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review 2017-12-11 12:45
The Listener by Robert McCammon
The Listener - Robert R. McCammon

What a great story this is! Set in the American south during the Great Depression, The Listener is a unique tale. Starting with a man we'll call Pearly and ending with the opening of a free clinic, Robert McCammon sucked me in as he always does and now I have another book to add to my All Time Favorites shelf!

 

With a young black man as the protagonist and a few visits to characters we've met in the past, (I want to say so much more about them, but I can't spoil the surprise for you!),

I wasn't sure for the longest time where this story was going. But when Pearly meets Ginger LaFrance, and joins her cold quest for riches, I knew I was in for the long haul.

 

Not since the book MINE, has Robert McCammon created such a cunning female villain. Crafty and OH SO cold, Ginger is capable of anything. When she concocts her evil plan with Pearly as her back up, you just know it's not going to go well. And when another of her family members joins their crew, you cannot help but feel that it was a mistake on  Ginger's part. You also hope that Ginger doesn't succeed. 

 

At a certain point in The Listener, you just have to hold on for dear life because this tale races to the denouement and you HAVE to know what happens. I recommend shutting yourself in a room for the last 50 pages so you can read it without being bothered. Trust me on this! You will be rewarded with an ending so poignant, yet so perfect and totally satisfying that you might find yourself with a tear in your eye. Not saying that happened to me, (it TOTALLY happened to me), but you know, prepare yourself. Perfection in an ending is so rare, but I think McCammon achieved it here. 

 

The only bad thing about getting an ARC, (and in this case it's a REAL ARC, that I can hold and hug tight to my chest, not that I did that), is that there isn't anyone to talk to about this story. I can't wait for you to read it so we can talk about Curtis and Pearly and good old Nilla. 

 

In February when it's released, I hope you will remember my words here today and hop on the opportunity to read The Listener. Please come and share your thoughts with me when you're done. I hope that Curtis invades your mind space as he has invaded mine, and we can talk about how much we both love him. Or perhaps we can talk about THAT character that was such a memorable part of another GREAT, (maybe the best?) Robert McCammon book, and how much we loved seeing them again? I sure do hope that we can, my fellow readers. I sure do hope we can.

 

The Listener has earned my highest recommendation!

 

*Thanks to Cemetery Dance for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2017-10-30 13:00
Blackwater: The Complete Saga by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey

Blackwater: The Complete Saga on audio is absolutely phenomenal! Phenomenal! That's right, it's so good, it deserves two PHENOMENALS. 

 

First-about the book itself. Michael McDowell was a force to be reckoned with as far as writing about family dynamics. If you've read The Elementals, Gilded Needles, or Cold Moon over Babylon, (and if you haven't you SHOULD), you already know that McDowell writes about families like no one else. Now imagine those books expanded to cover several generations of one family, in this case The Caskeys, and you might have an inkling of how great a work of literature, (that's right, I'm calling it literature), Blackwater really is. 

 

Starting with a huge flood in Perdido, Alabama and a mysterious woman found in a partially flooded hotel and ending with another flood in the same town, there is a symmetry here not often found in horror fiction. Perhaps it's because Blackwater isn't really a horror novel, (or series of novels, as it was originally released back in the 80's), at all. I would describe it more as a Southern Gothic soap opera or family saga, with supernatural and horrific elements.

 

One of the things I adore about McDowell, and there are many of them, (click here for my essay on McDowell's work), is how he treats horrifying supernatural events as if they were no big deal. Somehow, the way he does that makes the event even more horrifying, if that makes any sense. 

