Reviewing the Pages: Flesh and Bone

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Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the world-famous Body Farm, is hard at work on a troubling new case. A young man’s battered body has been found in nearby Chattanooga, and it’s up to the talented Dr. Brockton to assemble the pieces of the forensic puzzle. Brockton is brought into the case by the rising star of the state’s mechanical examiners, Jess Carter.

Just as they’re on the verge of breaking the case open, events take a terrifying turn. Brockton has re-created the Chattanooga death scene at the Body Farm, but a killer tampers with it in a shocking way: placing another corpse at the setting, confusing authorities and putting Brockton’s career and life in jeopardy. Soon Brockton himself is accused of the horrific new crime, and the once-beloved professor becomes an outcast. As the net around him tightens, Brockton must use all of his forensic skills to prove his own innocence . . . before he ends up behind bars with some of the very killers he’s helped to convict.

“Flesh and Bone” is another roller-coaster ride into the world of forensic anthropology, its twists and turns marked by drama and pathos, humor and grief, families and friends and enemies. With captivatingly real characters, plus fascinating scientific insights drawn from the case files of a living forensic legend, this astonishing novel confirms Jefferson Bass as one of our most talented authors of suspense.

Well, this was a fun experience to re-read through. It’s been a few years since we went on this journey with Dr. Brockton, with his experience of one of the worst time periods of his life. We get our rather interesting cast of characters back, along with a new character: Miss Georgia Youngblood. Miss Georgia is a character you can’t help falling for, or at the very least, admiring. There’s not much I want to say here, but, I do recommend this read. You’ll learn a lot more about the human anatomy and human nature along the way. Just, don’t forget the tissues folks, you’ll want them.

The reason why I didn’t want to say much above, is because I didn’t want to spoil the read for people on Goodreads.  Dr. Brockton hits his lowest point of the series (so far), by losing the woman that he was falling in love with, and being made the primary suspect in her murder.  Oh, that and hiring Grease, the lawyer that he’s had to go battle with time and time again in the confines of the court room.

The book is engaging, and while some other reviews that I read give the authors a lot of grief because of the plot with the “intelligent design” bashing (which, I don’t think ever got resolved in this one, so maybe we’ll get a resolution with it in the next book?).  I’m not one for the idea of intelligent design, but I’m at least open to understanding the theory and feelings behind it.  The one thing I don’t like about that particular plot point is that it isn’t resolved.  Granted, much like Dr. Hamilton’s plot line starting out in the previous book, and ending here; the seeds for this story are planted here.  I’m just hoping that there’s a payoff (although much less emotionally costing to Dr. Brockton).

Go check this book, and for that matter, the whole series out.  Each one of these could act as their own stand-alone story, with only vague hints and nudges to past events.  Dive in to the read folks, but don’t let love blind you.

Reviewing the Pages: Wild Cards I

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The first volume of George R. R. Martin’s WILD CARDS shared-world series, back in print after a decade—and expanded with new, original material.

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo–winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

This is my second read-through of this story collection, and I have to say, my rating will not change. There are some stories in here that are masterful in their creation, and there are some others that are really lacking in their execution. The whole world is creative, and while the characters are actually flawed in one way or another, there is a lot that this world has to offer that we just don’t get. Yes, the epilogue and appendix serve as a way of getting some explanation as to the details of the Wild Card Virus (including a well-thought out speech (lecture) on how the Wild Card Virus is primarily PSI in nature). However, don’t shy away from this read. For all of it’s flaws, it sets up a world that has survived and thrived going on four decades now. I recommend those who like tales that are both dystopian and alternative-history in nature. You never know, you just might find this to be an Ace.

Well, as stated above, I’ve read this book before.  But, it had been pretty much two years since I last read this book, so it’s been an interesting journey to dive right back into the Wild Cards universe.  And I have to say, there were some short stories that I did enjoy, and some that I downright despised.  Why? Because some of the stories were too disjointed; way too all over the place to be coherent.  Granted, I like some of the characters within those stories, but their stories just didn’t do it for me.  There are also some character that I wasn’t huge fans of, like Fortunato and Puppetman.  In Puppetman’s case, it’s because his involvement in the story was confusing (even though that he’s pulling strings like a puppet master, and the end reveal was good, it just gave me that weird feeling).  For Fortunato, it’s just his powers in general.  There are some characters in here that I’m not sure are Aces or Deuces.

