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Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category


What can I say? Looking back at the list of books I’ve read during 2019, it is disturbing to note that I’ve been reading … nay… consuming a lot of horror novels. Dark, disturbing and sometimes, stomach churning horror novels. I don’t know what that says about me, though it might explain my (perpetual) single status. Whatever. Their loss. Ever since NOS4A2, I’ve been fascinated with Joe Hill’s writing, and though I’m not a big fan of anthologies (don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a good few) I like reading Mr. Hill’s offerings (remember Strange Weather, folks?). So when I saw Full Throttle staring at me from the “New Arrivals” shelf, I figured why not … it’s not like I’ve got a string of dates lined up and seemingly sane folks can’t live on binge-watching the telly (I think I’m sane). But enough with the bollocks and let’s get on with the blooming review (so you folks can get back to your holiday festivities such as sipping eggnog and cuddling up to a Love Actually on Blu –ray … what, only me on that one, I’ve detoured … and revealed much).

Now in the last few months, I’ve serenaded you with the dark and disturbing, lotion-in-the-basket, sort of horror. Full Throttle is a nice “break” away from such. And yes, I am being extremely generous in the use if the word “break”. Full Throttle is a delightful collection stories that are frightening but not always (except for a few) in the preternatural sense, ranging from cautionary to vengeful to hear-touchingly creepy to (yes) macabre.

    To avoid spoiling the stories for my fellow readers and coming off like a complete tosser, I’ll offer up a taste of what is in Throttle:

  • A bunch of bikers carrying a dark secret finds themselves unwitting victims of a mysterious truck driver.
  • Teens visit a seaside carnival and youthful bravado leads to an assault on an innocent carousel worker … and unleashing a terrifying and frightening secret that would change their lives.
  • A bookmobile driver finds that his mobile library serves an interesting set of patrons: the dearly departed (though I must say as a librarian, my work with the public has it limits).
  • A girl and her AI companion, in a futuristic world, puts human morality under a magnifying glass and a sad commentary is revealed.
  • A Twitter user visits a horror-themed circus and finds themselves in a terrifying world. Or is it just a publicity stunt?
  • A call for help in a tall, grassy area at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, lures unsuspecting Samaritans to a sinister setting. They’ve made the movie adaptation (In The Tall Grass) on Netflix. The book and the movie versions differ slightly and that’s all this bloke’s saying.
  • A patriot separatist plans an act of domestic terrorism (shocker), but his past misdeeds have plans for him and his associates.

Bloody hell, I said I’d give you sampling and just may have screened the entire blooming book for you. To quote the immortal Marlene Dietrich: “Can’t help it”. And yes, I just quoted Fraulein Dietrich.

Though Full Throttle won’t have you cowering under the sheets in bowel-pinching fear, the stories are riveting and delightful chiller-suspense, mixed bag. Especially on a cold Christmas night for those that don’t fancy watching the telly with any Christmas themed movies (particularly ones featuring Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson). And most of all, it’ll make you appreciate some of the good anthologies that are out there. And I am looking forward to the second season of NOS4A2. Good show, Mr. Hill. No really, it is a jolly good show.

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Stephen King is having a really cool year. The second part of IT was in the theatres (it was bloody awesome … no pun intended … ok, maybe just a little). And the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep (which I reviewed several years ago … feel free to look it up), made it to the movies this month (about bloody time). Needless to say, I saw it and Rebecca Ferguson played a delightful Rose the Hat (gave me the hibby-jibbies). So when I heard that this book was on the horizon, I just couldn’t wait and it was spared very little resting time in the stacks at my branch. But enough with the blah-blah-blah, pleasantries and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the blasted review. Yeah?

Tim Jamieson has come to a sudden dead-end in his career, as cop in a Florida town, and has decided to settle for the “greener pastures” of (get this) New York City. An overbooked flight changes his mind and he ends up hitchhiking (with over two thousand dollars for giving up his seat on the plane) towards the North. He soon finds himself in a small, unknown town in the South Carolina. He settles and finds a job as a night knocker: basically a cop that patrols the town and knocks on the doors of businesses and certain individuals in order to make sure all is well. The pay sucks, it is simple and he is unarmed, but life in this town is just as simple and nice. Or so it seems … for the time being.

