Welcome to my November wrap-up blog post featuring all of the fantastic posts on my blog that I posted during the month of November.
- Giving Up by Tremonti.
- When Pain Becomes Real by Brainstorm.
- Snows In Hell by Lordi.
- I’m Broken by Pantera.
- Only by Anthrax.
- October 2020 monthly wrap-up.
- Reviewing and self-doubt.
- My Latest Book Haul.
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday: The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles #1) by Mike Brooks.
- Are You A Book Snob Tag.
- Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Blackout by Simon Scarrow.
There is something effortless and easy to read about King’s writing and If It Bleeds finds the old master and veteran wordsmith on top form. The collection is well-written in King’s own style where he is able to make the everyday and mundane seem magical and engrossing and also features some stellar characterisation, sense of setting and storytelling all on display within the pages. The sense of setting that King creates is tremendous and particularly worthy of mention are the village of Harlow and the small-town way of life in Mr Harrigan’s Phone and, the isolated cabin in the remote woods in Rat which is a highly atmospheric location. Throughout the four stories, there are some well-developed and vivid characters that populate the four included stories and there is a strength to King’s characterisation. Whether his characters appear for only a few pages or many more, are major players or minor in the unfolding story his creations come to life, have a strong presence and they feel like real people.
Each individual story in If It Bleeds is fulfilling and as a whole, the collection gives the reader a varied, enjoyable and entertaining reading experience. Mr Harrigan’s Phone is a bittersweet and creepy coming-of-age story about a friendship between two different generations, loss, hurting people and letting go. The Life of Chuck which, on first appearances is rather strange turns into a story that is clever, moving, poignant and touching. If It Bleeds, the story that shares its name with the title of the book is compelling, full of suspense and blends together a thriller with the supernatural which is a combination that I love and that when done right works extremely well. In King’s hand’s simply, he does it right. And, to end the collection Rat is a delightfully dark and atmospheric little fable that delves into the mind of a tortured writer.
Lussi is an outsider, a pariah who, hailing from genre fiction comes from a different world to the rest of her peers at Blackwood-Patterson, she doesn’t fit in, office politics are at play, her colleagues aren’t very friendly towards, treating her with a lack of respect and shunning her. In the few weeks that she has been employed she has been the victim of mean-spirited office pranks and hazing as the new member of staff. A Secret Santa, started before Lussi arrived at the publishing house has been running. As a recent recruit, Lussi missed out in taking part, but along with all of the other employees who participated in the festivities a present has been mysteriously left for her beneath the tree. With a sense of bewilderment and dread as to what the gift might be and expecting another cruel prank and a laugh at her expense, at the office Christmas party Lussi reluctantly opens the gift and immediately recognises what is inside. The box contains a Percht, a German devil doll that, on the day of her interview was inside Mr Blackwood’s office. While Lussi knows what the gift is, she doesn’t understand why someone has given her the doll or what it means.
Secret Santa is set in a publishing house during the horror boom of the 1980s and features an eclectic mix of characters, a setting that is extremely atmospheric and a story that is splattered with wry nods and references that bring the decade to life. Simply, it is a highly entertaining dose of nostalgia-filled fun that exudes a dark charm and I loved everything about it.
Infernal is the story of Stratus, a journey of self-discovery, a journey to solve the mystery of his past and to discover who he really is and what he really is. There is also more at play, a bigger picture that Stratus’s own story is entwined with including the war between the kingdom of Krandin and the Penullin empire, religion, magic, necromancy and politics that all have a role to play in the wider story that unfolds across the pages. Written in the first-person, we see the world through Stratus’s eyes. We learn at the same time as him, through each of his returning snippets of memory, through each location and through each of his conversations with other characters. As he travels, Stratus learns more about the world, its inhabitants and as the world opens up for Stratus so to does it open up for the reader. Likewise, as his memories come back to him, as he discovers more about himself, his past and his true identity the reader does too.
De Jager has created a world that is drenched in darkness, gritty, well-depicted and Falkenburg, the location where most of the story takes place comes to grim-encrusted life. As a character Stratus is fantastic, a bit good, a bit bad, morally grey and an anti-hero to root for. I really liked Tatyana Henkman too, Tatyana is the kingdom of Krandin’s champion and the bodyguard to Prince Lucien. She is determined, fierce and strong. She is the perfect foil for Stratus and when she enters the fray and accompanies him on his search for answers she is a welcome addition to the story.
Infernal is fast-paced, speckled with intense action, magic, mayhem, a whole lot of bloody fun and entertaining as hell. Simply, if you like your fantasy, brutal, grim and dark with a vein of mystery running through the pages then you will love this book.
The characters are an interesting and eclectic bunch of personalities who are all human with the diversity and flaws that being human entails. The stories in Thirteen Storeys are saturated in an eerie atmosphere with a creeping sense of unease and a sinister undertone. Some are insidious and offer a grounded and measured approach, are cerebral and use the adage of ‘less is more’ leaving your imagination to run wild. While others are far more visceral with sections that include some full-blown grotesque and macabre vivid imagery that aid in raising the creep factor and chilling the blood in your veins to ice-cold. With the differences in both the stories and the hauntings, Thirteen Storeys is a varied collection of immersive and unsettling tales. The one constant in the stories and this is where, for me, the true terror lies is that they are all written in such a way that you are left with a niggling doubt over whether what the characters are experiencing is psychological and they have fallen down a rabbit hole of delusion, their own fears, obsession and paranoia or if there is actually a hostile and malevolent supernatural force at play that has touched, corrupting and is influencing them.
