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Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category


The sequel to The Bone Tree, I could not simply avoid this book even if you paid me handsomely to do so. Though I have yet to read the first of the trilogy, Natchez Burning, I can’t help but still forging ahead to read Blood. Yes, I know I am violating some weird reader code of sorts but that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. And to Mr. Iles credit, he wrote Bone Tree so well that it could have easily been a standalone. But, I will still be heading back to read Natchez Burning after all is said and done. And yes, even when I know the “spoilers”. But enough of the bollocks and on to the bleedy review.

The Bone Tree left us with a Penn Cage trying to pick the pieces of his life after killing Frank Knox (the head of a notorious Ku Klux Klan fringe group known as the Double Eagles) and the death of his fiancée that was killed in her quest to find the Bone Tree. And then along comes Lincoln Turner, Penn’s half-brother and product of an affair between Tom Cage(Penn’s father) and Violet Turner (an Afro-American nurse) and the shit hits the fan. Tom Cage is accused, by Lincoln, of causing the death of Violet Turner (Lincoln’s mother) and is arrested. Meanwhile, Snake Knox is still running around free and is back in the United States and he’s got revenge on his mind. To be precise: he has a bloodbath in mind for Penn Cage and his family. Teaming up with a white supremacist biker gang, along with his firearms-proficient, psychopath of a son (Alois Engels), Snake is determined to bathe the shores of Mississippi in a nice shade of red. And this they do with the grace and mercy of a pit filled with agitated water moccasins. Though Penn is not exactly a sitting duck, surrounded by private contractor bodyguards who are mostly former SEALs and Special Forces, he finds himself under the charms of a Serenity Butler, a journalist and former military officer that is quite the firecracker. And yes a lot of steamy stuff happen between Serenity and Penn … and they even sleep together too. Interestingly enough, as much the book could have been about the Snake and his ilk committing all sorts of vileness in the land, the real star of this book is the trial of Tom Cage. Now some you will read this and go, bloody hell I’m not going to read about some bloody courtroom drama … and you’ll be terribly wrong about this. This is a trial like you’ve never read one before. The showdown between Quentin Avery, the wheelchair bound defender of Tom Cage, and Shadrach “Shad” Johnson the prosecutor is the equivalent of watching a July the 4th celebration … using nuclear missiles that explode in midair. The trial if it were an action movie would be likened to a Jason Bourne movie filled with twists, turns and intrigue around every nook and cranny that you soon begin to dread things like sleep, bodily functions, and going to work. The trial (in my humble opinion) is Iles’ masterpiece, and there is a good chance that many of you will not guess the outcome of the trial. Of course, some of you would be cheeky bastards and skip ahead and read the bleedy outcome. Tsk, tsk … not very sporting mates, though I will admit that I was tempted to do the same, but you know what they say about patience being a good virtue and all that other bollocks.
After having read The Bone Tree, I must have been panting like a Pavlovian dog in anticipation of this sequel, and I when I finally got it, it was worth the wait. Blood is the South like you’ve never read it and sad reflection of the way race relations are today in America. Fiction hits home. The action inside and outside the courtroom is thick and stifling as monsoon humidity in a Louisiana bayou and strikes as viciously and relentlessly as a trod-upon copperhead. Forget grabbing you by the throat, Blood grabs you by the minerals and it is that good kind of pain (hope I don’t sound too fifty shady here … but there I said it) that you endure … willingly … all the way to the last page. Jolly good show, Mr. Iles.

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fireman_cvr
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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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.

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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.

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crow_clash_cvr

It is October, the month of Halloween and horror movie marathons doting most channels on cable that can. So I have to break out an oldie but goodie. It was 1994, and (an ill-fated) Brandon Lee was starring in movie called The Crow (also part of my Valentines Day movie ritual), an adaptation from the series created by James O’Barr. Yes, many of remember those times, especially those of us that were going through a semi-goth phase. The dark clothing, dark Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, dark boots, and dark Max Factor lipstick (or so I’ve heard … um, not a bloody word).So for many of us back then, we couldn’t get enough of all things Crow. So whilst going through my private library (yes, I actually buy and own books that I’ve read more than once), I came across Clash By Night. It was great to re-read it for the umpteenth time, and I’ve just had to mention it.
Meet Amy Carlisle. She’s got the perfect marriage to a wonderful chap named Rick Carlisle and she runs, with three other women, a successful daycare center. As perfect as Amy’s life may seem, there is but one thorn that has stuck itself in Amy’s side: Amy is unable to have children. She is content to live in a childless marriage yet extending that maternal love to all the kids she watches over that she encounters in her daycare. Life despite its lemons, seems to be producing some real great peach-flavoured lemonade when a visiting Senator chooses her daycare to have press conference. Amy and her co-founders, see it as a great opportunity for some great PR for their daycare. Please keep in mind this book was written in time when there was no such that as (thank goodness) social media and the World Wide Web was just a whisper in the wind … so yes, people relied on being on the telly as PR tool. I’ve detoured … oh so slightly. What is seen as great opportunity for Amy is also, unfortunately, seen as great opportunity by Rip Withers, the leader of a local, crazed, white-supremacist militia. When an assassination attempt on the Senator’s life fails (due to the Senator cancelling the visit) and instead claims the life of Amy, her co-workers and the children, it is where Amy and Rip unwittingly cross paths. Amy is drawn into the world of the Dark-Winged One: the Crow. And unfortunately, Rip Withers and his militia is drawn into the world of hurt that they can’t quite comprehend. And deservedly so. The action and suspense is viscereal, as Amy, the first female Crow, doles out vigilante justice that would make even then Punisher stew in envy. And language can be literally disemboweling at times (political correctness be damned … seriously … not for PC sensitive). After all, we are dealing with a bunch of racist, misogynist psychopaths. Aye, that pretty sums it up. Be warned.
Reading Clash by Night is sort of like a literary time trip back into the nineties. There is talk about the Clintons, Waco and Janet Reno. Techies would enjoy the mention of AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files, also known as the files that we had to constantly tamper with in order to play Doom really well without our computers crashing. We’ve really come a long way.
Clash By Night, is an oldie but goodie. A nice addition the Crow series, and yes, there are several others out there I have still yet to read (sadly). Vicious, suspenseful and a delightful guilty pleasure it is quite a tour-de-force.

