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review 2018-08-01 22:30
THE HOLY GHOST SPEAKEASY AND REVIVAL by Terry Roberts
The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival - Terry Roberts

 

The American South in the 1920's was an interesting region. With religious folk preaching against the sins of drinking alcohol, and prohibition making it a prominent job option for those looking to make some money, here comes Jedidiah Robbins on his gospel train. With his team selling bibles, (and bottles out the back), he is a man full of contradiction. He is what made this book so compulsively readable.

 

Jed and his group tour mostly in Appalachia and find themselves in trouble there from time to time. With local lawman trying to keep law and order, with the KKK, (unhappy with the colorful nature of Jed's team), and the additional appearance of H.L. Mencken trying to unveil a scam, it seems there is never a dull moment.

 

I myself am not a religious type and I usually do not appreciate novels that attempt to preach at me, however stealthily that attempt may be. I do think some of that was going on here. It was my fascination with Jed Robbins that kept me going. I admit there were a few other characters that interested me as well-oddly enough-one of them was God himself.

 

I think if Jed were a through and through man of the cloth this book would have been boring. But Jed was a man of the world, and even if it wasn't he himself that was distributing that bootleg liquor, it was his team doing so, and it was with his full knowledge. They did some other things that many would deem ungodly as well. Yet somehow Jed walked the walk of a true believer and he was sometimes so sweet and kind, he brought a tear to my eye.

 

A quick note about the writing-Terry Roberts has a deft hand with language and that's another reason this book was so difficult to put down. I have several highlighted passages that I thought were just beautiful, but I can't quote them here until the book is released. (August 21, 2018, people! Mark your calendars!) A few times I just had to marvel over sentences that flowed like a mountain stream through my mind and emptied into the river of my heart. I may not be a religious person, but I am a spiritual person and the language here touched my spirit.

 

THE HOLY GHOST SPEAKEASY AND REVIVAL is worthy of your time. Even if you're not religious, even if historical fiction isn't your true thing, (I'm not and it isn't, but the title sucked me in), this is a wonderfully written book that will lead you down through the paths of Appalachia into an America that is long gone, but fondly remembered here.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to Edelweiss and Turner Publishing for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-07-11 18:45
THE MOORE HOUSE by Tony Tremblay
The Moore House - Tony Tremblay

 

When I read Tony Tremblay's THE SEEDS OF NIGHTMARES, I knew that I had discovered a very special author. THE MOORE HOUSE only serves to prove that I was right!

 

In Goffstown, New Hampshire there stands a house-a house with a history. After a particularly gruesome occurrence there, Father MacLeod and his team of 3 excommunicated nuns, (specialists in identifying demonic possessions), are called in to evaluate the home. They came, did their thing, and it looked like the house was fine. But after Father MacLeod left, the door of the Moore House opened on its own and soon? What the house really is becomes clear to them all. Will they escape the machinations of the house? Will they survive at all? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

This story has a distinct New England feel to it that I recognized instantly. I don't know how to explain it unless you live here. It's the perfect setting for stories like this and Mr. Tremblay takes full advantage of the location. (The fact that many character names used are actually those of New England dark fiction writers also contributed to that feel.)

 

The characters here are all very real. You might think because 3 of the main characters are nuns, (albeit excommunicated nuns), they would all be boring or perfect. That is not the case. Each and every character here, priest included, are altogether human-with all the faults and foibles that go along with that. This fact lent the story a credible feel, which made all of the demonic things even more easy to believe. Not every author can pull this off, but Mr. Tremblay does- and he does it with style.

 

The only problem I had with this tale, and it's a slight one, was the overuse of the phrase "pawnshop owner", or some variation thereof. That's it!

 

The story surprised me in the fact that it's not your typical haunted house tale. It's a story of demonic possession, more than one in fact, which I thought was unique. The level of tension fairly hummed throughout and I had a hard time putting it down. With short chapters and lots of action, this book flew by and I was sorry when it was over.

 

THE MOORE HOUSE is definitely worth your time. To recap: we have demons, we have layered characters that are realistic, we have a cool house with a history and we have the age old fight against evil. What more can you ask for from an excellent dark fiction writer? Nothing!

 

Highly recommended for fans of haunted house tales and/or demonic possession stories! Available for pre-order here: THE MOORE HOUSE

 

*I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. Further, I consider Tony Tremblay to be a friend in real life, but this did not affect the honesty or content of my review.*

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review 2018-07-04 15:10
BROKEN ON THE INSIDE by Phil Sloman
Broken on the Inside - Phil Sloman

 

BROKEN ON THE INSIDE is not only the title, but also the theme of this book. Containing 5 short tales, each featuring a person in distress, I couldn't help but feel for them all.

 

 

BROKEN ON THE INSIDE- the title story, starred a woman who's had enough of her mother. So much so that it's making her physically sick. When a doctor tells her he can cure her with nanotechnology she jumps on the chance. But just like her mother said, it wasn't all that easy. (Why are mothers always right? It's enough to drive one crazy.)

