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I am in love with the horror writing of Jonathan Janz. It is vicious, scary and sometimes downright dark (and possibly disturbing). In other words, books to curl up with at the fireplace with your bearpaw slippers, as you sup on milk and cookies. What? No. Or so I’ve heard. But enough about my … um, reading habits and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?

Needless to say, the cover of this book conveyed all the fear that it could possibly entail and then some (feel free to look at the cover … intimidating, yes …. well, good). Species originally revolves around two groups of people: Charly and her husband Eric; and a local newspaper crew (Jesse, Emma, and Colleen). Charly is a housewife with a newborn and two daughters (and apparently scorchingly hot) that is married to cheating wanker of husband named Eric. Apparently Eric is a volleyball coach that has thing for younger assistant coaches (who … surprise, surprise … often turn out to be young women). Despite his cheating, the thorn in his side is Sam Bledsoe, a contractor that is doing some renovations to his house. Yes, Sam is slightly older, divorced, knows a lot about home renovations (despite Eric’s awful, ignorant micromanaging) and a good looking, manly man-type. I imagine him as Sam Elliot in his forties (what … I like Sam Elliot … think what you want). And unlike Eric, Sam is actually decent to Charly and not because she often agrees with him over her husband’s ridiculous suggestions on home improvement. The truth is Sam Bledsoe is a decent chap (kinda like Sam Elliot … I’m never going to live that down, am I … very well). On the other side is the equation is a local newspaper crew consisted of Jesse, Emma and Colleen, that are on assignment to cover the opening weekend of a recreational park area called the (refrain from laughter) Peaceful Valley Nature Preserve. And there is a bit of soap opera going on here. Apparently Jesse has the hots for Emma but loves her from a distance. Colleen is a no-nonsense woman but, gleefully, senses this about Jesse.
Though it is not exactly the assignment they dreamed of they arrive at the Nature Preserve expecting a crateload of boredom and instead finding a college frat party. And rivals to Jesse’s affections. During the first evening, the three explore the grounds and the forested area with a large river where Jesse encountered a winged-monstrosity of a shadow in the night sky. At first he thought it was just some environmental effect wreaking havoc with his vision. And then there were the strange sounds. The woods that line the housing developments have always troubled Sam Bledsoe, for at night he always found those woods unnerving. Meanwhile, Charly is in the process of putting her children to bed, when she encounters a strange, naked, (over nine feet tall) humanoid creature with green eyes and feral teeth standing in her newborn’s room. Before she could scream, the creature grabs her newborn and leaps from a second story window and runs off into the woods. Back in the Nature Preserve, Jesse is standing the shadows of the woods watching Emma flirt with a jock-type when suddenly a bunch of tall creatures (think subterranean creatures of Descent except slight taller and some near Cloverdale sized) ran out of the woods and proceed to slaughter everyone at the party. What is even more disturbing is that some of these creatures, bearing exaggerated-size organs (that would probably give the likes of Ron Jeremy an inferior complex), and aside from mauling, engage in rape (of mostly deceased females). And then, the real horror begins (yes, you’ve read correctly).
Species is little under 300 pages, and the first 30-50 pages there is calmness. Beyond that it is ongoing, relentless intrigue, ghastliness, gore and … horror. And Janz does not make it boring or repetitive. It is possibly the first horror book I’ve ever read where the action stretched over several hundred pages. And along the blood-splattered journey we encounter Frank Red Elk. Yes, Frank is wisecracking Native American that has lived near and the preserve for many years … and knows about the existence of these monstrous creatures. He is also a porn aficionado. And as the two groups paths converge, they find themselves under the guidance of Frank, who not only makes it his duty to “compliment” some of the women of the group by telling them that they resemble certain porn stars but would at the most inappropriate times (usually when their lives were in peril) decide to discuss the differences between soft and hard core porn. Yes, I must confess (shamefully) that I visited Google on several occasions and found myself transported back to my Cinemax days that featured many of Frank’s infatuation. BTW, who still watches Cinemax … just asking … not judging.
Species IS a train ride of terror, where all the doors and windows are welded shut with steel bars, the cabins are splattered with blood, the brakes are destroyed and the end of the line results in the train plunging into a deep chasm. And the passengers know this. Sure it might give you some sleepless nights if you live near wooded areas that are filled with strange nightly sounds and I apologize to my mates that live in certain New England and Southern States. Caution to readers: try NOT to get too attached to the characters. Game of Thrones has nothing on Species (and don’t worry, I won’t detour by ranting about the last season … it’s probably been said ad nauseum). Jonathan Janz, I love you. Maybe more than Sam Elliot. Maybe.

