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Posts Tagged ‘supernatural’

Truth be told, I’ve been reading a lot of Janz stuff over the summer, but I didn’t want to make it a Summer of Janz thing (though that would have been a wee bit cool). So I had to spread it out, a bit. The latest that I just read … nay …. Consumed was The Darkest Lullaby. Another dark, twisted delicacy that will most likely give most folks sleepless nights especially if they live next to wooded areas. Be warned.But enough with the blooming pleasantries and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?
Apparently when it comes to writing horror Janz, in some cases such as Lullaby, dispenses with the foreplay and goes straight in to it. And then eases back into the foreplay, and builds up to the final climax (both metaphorically and literally). Interesting? Never thought about that … oh, wait ignore that part, that’s just a detour … nothing to look at. Or analyze. Lullaby starts off with a young woman giving about to give birth (sometime in the 80s) and it ends with her baby being taken away by a Rasputin-type figure, named Gerald Destrangis, and strange woman into a forest. I know, not much and it doesn’t exactly give you the hibby-jibbies … except this Janz we’re dealing with here and in the first chapter (yes, the FIRST) things went from normal to downright dark and sinister. And just when you are about to brace yourself for the oncoming onslaught … we meet Chris and Ellie (Eleanor) Crane. Married for a few years and hailing from Malibu (and a crappy apartment), they moved to Indiana to settle in a large house with a lot of many acres of land. This house was inherited by Chris from his late aunt Lilith. And though Indiana is quite a change from Malibu, the living situation is quite an upgrade for Ellie, though the house does have some creepy aspects. And just when things couldn’t get any better, Ellie discovers she is pregnant, after trying for quite some time. Seems like the move to Indiana is a good omen of sorts … but, yes, this IS a Jonathan Janz book. Funny thing about Lilith (nothing major or significant): prior to her passing she was part of an unholy cult that dabbled in blasphemous, dark rituals that involved sex, blood and sacrifices (let’s say we’re not talking about chickens on this one). Like I said, nothing major or significant.
And then the strange stuff begins (yes, you read correctly). Ellie starts seeing strange things as she explores the creepy (but big house that could hold a nice nursery room for her child). In one she encounters a strange alpha-male type man that chases her, from a secret room filled with ghastly images, with sinister and/or carnal intentions in his wild eyes … only to have both seemingly vanish. Chris, on the other hand, is exploring the large property, a land filled with woods and clearings and even a lake … until he encounters a strange naked woman walking in the woods … and ends up succumbing to a strange sexual encounter that he can’t quite recall (I hear those are usually the best ones assuming they are consensual … or tolerable at most). Oh, another not-so interesting thing about Lilith: prior to her passing she hated Ellie (with a passion) and had a strong attachment to her nephew, Chris. How strong you ask? The kind of attachments that you read about in Penthouse Forum (or so I’ve heard). And yes, bloody gross. But there it is. Needless to say, Chris starts to slowly change (and not for the best) and seems to constrain himself to two activities: taking walks in the wooded areas and writing a book that he forbids Ellie to look at. Wait a minute, sounds familiar? Sexual encounters with strange women, change in attitude, “writing” a book, living in roomy building seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Red rum (minus the spooky twins). But if you think I’ve spilled the beans on this book you sadly mistaken. Not even close. On top of all things, there is a snarky real estate agent that tries to talk Ellie and Chris out of the property but for some strange reason wants to buy it. As the red flags mount, Ellie decides that it is time to leave, unfortunately the forces that be have other ideas and leaving that house is not going to be easy. To make matters worse (yes), Ellie sister shows up out of the blue and … the shit hits the fan. And it splatters red … and maybe a bit brown.
Lives intersect, and dark twisted secrets come to light in the dark … some sinister and terrifyingly deadly. And yes, there are some terrifying twists that accompany this Christmas tale, that WILL keep some awake for a few nights … or at least be wary of strange, naked women that you may encounter in wooded areas (hint: you might think of walking …nay, running in the next direction). Alas, Jonathan Janz has done it again: for some, another anti-sleep cure … and for others, a thirst for more of his terrifying fiction. Will this poor man be able to keep up with literary thirst he has created? Time will tell (and I hope this will goad him into spitting out more books). Caution to readers (because you’re my mates and all): don’t become attached to characters (trust me). .

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Why, yes, it is another Jonathan Janz book and I can’t seem to get enough of his horror writing. And no, I’m not being paid one quid to promote his stuff (gasp!!!), and I actually like his stuff. And apparently he’s listening to my thoughts and writing tons of books every year. Maybe I should keep that part about him “listening to my thoughts” to myself. Too crazy? Oh well, enough with the bollocks and on with the review. Yeah?