There are a lot of real-world events that come across in this story, and a lot of real-world themes like discrimination (putting Jokers in the shoes of those in the minority during the Civil Rights era).  There are also a lot of very heavy themes, with violence and various themes of a sexual nature (including rape), so a fair warning to those who are ready to dive into this collection, be careful.

One of the good things that I like about this read is that, while we have several different authors writing for this book, we get a lot of interconnected characters.  Multiple characters get brought through different stories, whether it’s the Sleeper and his ever-changing faces; The Great and Powerful Turtle in his armored body; or other characters like Fortunato and Gimli.

Don’t let my review give you second thoughts about picking this one up.  It may not be that great, but it’s the first in what appears to be a very large series.  There are going to be some hiccups along the way.  Dive right into this series folks, and enjoy questioning everything you once knew.

Reviewing the Pages: In Cold Blood

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Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is both a masterpiece of journalism and a powerful crime thriller. Inspired by a 300-word article in The New York Times, Capote spent six years exploring and writing the story of Kansas farmer Herb Clutter, his family and the two young killers who brutally murdered them. In Cold Blood created a genre of novelistic non-fiction and made Capote’s name with its unflinching portrayal of a comprehensible and thoroughly human evil.

One of the pioneering novels in true crime non-fiction, In Cold Bloodfollows the murders of the Clutter family in their home, from events that took place just days before the murder, to the execution of the murderers. The book starts slow, with the task of having to set up the setting of the area as well as letting the reader get to know the Clutter family. But, roughly halfway through, the pace starts to quicken as the sense of “will they get caught” keeps getting larger and larger. While I expected there to be more about the trial than what we got, that could be attested to the sheer feeling of “open/shut”ness to the whole case.

Alright.

I felt that there was too much time in the novel spent on Perry Smith.  Yes, I know that there has to be some kind of focus here, but, I’m not sure if the focus should have been spent on only one of the killers.  Dick Hickock doesn’t get nearly enough “screen” time in the pages, which is strange because there would have been more there for Capote to get coverage for (since Dick’s family was there in Garden City while Perry had nobody).  Maybe it’s because Capote figured that Perry would make more of a figure to garner sympathy, but I didn’t feel it here.  Everyone has a tough life; some just have it worse off than others.  BUT, I don’t need to read about someone’s bedwetting problem over and over again.  Feels to me like Capote may have developed a bit of an intimate bond of some sort with Perry, and took to expressing it by trying to make Perry a sympathetic character despite the heinous crime that he had committed.  And I feel like it didn’t work out so well.  There are also some parts in this novel that I felt were completely fictionalized; as if Capote needed to come up with something to fill in the gaps to keep the story rolling along.  But, that’s just me.

But, for those of you who do like true-crime reads, you should check one of the pioneers of the genre.  Strap in folks, it’s going to be a long ride.

Reviewing the Pages: Ten Minutes to Deadtime

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Terry’s alarm keeps waking him at 3.33 every morning. The problem is, he never sets it for that time. On one occasion he wakes up and something is very different. And that’s when his life begins to unthread…
 
Already struggling to balance work and home life, can he overcome the evil that has awakened?

Super short, and while certainly interesting, I felt like there wasn’t much here to tie into the Shadow Fabric Mythos. Sure, we get the Witchblade and what could only be alluded to as the Shadow Fabric, but that’s about it. Sure, the scares that we get here are good. But, in terms of the Mythos, there’s some things that are left to be desired. If you need a quick read, and are hankering for some scares (and a little bit of bewilderment), then this read is for you. And, as a bonus, you don’t need to have read The Shadow Fabric in order to understand anything in this story.

Well, here we are.  Another story in the Shadow Fabric mythos.  And my, do we…not get a lot.  At least, in terms of the Mythos.  Sure, the Witchblade makes an appearance, though for a much sinister appearance than it does in The Shadow Fabric.  But, I have many, MANY questions to ask this story, and there’s just not that many answers.  For example, why 3:33 am? Besides the whole “it’s the Witching Hour and 3:33 is that perfect witching time” (or something along those lines).  Why is the Witchblade suddenly sinister, or is it much darker forces that have the Witchblade at work here? Are the Forgotten the souls that have been stitched together into the Fabric? As I said, so many questions that don’t have much of an answer here.  And that’s ok.  There really doesn’t need to be too many questions answered.  Let’s just hope that a lot of these are connected in one way or another later on down the line, maybe in a unified short story collection, or a sequel novel?

Either way.  For those wanting a quick and easy read, then you should pick up this read.  It may leave you with a lot of questions, but trust me, this whole series is full of them.