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

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

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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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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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mistermercedes_cvr

Sorry for the late post. It has been a wee bit crazy this month at my library. I now hate teachers … you get summer off and we get the privilege of running around the stacks hunting the TONS of books that you so casually compiled for your pupils. For some reason I can hear Q Lazarus’ Goodbye Horses playing in my ear the more I think of this. Don’t worry, I won’t be doing the Buffalo Bill dance routine to it. But enough about the bollocks and no let’s head off the matter at hand (if I haven’t creeped you out at this point).
It is clear to me that there is NOTHING out there that Stephen King can’t take and into suspenseful, horrifying prose. Absolutely nothing. So taking a cue from the current state of employment in this country, the book starts out with a bunch of people lining up in the pre-dawn hours at a site for job interviews. Yes, apparently there are things more important that iPhones and other such bollocks worth waiting for in line. It is a scene that reads like a near-dismal modern day version of Grapes of Wrath minus the billowing tumbleweeds and complete dark looming clouds of despair. A young woman, with a baby, befriends a gentleman on the line. He in turn gives her a sleeping bag for her to rest in with her infant. It is touching, and just as the warm cockles of your heart start warming up along comes some wanker in a Mercedes-Benz car and plows through the entire crowd … intentionally. And this is all within the first chapter.
Bill Hodges is a retired detective who lives a very simple – retired – life. His usual daily regimen involves watching some self-righteous, indignant female judge verbally pummel unsuspecting litigants and a certain show involving people, screaming audience and DNA tests. He’s had quite an accomplished career closing many great cases … all except one. I guessing you can guess which one. Then one day, Hodges receives a letter from a certain Mr. Mercedes. Though seemingly apologetic, the letter is a thinly veiled taunt at Hodges’ inability to close the case.
Meet Brady Hartsfield, by day he works at a discount electronics store and is part of Cyber Squad (or something like that), a team that drives around in lime green Volkswagons fixing people’s computers. On the side, Mr. Hartsfield also drives an ice cream truck which allows him to dispense ice cream to sugar-starved kids whilst keeping an eye on Bill Hodges. After a grueling day of fixing computers and selling ice cream, Mr. Hartsfield goes home to his mother. This is where it gets cringeworthy for Brady has very unusual fascination with mum (as in incestual with a capital I), though not as sexy as anything you might see on Game of Thrones. And for the record, I’m not implying that incest is – sexy. Allow me a moment to deal with the slight vomit burped into my throat and is slow being re-digested. Oh the things I must endure for my blog and readers. So aside from planning psychotic bollocks and taunting retired detectives, Mr. Hartsfield is an avowed racist as is seen in his hatred that is directed towards Jerome Robinson; a young black man that is befriended by Hodges and is brilliant beyond his age. He is also quite the adoring wiseass.
So there is Brady Hartsfield in a nutshell: racist, a bit psychotic and lives with his mum that he’s sexually fascinated with. Hmmm … sounds like a good percentage of the trolls that hang out on Yahoo and other news site messageboards. Now I know what some might be thinking that I’ve tossered up and decided to reveal the killer to you. Sorry mates, hate to break it to you, but King beat me to that within the first three chapters.

As Hodges pulls himself back into the case he encounters Lauren Trelawney, whose sister was driven to suicide by Mr. Mercedes since it was her stolen Mercedes that was used in the crime. He is hired by her, as a private eye, to investigate her suicide. Of course, Lauren is a hot 40-something and yes their relationship becomes more than professional. Awww, older folks having hot sex. It is only a matter of time before things go awry (I’m not going to say what -) and before you know it Hodges is joined with a strange motley crew (Olivia Trelawney and Jerome) as they pursue Bray in what turns out to be a terrifying race against the clock where there is a lot at stake … to lose

King’s Mr. Mercedes, though not your typical preternatural horrifying tale, is more of psychological crime thriller that nevertheless scares you breathless. Especially when you realize, based on current events, that there are tons of Brady Hartsfields out there – minus the incest factor. Maybe. I hope. Please.
All in all, it is premium King that, as always, never skimps on the excitement and throat-grabbing suspense, and leaves you waiting for the next book.