Roderick Wells is the most celebrated yet reclusive writer in the world. So when ten “lucky” writers are offered an exclusive invitation to his summer-long writing retreat, their dreams are aglow with riches and literary fame. They, however, are instructed not to tell ANYONE about this invitation since that would be an automatic disqualification. Maybe it’s just me but that qualifies as red flag behaviour. I’ve seen enough horror movies that start with that premise … they never end good. Or maybe I need to get out more. Maybe. The winner of this contest gets three million dollars and a recommendation to the publisher, of their dreams, to publish their books. Upon arriving the participants are made to wear blindfolds and are taken into a strange forest that has a Gothic-type mansion in the middle of nowhere. Yes, more screaming red flags that even Stevie Wonder can see on a dark, moonless night. Among the writers is Lucy, an actual published Young Adult (YA) writer that had great but short-lived success with one book and has yet to write another for over a decade. There is also the unpublished Rich and rising star Elaine. And there are few sociopaths within, Anna and Bryan. During their first meeting with an old Roderick Wells and his alluring youthful wife, Amanda, Rich receives a scary premonition about Roderick. And the shit hits the fan. With no access to the Internet but a great sprawling library available, the writers have to create stories and everyday are selected to read their stories to everyone else (I once took a class like that … one the best English classes I ever took in college). The genre was selected by Wells and it turns out to be (wait for it) … horror. Yes. Writers that are found lacking are treated to acidic criticism by Wells who make Simon Cowell seem like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. And they are eventually “eliminated” or as Wells would put it … “sent home”. Sort of like saying that the ailing Fluffy was being sent off to that “wonderful” farm to roam freely with all the other animals. Even more disturbing is that the eliminated writers tend to leave without their possessions, which Wells’ manservant, Wilson, claims that he’ll take care of it. Sure thing, mate. The strange thing is that as writers become “eliminated” Wells seem to get younger and strange things start to appear in and around his mansion. Maybe it is just the atmosphere. Yeah, and I’m the Queen of England. Strangely enough, what started out as a seemingly random gathering of writers turns out to be anything but. They are all bound by pasts filled with misdeeds and skeletons (some literally) in the closet. And no … I’m not going to spell out those misdeeds that ranged from bloody sleazy to viciously disturbing. Yes, I’d be a tosser if I robbed you of all the fun. So there.
Roderick Wells is Hannibal Lector (without the cannibalism … I think) meets Julie Andrews (minus the cheery demeanour) with a hint of Dracula (minus the fangs … I think). A good portion of the book was dedicated to revisiting the sordid, dark pasts of these writers, which adds beautifully to story and will easily evoke emotions for these characters. Basically those you’d love to see live or die (gruesomely). But be careful and choose wisely (or play it safe and don’t choose at all), because this IS a Jonathan Janz book. Don’t become attached to characters. You’ve been warned. Enjoy the read.

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Yes, I know. I didn’t post anything on September, and the Evil Parrot will gladly admit to cocking up big time. Was pretty busy at work (yes, the library gets pretty hectic) and then I went to Vegas. Aye, gun ranges galore and jamming with rock bands at the Fremont Experience (Element 67 and Alter Ego crushed it). Everything else falls under the “whatever happens at Vegas” grouping (spoiler alert: not much, since I’m very chill). So I shall make up for my September misdeeds and offer you not one, nor two … but THREE reviews and since it is October, they are all Jonathan Janz stuff. Yes, it is like a book review grindhouse (and yes, I may have aged myself, since most folks may not know about grindhouse movie theater days … where you paid to see TWO movies instead of one and they consisted of violence, gore, and the occasional sexploitation). Great son and dad moments (and I mean that). But enough about Vegas, grindhouse movies and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?
I am being spoiled by Mr. Janz. Within a two year period, my book review blog has become littered with his stuff. And I’m about to do some more littering. So much (awesome) horror writing. And after every book, I’m like Kirsten Dunst in Interview With the Vampire: I want more. And it seems as if Mr. Janz is more than happy to oblige. If we ever cross paths, Mr. Janz, there is a pint with your name on it my good man.
The cover and the title , Wolf Land, spares little in alerting the reader what this book is about: werewolves. But be warned there is, a disclaimer in the beginning of the book (yes, I kid you not), promises that this is not those romanticized tales of werewolves … dear heavens, no. Feel free to put thoughts of Kate Beckinsale running around in body hugging latex out to pasture … then again … Alas, it gets quite dark, and viciously disturbing. Even some horror book taboos may have been crossed (if there is such a thing). Aye, there is more than just fictional victims being ripped to shreds here. The story begins with a bunch of former high school mates meeting up in a wooded area (it always a wooded area … what gives Janz) for some kind of party. The usual bollocks: kegs, beer, barbecues and hopes of shameful, drunken bouts of the old in-out, in-out. Sometime during this gathering, a stranger crashes and intrudes on the party goers. After taunting them, he changes into a werewolf and attacks them, and it is quite a vicious scene. Some die and a few survive. Among the survivors are an odd assortment of characters: Glenn Kershaw (a jock type with a cool Vette); Joyce (a librarian … YES !!! … that has a crush on Glenn); Duane “Short Pump” Mckidd (an occasional butt of jokes); Weezer (a typical wimpy, loser type); Savannah (a single mother with an adorable kid named Jake); and Melody Bridwell (who is secretly being used as a weekly rape toy by her father and four brothers … yes, you are reading right and the dark stuff hasn’t even been touched as yet). Now unlike that usual bollocks about the full moon, these werewolves can simply turn due to triggers that could be atmospheric, emotional or possibly certain foods (I’m not spelling it out and ruining the story for folks). There is even an interesting twist to this tale where some of the turned survivors not only change physically but psychologically. Some turned out to be latent psychotics and used their new-found abilities in terrifying and very, very disturbing ways. Sides of good and evil are drawn, and like most Janz books the bets are off on just about everyone. Try not to get attached to ANY of the characters. Though some wankers do
get their due, there is enough piles of bodies that would leave most folks shaking their heads at the end of the book … and wondering about the next book. And think people were shocked over the Red Wedding in Game Of Thrones. And yes, I did go there GoT folks.