Reviewing the Pages: Night Shift

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More than twenty-five stories of horror and nightmarish fantasy transform everyday situations into experiences of compelling terror in the worlds of the living, the dying, and the nonliving.

“Jerusalem’s Lot” Previously unpublished
“Graveyard Shift” October 1970 issue of Cavalier
“Night Surf” Spring 1969 issue of Ubris
“I Am the Doorway” March 1971 issue of Cavalier
“The Mangler” December 1972 issue of Cavalier
“The Boogeyman” March 1973 issue of Cavalier
“Gray Matter” October 1973 issue of Cavalier
“Battleground” September 1972 issue of Cavalier
“Trucks” June 1973 issue of Cavalier
“Sometimes They Come Back” March 1974 issue of Cavalier
“Strawberry Spring” Fall 1968 issue of Ubris
“The Ledge” July 1976 issue of Penthouse
“The Lawnmower Man” May 1975 issue of Cavalier
“Quitters, Inc.” Previously unpublished
“I Know What You Need” September 1976 issue of Cosmopolitan
“Children of the Corn” March 1977 issue of Penthouse
“The Last Rung on the Ladder” Previously unpublished
“The Man Who Loved Flowers” August 1977 issue of Gallery
“One for the Road” March/April 1977 issue of Maine
“The Woman in the Room” Previously unpublished

Night Shift is a collection of twenty short stories that are all designed to fill you with terror and dread. And it does a very good job of that. Whether it’s continuing on with some of the stories in his already extensive library; or creating new stories that will become a part of horror culture, in both good and bad ways. There are a lot of stories here that have become either big screen or made-for-TV movies, or either TV shows or mini-series. Each one of these short stories contain the right amount of horror for the length that the story was. Which is good. Sometimes there’s too much horror in a short piece, and not enough time within the pages to dissipate it. For those of you who like short horror, and haven’t read many from Stephen King, then this read is one worth checking out.

Well, there’s not much more that I want to elaborate on.  I will add in my thoughts on the individual short stories as I had posted them during the course of my reading through this book.

“Jerusalem’s Lot”–King dipped into Lovecraftian horror with this one, which ties in to ‘Salem’s Lot in a way.

“Graveyard Shift”–What is it with rats and horror? In this case…the rats ARE the horror.

“Night Surf”–A precursor, or prequel-in-idea story to The Stand, the horror isn’t in the horror of catching A6, it’s the human fear of dying.

“I Am the Doorway”–not even space can escape King’s touch of horror. Couldn’t imagine having that happen to me.

“The Mangler”: almost by pure chance, a demon possesses a powerful machine and causes havoc.

“The Boogeyman”–a very…unique take on talking to the monster. Lots of in-depth analysis to be had here.

“Grey Matter”–not much I can explain about this one. Man drinks a foul beer and becomes a giant grey blob that is starting to divide.

“Battleground”–I love this story! Such a fun concept.

“Trucks”–What happens when an unexplained event causes machines (in this case, tractor-trailers) gain a mind of their own? This short story gives us an idea.

“Sometimes They Come Back”–Ghosts and demons, a perfect horror mix with childhood trauma as the catalyst event for it.

“Strawberry Spring”–Interesting premise for this tale. Weather phenomenon causing one person to get…murderous? Ending leaves the story in ambiguity.

“The Ledge”–Well, what would you expect when you try to run away with the wife of a criminal syndicate boss that has known to be a little sadistic? With the crime boss’ penchant to lie, the ending is a little ambiguous.

“The Lawnmower Man”–This is what happens when you let a Greek god start a lawn service.

“Quitters Inc.”–Interesting short story. Unlikely to happen in today’s society, but still, interesting concept.

“I Know What You Need”–A little bit of black magic to gain love? Don’t you know that any sort of magic won’t get you love?

“Children of the Corn”–Religion and horror don’t mix very often, but it can certainly be scary.

“The Last Rung on the Ladder”–A story, which while the premise is more suspenseful than terrifying; it’s the underlying terror of drifting apart and the guilt of not contacting loved ones before they leave our plane of existence. A theme that hits to close to home this week.

“The Man Who Loved Flowers”–This story almost didn’t seem like it was going to have a tinge of darkness in it, until the very end.

“One for the Road”–So, we got a prequel for ‘Salem’s Lot, and now we get a sequel…of sorts. More like a small continuation of the story that falls a few years after the ending.

“The Woman in the Room”–Horror based in reality can always be the scariest, and watching a loved one wither away can be downright terrifying.

Reviewing the Pages: I Died Yesterday

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Revenge. Respect. Regret.