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findrs_kprs_cvr

It has been a very interesting summer, in terms of reading… that is, and I couldn’t help but notice the new Stephen King book sitting in the stacks, beckoning to me like a curvaceous Siren to a marrooned, randy sailor (wow, I seriously need to go out more). What can I say, perfect timing, yeah?
The new King book practically begins with a bang. A reclusive, iconic writer, John Rothstein, is the victim of a home invasion. But this is no ordinary home invasion. Led by Morris Bellamy, an obsessive fan, the object is, seemingly, the large amounts of money kept in the writer’s home safe, though to the Morris the real treasure is the pile of Moleskin notebooks filled with drafts of unpublished Jimmy Gold novels. After cold-bloodedly murdering Rothstein … and his accomplices, Morris hides his literary “booty” along with some piles of cash, only to be sent to jail (for life) on a totally unrelated crime. Something about a rape that he was to drunk to even remember. What a way for life to suck.
Several decades later, this “well-hidden” bounty is discovered by a young Pete Sanders who was simply wandering off the beaten path (literally) and his curiousity got the best of him. Pete Sanders family is enduring some tough times, since Pete’s father (apparently the bread winner) was injured in the Mr. Mercedes rampage (bloody hell, you say, a tie back to another King novel). Yes. And it gets better. So what does a young man do when he finds a significant amount of money? Instead of spending it on bling and other such bollocks, Pete does the “unthinkable” he anonymously mails portions of it on monthly (or was it weekly?) basis to (gasp!!!) his family in order to help them out of their financial crisis. Blimey, you say, a teenager that chooses to the most selfless thing with a large pile of money … King has sunk to a new terrifying low. Of course, good intentions aside, pillaged treasures soon finish and … some prisoners, despite the odds, get released back into society. And a certain convict is going to need his “hidden treasure” to fall back on. As the body count begins, a troubled Pete Sanders find himself embroiled with shady rare book dealers and eventually crosses path with Bill Hodges (yes, the retired detective from Mr. Mercedes). Also joining Hodges, is the boy wonder Jerome Robinson, an intelligent (now in college) black teenager who is a wisecracking, techie genius (also from Mr. Mercedes). Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the suspense to rachet up at speeds that would redline your adrenaline guage, as the book races with break-neck speed towards a heart-pounding conclusion. Notable mention: Brady Hartsfield (aka Mr. Mercedes) also makes an appearance and even though he is physically incapacitated, there is something supernaturally brewing up in the mix. Alas, the saga of Mr. Mercedes is not quite over. And it is pure, premium King. Bloody fantastic.

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drone_cvr

The story opens with some Somali military tosser walking around thinking he’s the dog’s bollocks as he debates releasing aid (donated food), that has been held ransom, to his FELLOW countrymen. Aye, not like this kind of bollocks EVER happen in the real world. Until he’s contacted by some ominous presence via his large screen HD telly that he has to comply with his deal to release the aid in consideration of the large sums that has been paid into his Cayman accounts. But since this bloke is tosser, like most Third World tosser, he decides to toy with the patience and decency of the West … and then he and his entire military compound, filled with armed bullies, are surgically dispatched by a drone. Hence the title.
And of course, the action at this point kicks into full gear.

Tony Pearce is former special operations agent that once worked for the CIA and now runs Pearce Research Systems that specializes in designing everything from next-generation prosthetics to …well… next generation combat machinery (i.e. drones). On some weekends, when Pearce is not designing the latest precursor to Skynet, he is sometimes running black ops on behalf of President Margaret Myers (yes, we’ve got female president … finally … too bad it’s in fiction … never fear … not too far off … I hope … and yes, I’ve detoured) testing out his drones on bad guys. When a bunch of teenagers, at a house party in El Paso, is surgically massacred by a Mexican drug cartel, the crap hits the fan in Capitol Hill. However, when one of the victims of the massacre turns out to be the President’s son (a teacher that was hanging out at the party with … apparently … his students) that’s when the shit gets real … and personal. Soon Tony Pearce is asked a favour by President Myers, and no … it doesn’t involve bringing home a gallon of 2% lowfat milk. And as the cartels find themselves in the crosshairs of Myers, unknown to them, they’ve unwittingly allied themselves with an Iranian double agent that uses them for his own ulterior motives. Motives that involve using Pearce as an unwitting pawn into something even more frightening and threatens to push America over a dangerous precipice.
Machiavellian schemes (from Mexico to Capitol Hill) coupled with adrenaline-drenched action … all marinated in gut-wrenching suspense makes Drone a very hard book to put down. Bodily functions and sleep be damned. It is Mr. Maden’s debut novel and what a bloody debut it is. A delightful yet terrifying bit of fiction on the fascinating world unmanned combat. On the cover of Drone there are the words “Introducing Tony Pearce”. I’d like to say “nice to meet you … and I’m looking forward to more of your work”.

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