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: Devil in the Countryside

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Devil in the Countryside is a story about the most famous werewolf investigation in history, brimming with intrigue and war, love and betrayal, and long-kept vendettas.

It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorizing the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs.

In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.

Based on historical events, this book gives us a look into what may have been happening in Bedburg leading up to the events of the trial. I liked the four different points of view in this story, with each of them giving a slightly different point of view to look upon, even if Dieter and Sybil’s become kind of interchangeable towards the end of the book.

Mr. Barclay does a wonderful job of setting up the atmosphere and setting for this story. Keeping true to the religious and political turmoil of the times, he weaves them in wonderfully with the story of trying to catch the Werewolf. There are times where I forgot that it was the late 1500s, and I could see some of these conversations and scenes come up during a read in the modern day.

Be warned fellow reader, there are some heavy themes alluded to in here. While the details are not alluded to within the pages, one only has to read between the lines to figure out what is going on. I highly recommend diving into this read when you get a chance reader. Step back into the past, and chase down the Werewolf yourself.

Well, there’s a lot going on in this book.  Yes, most of this read is fictionalized.  But, the author had to do so with the lack of information on the subject.  It’s not like there is a surviving diary or journal from someone back then.  But, then that would have been too easy.  Cory Barclay does a wonderful job of weaving all of the known factors of the time period for that region into the fictional aspects that he had to create in order to tell this wonderful tale.

The biggest problem that I came across while reading this was at the end, where we got a merging of points of view of sorts between Dieter and Sybil.  I wish that they could have been separated out a bit, by keeping feelings of the event that was happening relegated to that character.  But that’s my only negative criticism of the book.  The characters that I hated, or mistrusted, were written that way for a reason.  Even the motivations of the characters were realistic, and something that wouldn’t be out of place in that time period.

As to the themes that I alluded to in my Goodreads post? They’re there.  While most of the violent acts are brought up after the fact or presented as they are happening, they are there in their gory detail.  There are also some more sensitive topics that get brought to light, including rape and abuse.  I do request that you heed my warning: do not go into this read lightly.  While I highly recommend it, know your limits fellow reader.  Yes, all of those are light, and most of the story is steeped in political and religious turmoil, the underlying darkness is there.  Don’t let the darkness sway you from reading this book, fellow reader.  Enjoy the read and let the mystery suck you in.

Reviewing the Pages: Opening Atlantis

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Atlantis lies between Europe and the East Coast of Terranova. For many years, this land of opportunity lured dreamers from around the globe with its natural resources, offering a new beginning for those willing to brave the wonders of the unexplored territory.

It is a new world indeed: ripe for discovery, for plunder, and eventually for colonization?but will its settlers destroy the very wonders they had journeyed to Atlantis to find?

Opening Atlantis is an intriguing book that pretty much takes a reimagining of the settlement of the Americas and throws it on this island. All for a third of a boatload of cod. Either way, this book covers a whole lot of ground, picking up three specific time periods primarily following the Radcliffe family as they first sail over from England, then defend their new home. I do like that we do get some of those historic themes like slavery and nationalistic loyalty, but some of the individual character motivations leave a lot to be desired.

For those of you who like reading alternative history, with a little bit of speculative ideas thrown in, then you should check out this read. Just be sure to be in the mindset to do so, or else the read will be slow going.

Ok.  This book is divided up into three sections.  The first one take place in the 1400s, where we first start getting settlers on Atlantis.  The biggest struggle that they have is the sudden arrival of a Duke, which kills the English settler’s patriarch, and sets up a minor war.  The second section takes place in the 1600s, and it’s a small war between “family” (using that term loosely here as they are distant cousins), and the last one takes place in 1700s, where we get a war before different nationalities.  And this section is where my problem lies.

Yes, I get that is more speculative than alternative, but still.  This is more or less taking the overarching themes of the development of the United States, and throwing them into this new and uncharted world.  But we get one of the strangest characters in Roland Kersauzon, a descendant of the original Kersauzon that settled their part of Atlantis.  He doesn’t like the English because he thought that his ancestor was a fool for trading the location of Atlantis to the English for a massive amount of fish? Doesn’t quite sit well with me for that.  I could see that of a great-grandson that has a wild hair up his butt…but for someone 300 years down the line? Feels kinda forced to me.

All criticism aside, this is a story that those who are interested in alternative/speculative history should check out.  I had a hard time getting into the book, and even though that might have been burnout talking, there were some days where I didn’t want to read this book because I just wasn’t into it.  But, it might be for you.  Just don’t get seasick along the way over.

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.

Reviewing the Pages: The Shadow Fabric

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A dark fantasy novel of demons, devices, and deceit.
 
Leo remembers little of his past. Desperate for a new life, he snatches up the first job to come along. On his second day, he witnesses a murder, and the Shadow Fabric – a malevolent force that controls the darkness – takes the body and vanishes with it.
 
Determined to get answers, Leo has no idea where to turn. Revelations come in the most unlikely places, and secrets of witchcraft and ancient artefacts unfold. In particular, a device used in the 17th century to extract evil from witches proves key to his discoveries. With these truths long hidden from humankind, his memory unravels. Not only haunted by the past, a sinister presence within the darkness threatens Leo’s existence and he soon doubts everything and everyone…including himself.
 