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doctorsleep

Back in the 80s, I remember sitting under this house with a bunch of people in a makeshift cinema that was comprised of several benches, a large telly and a Betamax video player (the size of the Hoover dam), watching The Shining. Aye, in Guyana they tend to build houses on pillars, that way you get to use the full yard and still have a very large house with two stairs. I was in my early teens then, and along with a few of my mates, I had paid my two quid to get the bollocks scared out of me … and let’s just say that The Shining didn’t disappoint. What I got from that movie was about a week of sleepless nights and me pledging to never accept any carnal proposals from any strange naked women, I encounter, emerging from bathtubs, in strange hotels. Then again … about the last part … oh come on, just kidding. Maybe.

The last time we heard of (or saw) Dan (Danny) Torrance, he was escaping, along with his mum and chef Dick Hollaran, from the Overlook Hotel … and the psychotic wrath of a possessed father. Up until then no knew what happened to Danny Torrance beyond Overlook. Apparently, for many fans, inquiring minds wanted to know and this specter may have raised its head at several of King’s signings (or so I had gleaned from his Author’s notes … aye, I tend to be a bit thorough with King’s prose sometimes). And so, the much anticipated sequel to The Shining was born: Doctor Sleep. Here we find a middle-aged Danny Torrance, drifting around America, a full-blown alcoholic and occasional drug user (if there is ever such a thing), from job to job. His mother had passed on (now please folks, this is not much of a spoiler, for you will learn this early o’clock in the book … and no, I would never be such a wank). We are also introduced to a group called the True Knot that travel by RVs and Winnebagos across the country and they seemingly have an appetite (literally!!!) for young children that have the shining ability. Immortal and viciously terrifying, they are lead by the charismatic Rose the Hat; a woman whose viciousness and charm are so bloody terrifying that it makes Hannibal Lechter looks like a dolled-up children librarian that wears lots of pink (the colour … and not the Victoria Secret brand … it is troubling that I know this). If you look closely on the cover you’ll see a depiction of the sultry Rose (yes, it took me awhile to figure that out … and to notice the outline of her tophat) which more or less dampens the pure malevolence that hides beneath the surface of this bird. The paths , between Rose the Hat and Danny intersect, when both (sort of) encounter Abra Stone: a young girl that is born with the shining, very powerful and is perceived by the True Knot as some sort of Holy Grail. Aye, sick, twisted and bloody creepy. And so a battle royale begins, as the Rose and her True Knot cult try to capture Abra. For Danny, it is déjà vu all over again where Abra is the same shoes as Danny was at Overlook and Danny, now, has to become a mentor of sorts, as chef Hollaran was to him, to her in face of an emerging and terrifying battle.
King does not hold back nor spares any punches as this terrifying sequel explodes, on your senses, with the force of high yield megaton atomic bomb as it often not only makes your hair stand on end but bloody glow with tension and anxiety. There is a mixture of everything for every emotion in this book … and most of it …very twisted. We learn about Dick Hollaran’s disturbing pass as a young child. We get to cheer (a bit) when Danny finds his way to recovery whilst working in a New Hampshire hospice and because of his shining “ability” he has this unique way of helping people to pass from this life into the other (hence the title “Doctor Sleep”). And of course, there is one of the most touching endings I’ve read in Stephen King book that almost got me sobbing like a little nancy. Okay, my eye got a wee bit glazed over … but THAT’S IT. (Forgive me, Jason Statham, Patron Saint of Manliness).

Needless to say, it is premium King at its most thrilling, frightening … and yet, oh so touching. An adrenaline-induced, horrifying, roller coaster ride that you never want to end. The much anticipated sequel was well worth the wait. Though now I am a bit ever more cautious about RVs and Winnebagos that I may encounter on travels on the highways of America, for you never know who …or WHAT is in them (also echoed in the Author’s notes). Mr. King you are one scary bastard … a loveable scary bastard.