Sometimes doing the ‘right’ thing brings out the wrong in people.

I Died Yesterday – A evening with an old friend becomes a morning after that lasts for ever.
Chopper – A young man’s pursuit of his dream unearths a nightmare.
A Decision at Dusk – If you could bring someone back from the dead, would you use the power to help or hurt?
Sunflower – When the establishment fights back, they break more than the rules.
A View – Some noises are best left uninvestigated.

These stories are not happy, but they leave their mark. Some are set in our world; some are set in an alternate world (that of the Lords of Misrule series). This anthology combines dark humour, psychological terror, horror, and a splash of brightly coloured gore. It packs an emotional punch made even more harrowing by the paper-thin divide between reality and fiction.

Five uniquely individual short stories; each one uniquely crafted to bring a different sort of horror to the reader. As the author mentions, two of the short stories are not of our world, and I felt that those are the “weakest” of these five stories. I only say that they are the “weakest” because I don’t know the world that they are based in. However, they are not bad stories at all. Some of the references and things in those stories are lost on this reader, which I may have to remedy one of these days. But, other than that, the three stories based in this world are incredibly horrifying. Sometimes you can see the twist coming; but other times you won’t see it until it’s right on top of you. And it’s exciting. I would highly recommend this short story collection. Borrowing this from R.L. Stine: “Reader beware, you’re in for a scare.”

Wow.  That first story man.  That was BRUTAL.  At the very beginning of “I Died Yesterday”, you would have thought that the MC of the story was the one that died.  But then, it changes.  Quickly.  The MC is very unreliable, and even though you can figure out the ending, it’s the way that Graham gets to it is suspenseful.

The second short story, “Chopper” was much more confusing, and wasn’t as…enjoyable…as the first (not that the first story’s subject material was enjoyable, but it was a good story).  Our narrator here is not as unreliable as the first one, but isn’t all there with his imagination running wild.  I was excited about the twist that I wasn’t expecting to come out of this, which made the ending that much more interesting.

“A Decision at Dusk” gives us a unique perspective into necromancy, even if the story doesn’t flat out say it.  I like the premise that this druid is battling with resurrecting her brother vs the happiness of her niece, while also flaunting that she does this again and again to the man that killed her brother.  Though, the jaunt down to the village at the end gave me something to think about.  One little line made me pause…and think.  Is there more to Mia than we thought? Is that why the rumor about arms most prevalent? Another excellent story here.

“Sunflowers” is another horrifying tale.  This time, I’m unsure on just who to blame here.  The MC seems to have gotten herself into this mess by sticking her nose into business that doesn’t belong.  That leads her to getting kidnapped, tortured, and maybe even raped? I’m not sure about that last bit.  But, the unspeakable horror comes at the very end.  I was wondering where all this was going with the mentions about her brother.  Another hair raising story.  Just don’t take this one lightly.

“A View” is a read that reminds me of something that I think about constantly, and talk to people about on a regular basis.  If a character doesn’t do this particular action, would we actually have a story? This is one of those cases.  If our MC, with a very distinctive body…modification, wouldn’t have tried to satisfy his curiosity, would the ending of the story be different.  There are so many questions that I have that I want answered, and I’m not going to find them in these pages.

Reviewing the Pages: Something Borrowed, Something Blue

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“Something borrowed, something blue. Something terrible will happen to you.”

It’s a bad neighborhood in Detroit, the kind of place where abandoned houses get stripped, then taken over by squatters, then burned. But it’s about to get worse.

Across the street is a white van with those words spray-painted on the side in blue. It pulled up in the middle of the night without a sound. The windows are solid black glass. And it’s watching you…

I’ll be honest. I usually steer clear of novellas. Not because I don’t like the story, but because I usually don’t want the read to end within 20 minutes or so. Which is about how long it took me to read this one. BUT, this read. This read kept me engaged, and wanting to know more about…whatever it was. I loved the voice of the narrator; just the perfect mix of sanity and paranoia combined other odd musings that give life to this character.

If you like bite-size reads that will give you some chills, then this read is for you.

So, there’s really not much here that I want to talk about because I do actually want you to go out and read it.  But, I do want to say that I really do enjoy the way the narrator was written.  I wouldn’t have been sure that the character I was reading was a senior citizen if the book didn’t tell me that he was one.  It’s not often that I read about a MC/narrator that is well advanced in years.  And if I have read one like that, I don’t remember much about the book.  But, I really implore you to go out and check this read out.  Yes, I finished it in 20-25 minutes, but that shouldn’t deter you from this read.