The relentless and destructive power of the Shadow Fabric compels Leo to fight not only this growing darkness, but also the entity beneath the Fabric’s surface. While these supernatural horrors rage and his world crumbles, Leo must confront his past before he can embrace his future. But the future may not exist.
 
Bringing witchcraft and demon fiction into the 21st century
THE SHADOW FABRIC is a British horror novel revealing the unknown history of the witch, the paranormal, and demons. With a slice of occult horror and an insight into the true cause of the Great Fire of London, the story opens up history and spreads it raw.

The evil contained in this book is relentless. Seriously, just when you think that something good has happened, it snatches it away. With fury too. This read takes you through a journey through a somewhat-unreliable narrator, and the all-too-mysterious Shadow Fabric and the revolving world within. I’m pretty sure that there are mysteries that are still left unsolved, even with everything that get explained.

All the characters are distinct, and though each one of them have their own motivation (which may or may not be their own), it certainly is a fun thing to read such a varied cast of characters. There are some moments where I didn’t want to know about a thing for the 50th time, but that’s just because it had been repeated so many times that my brain went “enough already!”

For those of you who like supernatural horror, and want something to keep you on your toes, then you should check this one out.

Well, this one certainly kept me on my intellectual toes anyway.  Trying to figure out where all the information about the Fabric, or the Witchblade, or anything else in general was going to lead me kept my brain moving.  Which is a good thing.  I feel like I still don’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle, and with all the people that were handing out puzzle pieces now dead, I’m just as lost as Leo was for most of the book.

And this book makes sure that you stay lost.  And in despair too.  Just when you think that something good is finally happening to our characters, the rug gets pulled out from underneath us and we fall back down into that hole of despair again.  There are some things that concern me about the ending of the tale, primarily when it came down to the stitching.  Yes, he was holding a shadowleaf, but, how could the effect of the pure white leaf do any good when he was wearing a glove? Maybe he did take it off and I just missed that line.  I’m not sure.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that the white leaf was counteracting the effect of the black leaf? Maybe that’s it.  Either way, left me a bit puzzled.  Also, I don’t know if there is a sequel in the works, or it just continues on in short form, but the ending left me wanting much, much more.

Seriously, check this read out.  I promise, it’ll make you think more about light and the darkness it battles in a slightly different way.

Reading List #4

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another edition of my reading list! Now, I skipped over one book in the process of going through my last read, and I’m ok with that.  As much as I do like sticking to lists and following a set plan from time to time, there are just some times where I’m like “alright, I can skip that one”.  And it’s not like the book isn’t on my reading list as it is, I just didn’t have the book to read it.  I’m sure it’ll show up on here again.  And speaking of, here is a very long list of books to come.  This should take me to that magical 50 books read this year.  Wish me luck!

Reminder: all covers come from Goodreads.

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Reviewing the Pages: Relic

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Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human…

But the museum’s directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.

Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who-or what-is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?

Oh how I missed Pendergast. I don’t know how I picked up this book to start with, but once I finished it the first time, I really wanted to read more about our mysterious Southern gentlemen with the FBI. But I never picked the series back up. Now, after re-reading the introductory novel to Pendergast, I realized quickly that I really should. Pendergast is an enigma, and I want to know about him.

This story gives us a fascinating look into ideas on evolution, and whether they are working theories or not, is a different story altogether, but I still enjoyed the tale. I’m one for reading books that help expand my brain with wide amounts of knowledge. Usually, it comes in the form of scientific information, like evolution, or paleobiology, or astrobotany. Maybe that’s why I like The Martian so much…it taught me a lot of plausible ideas. Which is where this book comes in…that there are still things that we as human beings have not explored. Things like bridging the gap in the evolutionary record. Science changes and adapts in every way, and I hope that, like this “little” discovery in this book shows, one day just might change the world.

This book is also a really good mystery, because while it gives you some information outright, the bulk of the information; the story that is getting woven here gets slowly revealed with each new revelation that the characters make. And I like that. Even with reading this book again, it gives me great pleasure in following along with the mystery. If you enjoy reading books heavily steeped in mystery with deep tendrils of science fiction, that I urge you to check this book out. And maybe, you’ll just might find yourself wanting to follow along with Agent Pendergast on his next adventure.

Alright.  Big spoilers here.  The ending is a very nice setup to getting us into the next book.  So the creature has been vanquished, and our heroes are celebrating their success, not only in taking down the creature, but their individual successes in life.  Which is good for them.  Bad for the rest of the world.  While they realize that the creature had a humanoid-like facial structure, the latecomer to the party holds the actual key as to what happened.  Which is dangerous.  Especially for someone like Kawakita.  I didn’t like his character.  Not because he’s poorly written or anything like that, but because he’s a character type that I don’t find appealing. The highly-motivated, almost world-conquering personality that won’t stop until he gets exactly what he wants using any means necessary.

There is so much more that I want to learn about Agent Pendergast.  We get that he’s Southern, to the point where he was raised almost in a more traditional Southern manner.  He’s very particular about how he dresses (to the point where he shows disdain for having to use his jacket for a trap).  He also seems to have a problem with people being nasty, especially towards him.  I love how the authors describe D’Agosta after a couple of Pendergast’s verbal lashings.

While I listed above that this is science fiction and mystery, there is also a great deal of horror involved in it as well.  It take you for a wonderful, brain-pleasing ride that, at the very end, will leave you wanting more. Just, keep all body parts and organs inside the ride at all times.