 

 

DISCOMFORT FOOD This tale is about another young woman, this one working at a fast food burger joint. One night her manager goes a little too far in his harassment of her and she is forced to react. Never again will dinner time be the same.

 

THE MAN WHO FED THE FOXES is a sad narrative about a lonely man who has let his beautiful garden go to pot. When a group of foxes take up living in his abandoned paradise, he begins to feed them a special diet, and they bring him unusual gifts in return.

 

THERE WAS AN OLD MAN In this tale John Hinklow is a gentlemen rather obsessed with having swallowed a fly. Rightfully so, it turns out.

 

VIRTUALLY FAMOUS was a weird little story about a man named Chet who became addicted to a game-The Game. In it, players can opt to be Chet, (the star), , or to be other people in the story-line. But what happens when the main player begins playing himself? In the end it becomes difficult to determine who was the real Chet and which was the Chet in the game. Whether it be gaming or drugs, addictions are dangerous.

 

These stories were all heavy hitters and combined, make up this powerful narrative as a whole. I enjoyed it as entertaining storytelling on one level, but it also caused me to think deeply about life as we know it and how we go about living that life. Every single person in this book had problems-addictions and obsessions. They were broken on the inside. This led me to thinking about the people I know and even myself. Aren't we all BROKEN ON THE INSIDE in one way or another?

 

Highly recommended for fans of extremely well written dark fiction!

 

Get your copy here: BROKEN ON THE INSIDE

 

*I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2018-05-27 14:38
A dark and twisted take on the original for readers interested in morally ambiguous characters.
Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

Thanks to NetGalley and to Vintage Digital for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is part of the Hogarth’s Shakespeare project, a project designed to create novels based on some of Shakespeare’s original plays and bring them up-to-date thanks to best-selling novelists. Although I have been intrigued since I’d heard about the project (because I am a fan of some of the authors, like Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler), this is the first of the novels to come out of the project that I’ve read. Evidently, the idea behind the series was to try and bring new readers to Shakespeare and perhaps combine people interested in the plays with followers of the novelists. My case is a bit peculiar. I love Shakespeare (I prefer his tragedies and his comedies to the rest of his work) but I can’t say I’m an authority on him, and although I’ve read some of his plays, I prefer to attend live performances or watch adaptations (I’ve watched quite a few versions of Hamlet, but not so many of the rest of his plays, by poor chance). I’ve only watched Macbeth a couple of times, so I’m not the best person to comment on how closely Nesbo’s book follows the original. On the other hand, I have not read any of the author’s novels. I’ve watched a recent movie adaptation of one of them (mea culpa, I had not checked the reviews beforehand) but, although I know of him, I cannot compare this novel to the rest of his oeuvre. So I’m poorly qualified to write this review from the perspective of the most likely audience. But, that’s never stopped me before, and this review might perhaps be more relevant to people who are not terribly familiar with either, Macbeth or Nesbo’s books.

From my vague memory of the play, the novel follows the plot fairly closely, although it is set in the 1970s, in a nightmarish and corrupt city (some of the reviewers say it’s a Northern city somewhere not specified. That is true, and although some of the names and settings seem to suggest Scotland, not all details match, for sure), where unemployment is a huge problem, as are drugs, where biker gangs murder at leisure and control the drug market (together with a mysterious and shady character called Hecate, that seems to pull the strings in the background. He’s not a witch here but there’s something otherworldly about him), where the train station has lost its original purpose and has become a den where homeless and people addicted to drugs hung together and try to survive. The police force takes the place of the royalty and the nobles in the original play, with murders, betrayals and everything in between going on in an attempt at climbing up the ladder and taking control of law-enforcement (with the interesting side-effect of blurring any distinction between law and crime), with the city a stand-in for the kingdom of Scotland in the original.

The story is told from many of the characters’ points of view (most of them) and there is a fair amount of head-hopping. Although as the novel advances we become familiar with the characters and their motivations, and it is not so difficult to work out who is thinking what, this is not so easy to begin with as there are many characters with very similar jobs and, at least in appearance, close motivations, so it’s necessary to pay close attention. The technique is useful to get readers inside the heads of the characters and to get insights into their motivations, even if in most cases it is not a comfortable or uplifting experience. The book is truly dark and it seems particularly apt to a moment in history when corruption, morality, and the evil use of power are as relevant as ever. (Of course, the fact that this is an adaptation of a play written centuries before our era brings home that although things might change in the surface, human nature does not change so much). The writing is at times lyrical and at others more down to earth, but it is a long book, so I’d advise readers to check a sample to see if it is something they’d enjoy for the long-haul. I’ll confess that when I started the book I wondered if it was for me, but once I got into the story and became immersed in the characters’ world, I was hooked.