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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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It’s been a few years since I read the last Weird Wild West book that was written by R.S. Belcher and needless to say I’ve been “jonesing” for more of tales from the Weird Wild West. So like any “junkie” that’s thirsty I reached for the next best thing for my literary “high” from Mr. Belcher. It’s like thinking that you settled for a whole bag of questionable bathtub meth and ended up with a bag of premium Peruvian blow … at bathtub meth prices. Meet Nightwise. But before I continue rambling on with drug metaphors that would most likely put me on certain law enforcement radars … I think it would be best if I just shut up with the bollocks and move on with the bloody book review. Yeah? Why not.

Nightwise takes place in the current world where magic, sorcery, necromancy, and alchemy goes by side by side with technology. Or as those immersed in it would call it … The Life. And we’re not talking about that Harry Potter, hocus-pocus-dysfunctim-erectus bollocks. Oh no, no, NO. This is the kind of magic that bring stuff that goes bump in the night into your room as you sleep at night while it sits on you and decides what to do with daft mortal that felt that they could mess with the unknown. Laytham Ballard is one such, immersed in The Life, known as a wizard (though he may correct you and say the actual term is Wisdom). He is Mickey Spillane meets Constantine meets Nathan Drake (from Uncharted … aye, I’m a gamer) meets Tyler Durden. Yes, your typical anti-hero. When a deathbed promise, to a dying friend, puts him on the trail of Dusan Slorzack (Serbian war criminal extraordinaire) the shit basically hits the fan (and quite early in the book). The problem with Slorzack is that he can’t be found on earth. All traces of him has vanished from the digital and magical databases. Even the Devil can’t find him, and Dusan owes him his dues. Needless to say, Dusan is into some really scary stuff that would make every who has ever bitched about Harry Potter books reconsider their perspective. Though Laytham is quite the solo act, he has no other choice but to team up with an usual bunch: magical hackers, a fetish model, a transgender Australian shaman, a Japanese gun master and Templar truckers (more on that … in another book). And it is good thing, since he’s up against vicious invisible hellhounds, backstabbing necromancers/summoners, magical boobytraps, scary god-like creatures, and bankers (yes, you are reading right). And in this world filled with magical ley-lines and other such bollocks it is hard divine who is trustworthy and who is not, and people are sometimes more than what they seem.

Written in first person (Laytham’s) perspective, Belcher does not hold back and it is quite THE ride. Along with acidic and dark humour, Laytham is the kind of chap that we can hate but still root for. And though this book is fiction (at least I’m really hoping it is) let’s just say I wouldn’t be picking up any white Bic lighters I find lying around especially in restrooms (trust me on this … it’s in the book). For those that miss Belcher’s Weird Wild West writings … fear not, he’s brought us into the 21st century and what a blast is … all the way down to the last page. Might not want to look too closely and ponder about certain symbols on your US dollar bills if you care about sleeping well at night after reading this book. And the silver lining about this is that … it is the first book in a series. Yes, we are not completely done with Mr. Ballard. Jolly good show, Mr. Belcher. Jolly good show.

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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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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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