot and went to a gun range where I got to fire some pretty awesome assault type firearms, the kind of stuff we don’t get to play with here in NYC (and it sucks). So that explains September but I do intend to make it up in October. So here goes, TWO reviews in October. Yes, that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls.

About a year ago or maybe two, I came across an interesting book titled NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and after I read it, I was intrigued. Of course, when I found out that this was Stephen King’s son, it pretty much things together and everything made sense. So, of course, when I found he was writing about some apocalyptic plague that causes spontaneous combustion, I pretty much dropped my tea, teacup, saucer and all. And couldn’t wait for it to find it’s home in the stacks.
The set in a not so distant future, the book is initially centered around the lives of Harper and Jakob Grayson. An interesting couple: a nurse and a writer, respectively. Living a typical average life, with the requisite amount of snogging and the occasional case of the good old in-out in-out. And somewhere along this subtle romance, a plague emerges in the landscape. Draco incendia trychophyton or Dragonscale: it starts out as little black marks that appear on and spread all over the body, and then one day, folks simply burst into flame and become a pile of ash. Crispy critters. Despite all this, life cruises along fine for the Graysons until one day Harper discovers that she’s pregnant. Ah yes, nothing says good timing like getting pregnant during the rising spread of an apocalyptic plague. And then soon, Harper discovers, the black spots on the body. To quote Muppets: “the shit just got real”. The strange part was that despite the copious amounts of sex, the only one that remained unaffected by the plague was Jakob and needless to say, Jakob is having second thoughts about his relationship. Typical wanker. As plague spread, so does the hysteria (sort of like our current election process) and the infected are being rounded up by uninfected folks that call themselves Cremation Crews. By the name alone you can guess what these “crews” do, let’s just say that they don’t sit and have tea and biscuits. Though there is a barbeque of sorts. So as would fate would have it Jakob and Harper gets separated after a run in with a Cremation Crew. She is rescued by some bloke known as the Marlboro Man who apparently has a raspy voice and speaks with an English accent (sort of like an British Scott Ferral) and has this ability to control his spontaneous combustion in sometimes terrifying ways. Jakob on the other hand finds his way onto a Cremation Crew and discovers that despite the fact he’s a failed writer, he’s actually quite good with cremating live (infected) human beings.
After being rescued by the Marlboro Man, Harper is taken to a commune known as Camp Wyndham where there are many infected folks seeking refuge from the Cremation Crews. Headed by a charismatic Father Storey, Camp Wyndham seems like a utopia in the midst of a chaotic world. Unfortunately, we’re all aware that there is no such thing as utopia in an apocalytpic world. Think Terminus from the Walking Dead series (for those of you that watch Walking Dead). As if there is not enough to worry about from the outside of the camp, enter the Storey family (sadly related to Father Storey): Carol (the eldest daughter and female Jim Jones in the making), Nick, and Allie (the young and annoyingly troubled teenager). In the camp, many have embraced their affliction and even found a way to control and prolong their life. In time, Harper learns this and the camp seems to benefit from her abilities as a nurse. When, at some point of time, Father Storey is put into a coma and Carol is made leader, then the façade of the camp is stripped away to reveal that it is nothing more than a Lord of the Flies situation that has been festering for sometime along with some really dirty secrets that have been harboured by certain members of the camp. So between dealing with Cremation Crews and Carol’s Napoleonic fervor, Harper finds herself navigating a very volatile social tightrope where any misstep in any direction could (literally) mean a cooked goose. To be precise, a roasted goose. And somewhere in the midst, MTV VJ Martha Quinn shows up offering asylum on some island somewhere. Yes, you heard me … Martha Quinn.
I must warn you that there is a lot of talking in this book, but … Hill uses it very well to build up the the characters and the suspense for those violent chaotic moments. And when they do happen you’re either cheering, angry, or sobbing like a nancy and it is worth it. But most all you’ll love the Marlboro man. Most post-apocalyptic reads today seem to be centered around the undead, but it was nice to read something a bit more original: a plague that causes spontaneous combustion. Arresting and filled with suspense, Fireman keeps you turning the pages as you tumble onto dark secrets, major battle face-offs, and more twists than a screw. Joe, like his father Stephen, truly delivers. Can’t wait to read the next bit.

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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.

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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

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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.