Luke Ellis is twelve-year old kid. He is your typical twelve year old with a few minor exceptions: he is quite the child prodigy and when he is in a certain mood eating utensils and other things tend to move around on their own. Yes, Luke is telekinetic. And then one night, Luke’s parents are murdered and Luke is kidnapped and brought to a strange place in Maine known as …. (wait for it) … The Institute. The institute is run by a psychotic, Nurse Ratched type named Mrs. Sigsby and is staffed by a bunch of motherless, ex-military types of varying specialties. On entrance to the Institute many of the kids are told a yarn about them serving their country and saving the world …. and then the brutality …er, testing begins. Despite these are pre-pubescent teens, failure to confirm is met with physical abuse and even a form of water torture that makes waterboarding feel like a quaint baptism. Wait, a minute … children being separated from families and treated badly? Sounds familiar. Maybe not, only from the strange and twisted mind of King. Aye, that’s it. Along the way Luke befriends Kalisha Benson (who sounds like the Afro-American girl in last season’s Stranger Things), Nick Wilholm (the rebel), Avery and George Iles. Sort of like a twisted verstion of the Breakfast Club, except that these kids never go home, detention seems permanent and Mr. Vernon does not give out 500 word essays to write when they act up … they either get pummeled or tortured. But all is not lost, since the kids have found a friend in the form of Maureen Alvorson (a woman that re-stocks the vending machine that offers cigarette-type looking candies and alcohol … yes, you read right, among other things). The bad news, in all this, is that the kids don’t know that mom and dad are dead. The really bad news is that Maureen has a sinister ulterior motive that is unknown to these desperately, trusting teens. The kids find out that the Institute is divided into two parts: The Front Half where the new “recruits” are initially deployed for the Guantanamo Experience and then … there is the Back Half where kids simply disappear and are never heard from … ever … and it also features are weird humming sound. When that weird humming sounds changes to a pitch somebody in the world dies … puppies (thankfully) are spared. Somewhere along the line, Luke finds out the fate of his parents despite the Institute’s attempt to isolate him from that information and decides to go Freddy Mercury … and break free. It is during his strange odyssey (which would explain the cover) from the Institute that he crosses paths with Tim Jamieson … and needless to say … the shit hits the fan. And this where I stop for I fear that I will be spilling some unnecessary beans. To say more would be a complete and utter tosser to spoil for everyone … so there.

It. Is. Premium. King. Grabbed from various goings-on in this messed up world King stitches together a frightening quilt of a tale (or is it?) that is bloody disturbing yet intensively-mesmerizing that’ll leave you clinging on to the edge of the covers, as you battle insignificant things like eating, sleeping and bodily functions … all the way the breathtaking conclusion. Though there aren’t any preternatural creatures lurking around, this just might be his most disturbing and frightening yet. Why? Just look around us. Need I say more. And some of us just might utter a silent prayer and hope that this stuff remains bound and condemned to the pages of fiction. Mr. King, you remain America’s scary yet delightful uncle. Jolly good show, my good man.

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It’s been almost a year since I reviewed Christopher Rice’s Bone Music and I thought it was a delightful pilot for his Burning Girl thriller. So after having read this book I became like Kirsten Dunst (in Interview of the Vampire) and I wanted more. Apparently, my book lust didn’t go unnoticed and when Echo showed up in my library’s book list for purchase, it was met with wide open arms (and maybe some drooling and incoherent babbling). When it finally made it to the stacks, certain books were sacrificed (sorry Ben MacIntyre) and like a starving lycanthrope … pretty much pounced on it. But enough about my melodrama concerning anticipated books and other such bollocks (possible signs that I need to go out more), and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?
Blood Echo returns with Charlotte Rowe (nee Trinia Pierce) who now works for Graydon Pharmaceuticals and its enigmatic CEO Cole in a very covert, black-ops capacity: she uses her ability to track down predator scum, and rips them a new one (in some cases, literally). In the beginning of Echo Charlotte is tracking a new tosser named Davies that has a penchant for abducting certain types of women, killing them, and using their skin to make things like belts and wallets. Yes, I can see images of Silence of the Lamb’s Buffalo Bill emerging in your minds but unlike Bill, Davies is not your Bed-Bath-And-Beyond type of serial killer (no lotion in baskets and such). Sorry, I couldn’t help that. Somewhere, along the line, the hunt closed in on Davies and what could have been simple walk-in-the-park operation almost turned into a disaster (almost) with some surprising results. After recovering Charlotte returns to the quiet town of Altamira for some rest and some loving from her (former bully turned …) boyfriend Luke Prescott. Just as Charlotte is being content to spend most of her days smelling roses and having a dizzying amount of sex with Luke, a battered woman, Lacey Shannon, shows up in Luke Prescott’s office. She blames a certain Jordy Clements for her predicament and wants him arrested. Jordy Clement is a young twit whose daddy was awarded a lucrative construction project in Altamira, hence Jordy thinks he’s the dog’s bollocks and has become a class-A wanker all over town. Luke decides to investigate this and after a bit of Teatro De Machismo, Jordy finds himself in a nice comfortable cell. And then it gets strange, as Luke receives a call from Cole Graydon to set Jordy free. To add to the strangeness, Lacey Shannon, has disappeared. As Luke investigates, he and Charlotte are unwittingly sucked into a conspiracy of which Jordy is central figure and involving some Proud Boy types. But is it a coincidence or was this meant for Charlotte to do her She-Hulk impression and take care of some more tossers? I’m afraid you’ve been misguided if you think I’m going to tell you this. Yes, I’m aware of my strange ability to spoil movies and books for people (sorry to a certain group of folks back in the 90s the never got to appreciate the Sixth Sense ending … yeah, in my 20s and no filter, impulse control) … so I’m trying to keep this “ability” under control. And … I have detoured. Also there is a touching return of hacker extraordinaire, Bailey, and Dylan, (psychopathic) former SEAL and scientist. Now most folks would (logically) assume this is where the book ends. Wrong. Rice , with just a thin sliver pages, packs in some delightful, jaw dropping revelations and mind-blowing twists that will leave some folks agape, staring into space and …even as the last word fades from their mind … in anticipation of the next Burning Girl book. Sorry Chris, old chap.

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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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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.)

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

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