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review 2017-08-20 03:51
The Ghosts of Galway - Ken Bruen

After the last book in this series, readers were left wondering if ex-Gardaí Jack Taylor had finally met his match. Jack’s always been his own worst enemy & it looked like years of hard living had finally caught up with him. But very little in Jack’s life ever turns out as planned which is good news for us. He’s back, with dog Storm supervising his recovery.

 

In the wake of his reprieve, Jack decides to take a stab at “normal” & gets a job as a security guard. But it’s not long before he’s approached by a man offering a whack of cash for a simple job. He’s looking for “The Red Book”, a controversial 9th century text that blasts “The Book of Kells”. Until recently it was hidden at the Vatican. Then a young priest snatched it & ran & rumour has it he’s holed up in Galway. Jack has zero interest in dealing with any clergy but could really use a good payday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t  go as planned…again.

 

Then things get weird(er). Someone is leaving animal carcasses in Eyre Square along with cryptic messages. But this is Galway. If you’re aiming for public shock and/or outrage, you’ll have to get in line behind politicians & those responsible for the water tax.

 

Jack’s life is further complicated by the return of Emerald, the young woman who first got his attention in “Green Hell”. Em’s always been unstable to say the least. But her tenuous grip on sanity has finally snapped & all her personalities are coming out to play. And some of them seem remarkably well informed about the book Jack is looking for.

 

As usual, the story is a combination of Jack’s activities & his thoughts on everything from the state of Irish politics to seeing Trump hug Sarah Palin on TV (“to see them embrace in Iowa was to see ignorance & prejudice entwined”.) Social commentary is delivered with his trademark black humour & profanity. But his recent brush with mortality has revealed a more reflective side & we catch glimpses of a lonely man taking a hard look at his life. Quotes from individuals & literature are randomly inserted throughout the book, adding to the author’s stream of consciousness style of prose.

 

The first half almost lulls you as several plot lines unfold & more characters take the field. Maybe that’s why a sudden act of violence at that point comes as such a shock. The story takes a much darker & deadly serious turn. You realize there’s a showdown coming & some of these characters will not survive. It’s a tough read at times but thinking back over the last couple of books, it feels inevitable & I should have seen it coming.

 

This is a book for true fans of the series & not one I would recommend as a starting point for a couple of reasons. First, Bruen has a distinctive style of prose that becomes looser & less linear as the series progresses. Second, there is a tremendous amount of back story that informs each book & makes for a richer reading experience if read in order.

 

The ending is poignant yet oddly cathartic & once again I’m wondering where Jack will turn up next. Just as an aside, two thumbs up to those responsible for the striking cover art.

 

 

             

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review 2017-08-20 03:39
Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford - My Thoughts
Fish and Ghosts - Rhys Ford

I can always count on Rhys to give me a good read and this time was no different.  This is one of her earlier books and it shows some in the writing.  To me it's fascinating to watch an author's progress at improving their craft, but I have to admit that I'm thrilled that Rhys has gotten over the need to use epithets in her writing.  If I had read the words "the blond" one more time, I think I might have screamed!  *LOL*  We know... we KNOW that Travis has blond hair, for heaven's sake!  And you know, most readers are smart enough to discern the differences between the two 'he's' in the story.  So, being as that's a pet peeve of mine, it did kind of impede me enjoyment of the story.

For my money, I could have done with sexytimes scenes being of shorter length (I mean.. almost 2 chapters long at one point?  And long chapters?) and a bit more meat to the paranormal aspects of the story.  I found that I wanted to know more about the personalities and characters of Travis and Wolf other than that they set each other on fire.  :) 

It's an interesting world that Rhys has set up and I'm looking forward to reading more about it in the second book which I also have in the TBR.  I hope we get to learn more about Wolf's family and childhood and then more about Tristan's childhood as well.  Oh! And I really like the new covers on these books.  Far better than the generic men people that tend to populate a lot of the m/m book covers. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-14 22:35
We need more Eric Carter Please....
Hungry Ghosts - Stephen Blackmoore

***spoilers ahead you have been warned***

 

Nooooooooooo this can’t be the ending of the series can it???!!! I’ve taken a liking to Eric Carter. He’s still has his anti hero jerk side, but in this book, he’s mellowed out quite a bit (or if you really think about it, he grew up and stopped being filled with rage.)