 

Of course, as I mentioned above, McDowell writes family dynamics like no one else and this book proves it. Throughout generations even, McDowell is at the top of his game writing about this family with its rich men and domineering women. Being from Alabama himself, the authenticity of the family's bearing and standing in their community of Perdido is never in doubt. His insights into human behavior are unmatched and beautifully written-without fail. Here's a quote from the first book of this novel,The Flood, (which takes place in the early 1920's):

 

That was the great misconception about men: because they dealt with money, because they could hire someone on and later fire him, because they alone filled state assemblies and were elected congressional representatives, everyone thought they had power. Yet all the hiring and firing, the land deals and the lumber contracts, the complicated process for putting through a constitutional amendment-these were only bluster. They were blinds to disguise the fact of men's real powerlessness in life. Men controlled the legislatures, but when it came down to it, they didn't control themselves. Men had failed to study their own minds sufficiently, and because of this failure they were at the mercy of fleeting passions; men, much more than women, were moved by petty jealousies and the desire for petty revenges. Because they enjoyed their enormous but superficial power, men had never been forced to know themselves the way that women, in their adversity and superficial subservience, had been forced to learn about the workings of their brains and their emotions.

 

 

I could go on and on about McDowell, as many of you already know, but now I'd like to address the narration of this story by Alabama native Matt Godfrey. 

 

I just don't have the words to describe how McDowell's words, combined with Godfrey's narration, made me feel. Together, they made a great work even greater. Godfrey's voicing was so true to the source material it made the Caskey voices come alive. ALIVE, I say! I laughed out loud many times, and I cried a few times too.

 

I most especially adored his voicing of James and of Oscar. Don't get me wrong, I loved these characters back when I first read the books a few years ago; but with Matt's voice attached to them, they became larger than life. It was easy for me to recognize who was talking just by the inflections and changes of tone. I've never listened to an audio book where it was easier for me to identify who was who, just by how the narrator voiced them. I've listened to a lot of audios over the last few years, and that's never happened to me-at least not in a book with as many characters as Blackwater. That's why I say now, with no reservations, that this is the BEST audiobook I've ever read. PERIOD.

 

I hope that I've convinced you to give this audio a try by giving it my HIGHEST recommendation. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it if you do give it a go. 

 

You can get your copy here: Blackwater: The Complete Saga

 

*I received this audiobook free, from the narrator, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* **Further, I consider Matt Godfrey a friend, even thought we've never met, but this review IS my honest opinion.**

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text 2017-10-27 18:45
Blackwater: The Complete Saga by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey

 

I just finished the audiobook of Blackwater and I'm crying. This is, without a doubt, the best audiobook I've ever read. 

It's going to take me a while to compose myself and write a review.

 

But, be assured-the audio of Blackwater gets ALL THE STARS!

 

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review 2017-09-25 18:45
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two- edited by James Jenkins & Ryan Cagle
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two - Nevil Shute,Mary Elizabeth Braddon,Michael P. Kube-McDowell

 

Once again, the gentlemen over at Valancourt Books knocked their anthology out of the park-maybe even out of the state! Last year's Volume 1, (click to read my review), was outstanding and Volume 2 is as well. My favorites of this volume are as follows:

 

Stephen Gregory's never before published: "The Boys Who Wouldn't Wake Up" was poignant and, in a way, beautiful. It was also very much unlike any other Gregory story I've read. I'm a huge fan of this author and this tale did NOT disappoint. 

 

"The Nice Boys" by Isabel Colegate was a spectacularly eerie story, set in a relentlessly foggy Venice, Italy. A young woman heads there to vacation away a recent bad break up and meets two young men. As the tension grows the reader is drawn in, but the vivid and disturbing scene towards the end ensures this story will not soon be forgotten. 

 

"Herself" by M.E. Braddon involved two of my favorite tropes-haunted houses and haunted mirrors. I'm not sure which it was, exactly,  but I'm going with  a combination of the two. I love these types of stories-where people are called in to help but are rendered helpless by circumstance and can only witness as bystanders the evil that occurs.

 

"Halley's Passing" by Michael McDowell. It's no secret that I adore Michael McDowell. (You do too, if you love Beetlejuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas.) This tale, however, is shocking and extra bloody which is unusual for him, but at the same time: so much FUN.

 

"The Elemental" by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. Another FUN tale featuring a psychic that no one takes seriously. At first. 

 

"Samhain" by Bernard Taylor. Taylor is an author that I was unfamiliar with until Valancourt Books republished some of his work. I am now an unabashed fan and stories like this are exactly why. Everything is going along, you think you have a handle on things, and then BAM! He punches you right in the face. It's often a bloody punch too, and this is no exception. I laughed out loud at the ending because I was surprised, it was bloody and I loved it!

