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review 2014-12-06 21:24
Tortured - V.J. Chambers

Jason and Azazel are in Italy finishing off their senior year at a posh private school funded by the Sons of the Rising Sun. They bide their time trying to break into the school's library hoping to uncover evidence that Jason isn't the prophesied Rising Sun. Azazel is plagued by nightmares and feels overwhelmed by what their lives have become. This is the third book in the Jason and Azazel series.

Breathless is a young adult story. It was a fun and action packed read with tinges of darkness. It has a lighter tone than the previous books and makes startling revelations about everything the characters thought they knew. The narration was engaging and character development is great. The world building was given more focus offering a detailed and comprehensive overview. 

The beginning was dark, Azazel's nightmares were intense and it was upsetting to see her drinking problem surface again. It was interesting to see her work through her psychological distress after everything that happened in the previous book. I liked that Azazel finally confronted how she would deal with navigating the violence in their lives. She becomes more assertive and it was heartening to see her boost of confidence and determination to stay with Jason.

The rest of the story was fluffy and cute. The scenes were amusing and lacked the violent intensity established in previous books instead it felt more action oriented. The mystery surrounding Jason and Azazel's lives was given more focus and they followed clues gradually piecing together the story behind their forced prophetic mantles.

The world building was given additional focus. It further expands on the lore of the Rising Sun and vessel of Azazel. It was interesting and thorough offering a different perspective on events. It felt fair considering those events were first meant to be shocking. Though I liked all the additional history, I really disliked the compiled info dumps dispensed through text heavy dialogue. 

The first couple of books felt like they were leading up to a cataclysmic tragedy. This story releases a lot of that tension and it seemed to negate everything it previously established. I didn't necessarily feel let down but I did feel like I was tricked. The backtracking felt odd but it presents a new concept full of possibilities. 

Tortured is fun read with a happy conclusion to the first trilogy in the Jason and Azazel series.

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review 2014-12-05 19:01
Breathless - V.J. Chambers

Azazel lives in a wholesome small town where the most exciting thing has been finding Jason. He's on the run from danger and Azazel wants to keep him safe with her family. She's determined to uncover the secrets that haunt him but soon finds that their lives are intertwined in a horrifying plot between a violent religious order and a satanic cult. This is the first book in the Jason And Azazel series.

Breathless is a dark, young adult story that explores mature and controversial themes. The narration is engaging with a genuine and unreserved voice that isn't often found in traditional young adult books. The characters are all wonderfully developed and the world building is fantastic.

The first part of the book has a slower pace focusing on high school life while building up a sense of foreboding and mystery. The second half of the book is a dramatic explosion of action, violence, and shocking revelations. 

I loved the amount of detail and research that went into the portrayal of the religious group and satanic cult. I liked that the initial focus was what their base values were before interweaving their lore, history, ideologies and structure. It was interesting to note overlapping similarities and I loved that there was an uncertainty about which one was in the right.

Breathless hints at an ominous future for the main characters and I look forward to reading the rest of the Jason and Azazel series.

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review 2013-11-08 05:56
The Pyx by John Buell
The Pyx - John Buell

The Pyx is the story of Elizabeth Lucy, a high-end call girl who dies on the first page. The novel has many flavors: pulp noir, mystery and crime story, character study, tragedy, with some Satanism tossed in to make things even more spicy. The tale is told in alternating perspectives: 'The Present' features soul-deadened detective Henderson searching for clues and 'The Past' features soul-deadened Elizabeth, slowly moving towards her terminal destination but trying to do one last good thing. Her ending is one that she fears but somehow craves as well.


The language has the brutal beauty of the best of pulp crime fiction. Hard-boiled and poetic in equal amounts, full of terse dialogue, barely understood longings, bleakly sardonic commentary on the smallness of lives, bottomless despair and monstrous cruelty conveyed in brief and ambiguous turns of phrase, paragraphs that describe the living breathing bustling world that suddenly end with an off-hand sentence describing bloodstains on a sidewalk. It is a beautiful novel and Elizabeth Lucy is one of the more memorable examples of the hardened prostitute with a heart of gold that I've read. The book is the same: deeply cynical and angrily pessimistic but allowing many characters - Elizabeth, Henderson, a sensitively rendered gay friend, a mourning father, an alcoholic priest, and several others - to show their souls in ways that are genuinely moving. The Pyx is a surprisingly soulful book, and I loved it for that.


It has a very an off-putting final chapter that reveals the mystery of the pyx and the motivations of the primary villain. It appears to be written by another person entirely - "Daniel Mannix" - but I don't know if that is true or not. The style is certainly different than anything that came before, so I'm inclined to believe it. The ending reminded me a lot of the ending of the film Psycho: that smarmy psychologist, attempting to render all of the strangeness and ambiguity that have come before his scene into something that is logical, even prosaic, an uncomfortable but still easily digestible set of formulaic motivations. And as with Psycho, the memory of all the strange ambiguity that came before renders The Pyx's final chapter as nothing more than a footnote. Or perhaps even just a wink to the reader, much as Hitchcock was winking to Psycho's audience. Sure, things can be explained, things that are horrible or beautiful or full of pathos or just unnervingly and threateningly weird. But can you ever truly explain away such things? And why would you want to? They defy explanation.





Worther or Mrs. Latimer would want the body, but alive, alive to peddle it, to feed it heroin, to dress it up, to make it entertain lechers who had nothing but money and erotic energy, to make it stop belonging to a human being, to make it wind up here with a long jump, or a long push.

She felt, not cut off, but far away from what was happening, the people existed just like a radio you've forgotten was on, and her walking was motion that she wanted to stop soon.

She said very quietly, "Coffee, please," and sat down at a table. A while ago, perhaps years, she would have noticed his action and smiled, enjoying the effect she had. She might even be pleased a little. But now, she couldn't be pleased or flattered by her beauty; it wasn't part of her consciousness; it was just a fact, a thing that was part of her life, something others thought she was lucky enough to have, something others wanted. She had no mental picture of herself as an outwardly visible person; she had only an inner vision of...

"Here's your coffee, miss."

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review 2011-12-17 00:00
Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition
Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medi... Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition - Jules Michelet, Alfred Allinson Huh. Looks like the thing I've been using as a coaster for the last month is a first edition. Oops.
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review 2006-11-01 00:00
The Franklin Cover-up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska
The Franklin Cover-Up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska - John W. Decamp Once again, nothing is as it appears. A sleepy Nebraska town is the center of a pedophile ring involving some very high-ranking politicians from the 1980's. I feel I am difficult to shock, but this book is quite disturbing. The author is a State Senator, and the details he unfolds are difficult to accept, but have a ring of authority, and in many cases, are a matter of public records, as several of the cases he cites have gone to court. Followup, appropriate skepticism, due dilligence, etc... but this book *will* torment you.
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