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Back in the 90s when Interview With The Vampire appeared on the screens, I became curious about the hubbub and decided on reading the book before seeing the movie. Quite the mind boggling experience. There I was expecting your typical vlah-vlah-vlah-suck your blood stuff, but instead got blown away by what Anne Rice had written. And thus began my adoration of Anne Rice (and a somewhat semi-Goth phase). I say semi-Goth, simply because I didn’t go crazy with the excessive wearing of all things black and develop an obsession over fictional nocturnal creatures. Strangely enough, I had a life and I dealt with folks in various aspects of society and simply walking around looking ghoulish and depressed was not exactly what the doctor ordered. It turns it this was good for my sanity in the future and would not make it to that mental “what was I thinking” filing cabinet. The amazing thing about Ms. Rice’s writing is the priceless amount of historical research that is poured into her work which she merges so delightfully with the fictional aspects and at times making mythical, fictional creatures seem alive and real. After going through the first four books in the Vampire Chronicles (in two months !!!) there were times I was convinced that these folks existed and having the tree branches hit on my window on windy night did not exactly help the “it’s only fictional” mantra. But that is a true mark of an excellent writer.

A while back, Anne Rice decided to change course and write about the most significant immortal of all, Jesus Christ. I’ll be honest in admitting that I believe strongly in the Christian faith, though I am not exactly a perfect specimen of a Christian. Nay, this is a lifetime walk with me. Yes, I’ve gotten my tons of looks from folks who find out this fact about me and see me reading her books that feature nerve-racking content about witches, witchcraft, and vampires. As a follower of the Christian faith, we’re thought to be wary of evil. For the most evil isn’t always some scary looking bloke in a dark outfit. In reading the Vampire Chronicles, the characters show in many cases how seductive and beguiling evil can be. In my view, if you want to what you’re up against it pays to get the inside scoop on your opponent. It took me awhile to get around to reading Christ Our Lord: Out of Egypt. It is sort of like being in church and seeing that beautiful girl in the pew, but yet you feel wrong about wanting to ask her out on a date or (heaven forbid) kiss her. After having read so many of Anne Rice’s books that centered around many secular aspects, it felt sort of strange looking at book with the title Christ Our Lord: Out of Egypt followed by the name “Ann Rice”. I was not the only one. On several “goth” messageboards on the net folks were foaming at the mouth and basically accusing her of “jumping ship”. Sorry mates, I hate to break the news, but the lady’s a writer and sometimes writer try different things. Needless to say, on that note, I was compelled to check out a copy from my local library.

For the most, in our reading of the Bible, we’ve experienced the birth of Jesus, and his life as grown man coming to grips with his destiny. Any mention of his childhood was very brief and left a lot to be desired. In Christ Our Lord, Anne Rice, armed with tons historical research, sets out to give us a possible glimpse of what life was in the eyes of a young Jesus on the journey out of Egypt back to Bethlehem. At most, it was educational exposure to early Judaism and life under the brutal Roman regimes. And then we see the young Jesus, wise beyond his years yet still filled with all the curiousity and vigour of a young man. We see his first encounter with the corruption in the churches and for once, I understood why he lost it, in his older years, and decided to set the record straight on the folks that turned the house of worship into (basically) a bank. Today, I think he would have used a World War II portable flamethrower (read that somewhere).

The overhyped Da Vinci Code left a horrible taste in many folks mouth. My curiousity got the best of me and as I was on the way out of the movies I “accidentally” ended up in Da Vinci Code. It was dark and I couldn’t find my way out, so I ended up enduring the movie to the end. Aside from the fact that it tried to re-write the Bible, plotwise it was easy as abstract origami. I think David Lynch was sitting next me and even he said, “Bloody hell, this is confusing.” David Lynch, mates. Christ Our Lord: Out of Egypt was refreshing change in the mental atmosphere. It was moving, and yes, I may have teared up a bit. Just a wee bit. Most of all, my respect for Ann Rice, as writer, grew in leaps and bounds. She may have stepped away from the blood and gore, but the beauty about talent is that which ever path it chooses to tread upon, it always leaves an impressionable mark. A truly, delightful read. Touching to the soul … for even sad sacks and pathetic scoundrels like me. Cueing Handel’s Messiah.

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