 

"The Bell" by Beverly Nichols. A beautifully told tale about a man who was completely dependent upon his valet/butler and what happens when that butler dies. Who will then come to the insistent ringing of the bell? 

 

Just like with Volume 1, I could list each and every story as a standout, because they were ALL just that good. Also like with Volume 1, is the fact that most of these stories have not been published over and over again. I'm not sure if it happens with all genres, but the same horror stories often appear ad nauseam in anthologies and it's irritating. With the cost of books these days, it's disappointing to buy an anthology only to discover you've read half the stories already in other anthologies. Rest easy, because that is not the case here. 

 

Each story in this volume is prefaced by a bit of background on the story and on the author, many of whom were not known for writing in the horror genre. I think that fact brings a certain freshness to this collection that is often lacking in others. The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two is simply EXCEPTIONAL and belongs in the collection of any serious fan of the genre. 

 

My highest recommendation!

 

You can pre-order your copy  here: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two

 

*This book was provided by Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

 

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review 2017-09-13 11:21
Ein Fangirl ward geboren
City of Miracles (The Divine Cities) - Robert Jackson Bennett

Worum geht es in der Trilogie „The Divine Cities“? Laut Autor Robert Jackson Bennett geht es um Veränderung. Schmerzhafte, quälende Veränderungen. In einem kurzen Essay über das Finale „City of Miracles“ schreibt er, der Kern seiner Geschichte sei der Versuch seiner Figuren, ihre traumatischen Erfahrungen zu überleben und zu überwinden. Ich stimme Bennett daher zu, dass es mehr als passend ist, den letzten Band aus Sigruds Perspektive zu bestreiten, da dieser unter zahllosen unaufgearbeiteten Traumata leidet. Ich wusste allerdings auch, dass Sigrud zu folgen bedeutet, einen blutigen Pfad einzuschlagen.

 

Eine Explosion zerreißt den regnerischen Tag in Ahanashtan. In der Detonation, die ein halbes Stockwerk des noblen Golden Hotels zerstört, kommt die ehemalige saypurische Premierministerin Shara Komayd ums Leben. Sechs Tage später erreicht die Nachricht ihrer Ermordung ein Holzfällerlager nahe Bulikov. 13 lange Jahre versteckte sich Sigrud je Harkvaldsson in der Anonymität wechselnder Gelegenheitsjobs. Damit ist jetzt Schluss. Sein Herz schlägt im Takt eines einzigen Wortes: Rache. Ohne zu zögern nutzt er die tödliche Effizienz seiner außergewöhnlichen Talente, um die Mörder seiner Freundin ausfindig zu machen. Leichen pflastern seinen Weg. Je tiefer Sigrud gräbt, desto klarer wird, dass der Anschlag Teil eines größeren Schemas war. Shara war in schockierend schmutzige Geheimnisse verstrickt, verschleiert hinter der wohltätigen Fassade eines Programms für kontinentale Waisenkinder, die systematisch zu verschwinden scheinen. Was ist dran an den Gerüchten einer neuen Gottheit, die aus den Schatten heraus agiert? Welche Rolle spielt Sharas Adoptivtochter Tatyana? Rache ist Sigruds Spezialität. Doch dieser Kampf könnte selbst den hartgesottenen Dreyling an seine Grenzen bringen. Ihn – und die gesamte Welt.

 