 

Sad to say, I noticed Gabriela takes an absence in this one. Which is too bad because I rather liked her presence. She was a perfect side fighting partner with Eric. Alas perhaps later I hope?

 

I also liked the complete 360 Tabatha did. She’s not what you thought she was and now that things are getting pretty serious she’s really down to earth and idealistic. Which I rather started to like about her. She’s also started to grow more of a backbone and talking back to Eric a bit more. I’m not sure if I really like them as a couple though. I think it just seems like Eric is so much of a lone wolf you don’t see him with anyone romantically. Who knows though, as Eric does take a personality change though.

 

Eric’s journey in this book has a more serious undertone and not a high flying adventure like the first too ones. This one, well he’s just about at the end of his rope and he’s had it with being the pawn in the games of the Gods. Plus, well he’s turning to jade so that can’t be comfortable can it? So his journey into the underworld is pretty serious at this point. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the underworld. I can’t get over the “Mad Max” cars (because that’s the first thing I thought when I read the description!). I thought it was well done and what an underworld really should be.

 

The ending was good. It did tie up various loose ends and it seems like the series stops there. I did hear however that this is not the end, there’s going to be more Eric Carter novels so I’d like to know who he’ll square up against now. It’s nice that he closes everything that’s been following him all throughout the first three books so I think he’s ready for another set of getting beaten up to a pulp :D more demons please!!!!

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review 2017-08-14 05:07
Wow, I've Never Read Anything Like This
Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders

Most amazing narration with 166 different people, stars, musicians, family. Their unique voices and characters make this a most unusual and fascinating story. I admit to being a bit lost in the beginning till the time line clicked in my head and I understood the voices POV. The characters kept referring to the sick boxes, I was so confused till, I got it and then everything clicked. Looking at life from the other side, it made me think.
Fascinating ghost story, filled with dramatic historical events, people along with a great cast of fictional charters to spice it up. I loved each one, each from a different time, each brought something from that time to the story. Some crude, some fearful, some so intense, all entertaining. Even the dialog was tailored to fit the time of the characters. Each in denial, each has a summit to pass. Young Willie Abraham Lincoln's son was just a small drop in the pond, the wave changing each life, or after life. Amazing.
What a movie this book would make.

The 166-person full cast features award-winning actors and musicians, as well as a number of Saunders’ family, friends, and members of his publishing team, including, in order of their appearance: 
 
Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN
David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III
Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS
George Saunders as THE REVEREND EVERLY THOMAS
Miranda July as MRS. ELIZABETH CRAWFORD
Lena Dunham as ELISE TRAYNOR
Ben Stiller as JACK MANDERS
Julianne Moore as JANE ELLIS
Susan Sarandon as MRS. ABIGAIL BLASS
Bradley Whitford as LT. CECIL STONE
Bill Hader as EDDIE BARON
Megan Mullally as BETSY BARON
Rainn Wilson as PERCIVAL “DASH” COLLIER
Jeff Tweedy as CAPTAIN WILLIAM PRINCE
Kat Dennings as MISS TAMARA DOOLITTLE
Jeffrey Tambor as PROFESSOR EDMUND BLOOMER
Mike O’Brien as LAWRENCE T. DECROIX
Keegan-Michael Key as ELSON FARWELL
Don Cheadle as THOMAS HAVENS
and
Patrick Wilson as STANLEY “PERFESSER” LIPPERT
with
Kirby Heyborne as WILLIE LINCOLN,
Mary Karr as MRS. ROSE MILLAND,
and Cassandra Campbell as Your Narrator

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review 2017-08-07 18:14
Gothic psychological horror, with haunted house and ghosts for art and lovers of antiques.
PAINTED: A Horror Novel - Kirsten McKenzie

Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team, check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.

When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me.  I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?

There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.

But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind character’s back or when they are asleep.

The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.

I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.

This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.

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