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Posts Tagged ‘book review’

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.

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grunt_cvr

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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watch_cvr
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?

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bf_exorcism__cvr

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

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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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jacobtracy_cvr

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

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otherson_cvr

I know, I know. It is that time of the year where we all get touchy and as the eggnog flows, most people want to curl up to something warm and fuzzy. The last thing you want to read about is about Swedish psychopaths. Alas, I missed that memo. Sorry chaps.

About a year ago (or so), I had reviewed Söderberg’s debut, The Andalucian Friend, and we were introduced to Sophie Brinkmann, the nurse, and her son, Albert. In Friend, one of Sophie’s patient was a drug kingpin named Hector Guzman who, seemingly, took a liking to her. Unfortunately, the moment Sophie started falling for his charms, that was the moment her world exploded as her path collided with a delightful (and frightening) array of characters that pretty much blurred the lines between good and evil. Actually, they practically erased the bloody line. Seemingly vicious gangsters that actually had somewhat of a moral compass and law enforcement officials that were morally void sociopaths that would render most demons speechless. All those roads (littered with corpses and drenched in blood) seem to lead to Sophie. Needless to say, not in a pleasant way. In the end of Friend, we find Hector Guzman in a coma and Sophie being offered a choice she can’t possibly refuse: take control of Hector’s affairs or face the possibility of being dirtnapped. Hmm, decisions … decisions.

Other Son opens, six months later, and we find Sophie managing the slowly crumbling Hector Guzman empire whilst being guided throught the proverbial shark-infested waters of the drug trade by Hector’s loyal and lethally efficient right-hand, Aron Geisller. Living her life constantly peering over her shoulder and bogged down by Aron’s security protocols, Sophie finds herself being pushed further and further to the edge of the abyss. To add to her troubles, Ralph Hanke (Hector’s rival) has become quite bold and vicious in his attacks as he sanctions the kidnapping of a Lothar Tiedmann, Hector’s illegitimate son. Sophie soon finds herself being tested by various cutthroat factions and being pushed into making decisions that raises Aron’s eyebrows … and that is not a good thing. Now I know what you’re thinking … it can’t get any crazier than this. And I have to say to you that you really don’t know Scandanavian crime novels. Enter Tommy Jansson (corrupt cop extraordinare), Antonia Miller (an actual decent cop with really good wits), Ove Negerson (a half-black, half-Swedish psychopath), and Miles Ingmarsson (a surveillance expert that seems to spends most of his time in strip clubs), Koen (a heroin addicted hitman) and the loveable bear of a Russian mafioso, Mikhail, returns. Aye, to say that the shit is about to hit the fan is, laughably, the biggest uderstatment of the century. There are more twists and turns than disorganized origami and intrigue is so thick that you can almost gag on it. The body count climbs (caution: try not to get attached to characters) and the blood spatters like something in Dexter’s wet dream. The race to the jaw-dropping (yet abrupt) conclusion will keep you riveted, fired up and jonesing for the next sequel by Söderberg.

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