Oh. Mein. Gott. „City of Miracles“ ist GROSSARTIG. Es ist eines dieser Bücher, für die bisher keine adäquaten Superlative erfunden wurden, um es zu beschreiben. Es landet ohne Umwege in meiner persönlichen Top 5 der besten Trilogieabschlüsse aller Zeiten. Für diesen Roman verdient Robert Jackson Bennett so viel mehr als fünf Sterne; er verdient das ganze verdammte Firmament. Mich durchläuft jetzt noch ein Schauer, denke ich an die Lektüre zurück. Seit dem Auslesen habe ich sogar eine Illustration von Sigrud der Künstlerin Chanh Quach als Hintergrund auf meinem Smartphone, so begeistert bin ich von „City of Miracles“ und so schwer fällt mir das Abschiednehmen.
Warum ist dieses Finale dermaßen atemberaubend? Es war eine Herausforderung, herauszufinden, welche Elemente „City of Miracles“ aus der Masse herausheben und ich bin nicht sicher, ob ich die Antwort gefunden habe, weil eben schlicht alles fantastisch ist. Natürlich weist es die gleiche inhaltliche, logische Konsistenz auf, die ich bereits aus den Vorgängern kenne – es baut direkt und konsequent auf den vergangenen Ereignissen auf. Selbstverständlich sind die Figuren hyperlebendig und einnehmend, obwohl ich ein winziges Bisschen enttäuscht war, dass Mulagheshs Rolle gering ausfällt. Zweifellos ist das Worldbuilding detailreich und überzeugend, da sich Bennetts Universums stets im Wandel befindet und ich angesichts des technischen, gesellschaftlichen und kulturellen Fortschritts in Saypur und auf dem Kontinent aus dem Staunen nicht mehr herauskam. Doch muss ich den Finger darauflegen, was es ist, das „City of Miracles“ vom durchschnittlichen High Fantasy – Roman unterscheidet, entscheide ich mich für die transformative Reise, die Sigrud erlebt. Robert Jackson Bennett liebt seinen furchteinflößenden, traumatisierten Protagonisten genug, um ihm Möglichkeiten zu schenken, sich selbst aus dem Teufelskreis seiner Seelenqual zu befreien. Er macht es ihm nicht leicht, oh nein. Sigrud leidet, er geht im Namen der Erkenntnis durchs Feuer. Aber Sigrud hätte einen einfachen Ausweg keinesfalls akzeptiert. Er hätte einer Lösung auf dem Silbertablett misstraut. Er musste hart aufschlagen, um sich endlich zu ändern. Es zeugt von ausnehmendem schriftstellerischen Geschick, dass Bennett in der Lage war, mir dieses spezielle Verhältnis zu vermitteln. Ich wusste genau, was er Sigrud anbietet: blutige, schmerzhafte Erlösung. Er offeriert ihm eine Rettung, die dieser auch annehmen kann, weil sie seiner Persönlichkeit entspricht. Er prüft ihn, schickt ihn in rasante Actionszenen, während derer ich vor lauter Nervenkitzel buchstäblich die Luft anhielt. Er konfrontiert ihn in stillen, leisen Momenten mit Verlust, Trauer und Schuld. Diese scheinbare Gegensätzlichkeit macht Sigrud aus und sie charakterisiert ebenfalls Saypur und den Kontinent, weshalb er meiner Meinung nach exakt der ambivalente Held ist, den dieses Universum braucht. Sigruds Reise zur Katharsis wühlte mich sehr auf. Ich konnte und wollte mich seiner inneren Zerrissenheit zwischen grimmiger Fatalität und zerbrechlicher Hoffnung nicht verschließen. Als der Showdown nahte, war ich daher emotional bereits völlig wund. Die letzten 20 Seiten waren für mich verheerend. Umwerfend. Ich habe Rotz und Wasser geheult. Es war… perfekt. Robert Jackson Bennett ist ein Poet. Ich wünschte, jedes Ende könnte so sein.

 

Denkt an irgendein positives Attribut, das ein Buch besitzen kann. Irgendeins. Ich versichere euch, in der Trilogie „The Divine Cities“ findet ihr es. Diese Geschichte hat sich nicht nur in mein Herz geschlichen, sie hat sich einen Platz in meinen All-Time-Favorites erkämpft. „City of Stairs“, „City of Blades“ und „City of Miracles“ sind brillant und ehrfurchtgebietend originell. Es gibt viele Fantasy-Autor_innen, die krampfhaft versuchen, anders zu schreiben, anders zu sein. Robert Jackson Bennett gelingt dieses Kunststück mühelos. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Mr. Bennett. Sie haben sich selbst ein Fangirl erschaffen. Und glauben Sie bloß nicht, Sie würden mich so schnell wieder los.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/robert-jackson-bennett-city-of-miracles
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