Without going into detail, some favourite stories of mine were The Knock about a renowned art dealer who acquires a painting and becomes obsessed with it. Smart about a tech apartment which is a fascinating and frightening look at technology, our reliance upon it and how it can take over and control our lives. A Foot in the Door which is about a character researching the history of Banyan Court and Tobias Fell. Bad Penny about a child on the rich side, her always hungry imaginary friend and the games that they play. Round The Clock about two concierges working the rich half of Banyan Court. Old Plumbing about a plumber who is investigating the pipes in Banyan Court and the discoloured liquid that is flowing out of them. And finally, The Builder which is the last story gives reader’s their first glimpse at Tobias Fell and features the dinner party, all of the convened guests and the true events that transpired in the penthouse.
I relished and took a savage glee in seeing the characters unravel and slowly come undone inside the nightmarish confines of the disturbing Banyan Court and I found the dark and twisted delight that is Thirteen Storeys to be thrilling, chilling and thoroughly entertaining.
The writing in Call of the Bone Ships is magnificent and Barker has a way with words that is poetic, descriptive, captivating and he utterly mesmerises you in the story that he is telling. There is a high level of attention to detail surrounding Tide Child and the running of the ship which runs through the blood, sweat and tears of the crew and you feel like you are walking the decks of Tide Child alongside Joron. Another thing that Barker does exceptionally well is to highlight the beauty and the brutality of the sea. The majesty of the ocean, the expanse of open water where you need to be ever watchful and respectful as the seas are fraught with danger and monsters that dwell in the deep.
There is plenty of action spread throughout Call of the Bone Ships both on the land and the sea. With his action scenes, Barker doesn’t shy away from depicting the visceral nature of the battle and the fights have a weight to them, a heft to the blows dealt where you can feel the bite of the blade into flesh. There are some absolutely stunning cinematic and large-scale set pieces throughout Call of the Bone Ships, dramatic moments too, but there are also smaller and more personal moments, ripples in the water that are weighted and have a huge impact. The settings are all vividly realised and Barker manages to easily evoke images of the locations allowing you to picture them in your mind. With his writing, Barker’s words are able to convey the emotions that the characters feel and there are moments that rend your heart. In Call of the Bone Ships, you find yourself cursing Barker for what he puts both his characters and his readers through as he breaks them in the name of the story.
I have nothing negative to say about The Call of the Bone Ships. Yes, it ends on a cliffhanger, but it is the middle book in a trilogy and that is to be expected. While I may have channelled my inner Gullaime and screeched “Not Want! Not Want!” as I finished the book, I can’t fault the endpoint as it felt like the natural place for Barker to conclude this volume. Call of the Bone Ships and its story that is full of action, betrayal, dark deeds, drama, duty, emotion, mystery, prophecy, sacrifice and tension is the type of book that has you conflicted. On one hand, you want to fly through the pages as you are engrossed in the story and eager to find out what happens next, but on the other hand, you want to take your time and savour every moment that you spend in the company of Joron, Meas, the Gullaime and Tide Child.
For me, Barker is a must-read fantasy author, if you aren’t reading him, why not? He consistently delivers to an extremely high standard and is putting out some phenomenal work from his completed The Wounded Kingdom trilogy through to The Call of the Bone Ships the second book in his outstanding Tide Child trilogy. He keeps getting better and with each new release, he somehow manages to top and improve upon the previous book.
In Deity, Scott King is looking into the life and death of Zach Crystal and the allegations of abuse that plagued his career both in life and in his death as more and more women are coming forward with historical abuse claims against the deceased superstar. Zach Crystal was a megastar who had a stratospheric rise to fame. A rags to riches story, coming from a poor family and a deeply religious upbringing on a council estate in the Midlands, through to his teenage years in ‘The Crystal Twins’ with his twin sister Naomi before he left to going solo and his ascent to becoming a world-famous musician. Crystal was a recluse and an enigma who, before his death lived in Crystal Forest, a five-hundred-acre estate in the Scottish Highlands comprising a remote mansion, recording studio and two-storey treehouse (a sanctum, a sanctuary away from the world where he could be himself) deep in the wilderness, surrounded by state-of-the-art security and miles away from anyone.
Each new episode and interview goes further beneath the surface and there’s nothing shallow or superficial about the story told in Deity as Wesolowski plumbs the depths of Zach Crystal. Wesolowski keeps the waters murky and tenebrous, obscuring the picture and making you question if Crystal is someone whose legacy has been tainted by people with a vendetta against him. People who are out for nothing more than to make money and a name for themselves at the expense of a dead man as the dead can’t speak and they can’t defend themselves or their actions. If he is simply different and misunderstood, an eccentric musician who wanted nothing more than to help damaged teenagers from disadvantaged upbringings by giving something back to those who have nothing in life but scars from a troubled childhood. Or, if he truly is guilty of the heinous and horrific accusations against him and that he used his fame, fortune and name to coerce, manipulate and seduce his fans into doing things that they shouldn’t as they worshipped at the altar of their musical idol.
Deity once again finds Wesolowski dancing with the darkness as he takes the reader on another powerful, unsettling and thought-provoking journey into the disturbing and darkened heart of human nature.
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