The beauty of having access to the material in a novelised form is that we can get to explore the characters’ subjectivity and motivations, their psychology, in more detail than in a play. Shakespeare was great at creating characters that have had theatregoers thinking and guessing for hundreds of years, but much of it is down to the actors’ interpretation, and two or three hours are not space enough to explore the ins-and-outs and the complex relationships between the characters fully. I was particularly intrigued by Duff, who is not a particularly likeable character, to begin with, but comes into his own later. I liked Banquo, who is, with Duncan, one of the few characters readers will feel comfortable rooting for (Banquo’s son and Angus would fall into the same category, but play smaller parts), and I must warn you that there is no such as thing as feeling comfortable reading this book. I thought what Nesbo does with Lady is interesting and provides her with an easier to understand motivation and makes her more sympathetic than in the play (it is not all down to greed or ambition, although it remains a big part of it). No characters are whiter-than-white (some might be but we don’t get to know them well enough to make that call), and although the baddies might be truly bad, some remain mysterious and unknown, and they are portrayed as extreme examples of the corruption that runs rampant everywhere. Most of the rest of the characters are human, good and bad, and many come to question their lives and what moves them and take a stand that makes them more interesting than people who never deviate from the path of rightness. Macbeth is depicted as a man of contrasts, charitable and cruel, a survivor with a difficult past, perhaps easy to manipulate but driven, full of doubts but determined, addicted to drugs and ‘power’, charismatic and dependent, full of contradictions and memorable.

The ending of the novel is bittersweet. It is more hopeful than the rest of the novel would make us expect, but… (I am not sure I could talk about spoilers in this novel, but still, I’ll keep my peace). Let’s just say this couldn’t have a happy ending and be truthful to the original material.

Although I have highlighted several paragraphs, I don’t think they would provide a fair idea of the novel in isolation, and, as I said before, I recommend downloading or checking a sample to anybody considering the purchase of this novel.

Not knowing Nesbo’s other novels, I cannot address directly his fans. I’ve noticed that quite a number of reviewers who read his novels regularly were not too fond of this one. Personally, I think it works as an adaptation of the Shakespeare play and it is very dark, as dark as the plot of the original requires (and perhaps even more). It is long and it is not an easy-going read. There are no light moments, and it is demanding of the reader’s attention, challenging us to go beyond a few quotations, famous phrases and set scenes, to the moral heart of the play. If you are looking for an interesting, although perhaps a not fully successful version of Macbeth, that will make you think about power, corruption, good and evil, family, friendship, and politics, give it a try. I am curious to read more Nesbo’s novels and some of the other novels in the project.

 

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review 2018-05-14 18:52
BAD PENNIES by John Leonard
Bad Pennies - John F Leonard

 

Chris Carlisle's life is going to hell and he's taking us with him! It starts when Chris witnesses an accident wherein a gentleman dies. As good citizens do, he gets out of his car to see if the man is okay, but he's not. On a sudden impulse, Chris takes the dead man's wallet, gives his statement to the police when they arrive, and then goes on his way. He later discovers money inside and agonizes over it all day while working his stressful, low paying job. He decides he's going to go back and leave the wallet at the scene of the crime, but in the end it never happens. Instead, he decides to spend a little money on drinks and cocktails, and once he gets home, he discovers the money he spent has reappeared in the wallet. He still has the same amount he started with! How can this be? Will he do the right thing and return the wallet and/or report what he did? Or will he keep the wallet, (after all he is in dire need of money), and treat himself to a few things he really needs-like new clothes for work or a new car? You'll have to read this to find out.

 

This is a novel of supernatural horror and terrible things occurred on the pages of BAD PENNIES. Every time Chris decided on a course of action, I couldn't help but ask myself what I would have done in the same situation. When his actions lead to the deaths of innocents, animal attacks and doors opening where there previously were none, the situation escalates quickly, and I just hung on for the ride. I really felt for Chris and I could easily understand why he did what he did. Would I have made the same choices? Maybe so and I think that's the main reason I kept reading. That and my fascination with the Scaeth and what he/it might do next. I'm not going to say anything more about it, because that should be related to you by the author, not by me. I loved the imagination and creativity that went into several different scenes, and I truly felt afraid once or twice, which is a rarity.

 

The issues I had with this book were twofold and not too bothersome-the pacing was a bit off and it took a while for the story to really get going. (Once it did, though, it went quickly.) The second problem I had, (and this was probably just me being picky), was that there was too much foreshadowing going on. It seemed like every chapter ended on a sentence foreshadowing a future event. I don't mind a little of that here and there, but it was used a bit too often for my comfort.

 

BAD PENNIES had a lot of interesting and intriguing world-building going on that I need to know more about. Who was that Sammael guy? I want to know more about Brian MacGuire and his club. I want to know more about the Scaeth, what it wants, why it's here, and more about where it lives, (between the walls.) So now I'm left to waiting for Mr. Leonard to fill me in and I can't wait!

 

Strongly recommended for fans of supernatural horror!

 

*I received a paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!* You can get a copy, (with it's super-cool new cover) here: BAD PENNIES

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