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Sunday, October 31, 2021

My Best Friend's ExorcismMy Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*wipes a tear away from his eyes*

Well, this one hit pretty hard. It's the whole, OMG that's how I grew up... thing. Nostalgia, suburbs, the '80s, and ALL the freaky BS that came with the time. I place this side by side with Donnie Darko for the favorites that remind me of my childhood. This, alone, makes me give this a full 5 stars.

HOWEVER... I also think it's a near-perfect horror in its own right. Great characters, SO MANY DETAILS, and an excellent slow-burn with a truly delicious climax. It is, as always, the journey.

But sometimes, it's the surprises, not just the fantastic storytelling, that hit us. Can I get a hell yeah for the bodybuilders for god or the holy diet Pepsi?

Frankly, I had a fantastic time. And it was perfect for Halloween! Happy Halloween!

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Friday, October 29, 2021

BaalBaal by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Early McCammon, this novel has all the late seventies' fascination with the antichrist and has a LOT of the feel of Rosemary's Baby and the Omen -- at least at first -- and it transforms nicely into a sprawling drama of an older version of the evil in Omen, as well.

Where it diverges is in how it becomes a Middle East curiosity, with cultists in Kuwait, as well as going to the cold reaches of the north, eventually turning into a pretty epic battle of good versus evil, albeit relying on traditional Christian motifs (and some Jewish!).

While it DOES appear to be a book of its time, I think it held up quite well. It nods to both the old mythologies and the more common, but together, it makes a rather flavorful novel full of rich ideas.

Granted, I loved this less than almost all of his other works, to date, but that's not saying that much. I have liked almost everything he's written.

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The Sandman: Act IIThe Sandman: Act II by Dirk Maggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top-notch audio production of the Sandman comics, preserving all of the spirit, the many stories, and the mystery of the originals. It's only Act II, so expect more.

It's a full cast play, too, to get us right on target for the upcoming tv series.

If you don't know Sandman and want to get a leg up, I can't recommend this more. If you already ARE a fan, I can't see a reason why you wouldn't love this, either.

For everyone else out there... well... if you have never been turned on to the stuff that made Gaiman famous, then SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on you!

Totally recommend.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Saturday Night Ghost ClubThe Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised to learn that I had read something else by the same author under a different name: Nick Cutter. The other was more monster thriller, while this one had a very '80s Coming-of-Age feel to it, very much like Stranger Things, but more (at least to me) like Boy's Life or similar Stephen King titles of which I bet most of us are familiar.

The big difference is this, however: this is not a huge tome. No epic strolls down memory lane mixed with supernatural. Indeed, it's more like a literal stroll down memory lane with some nice meta elements.

But above all, it is a classy YA. Fun, light, interesting family members and friends, and some funny digs at old pieces of our culture that never got a chance to survive.

Poor Beta. *sigh*

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Nothing But Blackened TeethNothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Khaw rapidly became one of my auto-buy authors for her fantastically wicked and sharp horror prose that simultaneously messes with our terror-ific sensibilities while handing us truly interesting characters.

After looking at this cover and reading the blurb, I was certain I was going to fall in love with it, and after reading it, I DID like it. Quite a bit. We've got our Western haunted house trope set in an ancient Japanese house gone totally Kaiju. (And yes, I mean both style and the pretty little monsters.)

However, and I should be very clear that this is merely my intuition speaking, I felt like the sheer mix of Western and Eastern horror sensibilities -- while sounding good in theory -- kinda jarred me here. Why? Because we've got our self-aware Western students who very well know they're being stupid in all the classic horror trope ways, and we spend a lot of time on them being stupid, with WAY too little of the Eastern to counterbalance the setup.

I mean, don't get me wrong, there was quite a bit here, but not nearly as much as I'm used to. I mean, I love manga and anime and delicious Japanese horror movies, so it's not like it's completely out of bounds for a lot of us to dive right into the deeper cultural conflicts.

Of course, if I just enjoy this for a light, gory, throwaway novella, it's perfectly fine. Maybe I just wanted to see something like this SHINE. :)

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Necroscope V: Deadspawn (Necroscope, #5)Necroscope V: Deadspawn by Brian Lumley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harry is having a bad life. The golden boy with OP powers, able to talk to the dead and get them on his side, teleport through time and space, get into people's minds and mess with them good, is now coming down with a slight case of vampirism.


All told, it's nice seeing him getting taken down by his own failings, even if it's one he let into himself and he must fight constantly. And he was such a nice boy, too.

Fun "last" adventure, and an interesting romp through vamp-lands. Nicely epic in scope and stakes.

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Sunday, October 24, 2021

My Heart Is a ChainsawMy Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first Stephen Graham Jones.

And I loved it!

Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. I think I loved it most because both the author and the MC were as knowledgeable about the whole glorious movie horror mythos as I am. It gave me the whole self-aware vibe of Scream AND let me revel in my own bloody juices. The way any self-professed slasher would be.

Don't look at me that way. YOU know what I'm saying. You know what I mean... you glorious sicko.

So what happens when you know all the moral topes, you know the setups and the meaty points of every serial murderer story, and you hate your community enough to WANT to see it suffer, and yet you still profess to be the Final Girl and/or the side-character that barely squeaks away, but there is an actual murderer getting prepared to go hog-wild on your peers and the sad sacks of adults?

Well, you bide your time, of course. You investigate. You don't let anyone know, but you still try to prepare your closest friends for the gorefest to come, all the while wanting to be in the real-life horrorfest, yourself?

The novel walks a very fine line of self-knowledge and rip-roaring classic horror fun.

It worked especially well for me because I AM a huge fan of all the classics, so the nostalgia was spot-on. How good is it for everyone else? No idea, but the underlying story was great, the characters were delightful and the plot was never boring. But then, I love good meta, too, so the novel plied me well.

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Saturday, October 23, 2021

A Stir of EchoesA Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 10/23/21:

I'm upping my star count on this re-read. I'm giving this a full 5 because it is easily one of the best ghost stories I've ever read.


Because, if I am to be entirely honest, it's a bit more relatable than the old victorian style or any version of a gothic read. Indeed, it's working-class 1958 with a starter family, friends and neighbors, and it's something of a truly hopeful, innocent time.

That being said, the kinds of psychological horrors that come are not very innocent and the optimism quickly becomes a nightmare. We don't really know what is going on, but I personally love the juxtapositions and the sheer simplicity of the novel.

It scared me. It got under my skin.

In other words, it was a totally enjoyable spooktober read. :)

Original Review:

I loved the book over the movie primarily because of the internal struggles. Coming to grips with telepathy reminded me a lot of Stephen King, which is of course is backward. I see why SK touted Matheson as one of the greats. It's all about magical realism and the details that center everything in regular life, and then pull the character, kicking and screaming, into the fantastic.

It is only a minor complication that the novel was a ghost story. It didn't even need to end up that way, but it did. The resolution only made me think about the unwritten resolutions, and the story continues on in my mind. Any novel that builds a life of its own, despite itself, should be considered a great novel. I still want to keep reading. :)

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Thief of AlwaysThe Thief of Always by Clive Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my second read, but I'm doing it decades apart. It's really strange. I kinda feel like I'm Harvey.

Not bored. Definitely not as bored as him, or nearly as gullible or enticed by a house of holidays, myth, or changed children. But I do really feel the underscored notion that you really can't go home again.

But you sure can wish for it.

And if you can pay the price...

Ah, honestly, I was always really surprised by how this particular Clive Barker book subverted all my expectations. I mean, the guy gave me Pinhead. Books of Blood. Some of the best, most horrific monsters of the related horror genres. But out of the blue, here I am, reading a YA bursting with a mild but very creative mythos, lost children's souls, and such sweet promises.

I loved it back then, utterly shocked by the conflict I was faced with, and I loved it now, thinking fondly of all the most gorgeous epic coming-of-age horror novels of the '80s. You know, the big ones, the epic ones. Like It, or A Boy's Life. Or even better, and through a side-eye, at the space where Neil Gaiman would take in my heart with Sandman. And yes, the similarities are very much there. So lovely!

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A Night in the Lonesome OctoberA Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in the day, in the mid-'90s, I had the great pleasure to see Zelazny before he died. He was so full of life, so enthusiastic.

And by that time, I'd read so much by him. All the Amber books, Lord of Light, This Immortal (which shared a Hugo with Dune), and so many more that were just... FUN. This book was no different, but at the time I hadn't read it because this was currently either being written or was to be published, shortly.

I went to his reading at an SF convention and the guy literally got up on the table and barely read from his script as he performed, with glowing eyes and such energy, a scene right from A Night in Lonesome October.

We laughed, sat enraptured, and, because this was a very tiny crowd, sitting around him in one of the tiniest meeting rooms in the hotel, we all got to talk with him.

I was amazed. Thrilled. He was one of the small handful of authors that made me realize that all I wanted to be was a writer.

It really came as a shock to me when he died at only 58 of cancer, that he had not only been going through it as he wrote this book -- but that he even voiced the entire narration in the audiobook for it.

It was as if he poured all the rest of his vitality into this last project, for us.

Am I reading too much into this? No. Probably not. He was a great man and he was able to give us so much light in the time he gave to us. Maybe it just hits differently when we actually get to meet our heroes. And it hits even harder when they turn out to be that much more heroic.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Blood and RainBlood and Rain by Glenn Rolfe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perfect for werewolf fans. Updated, gory, small-town horror, desperate antics. Oh, yeah, and horny teens, beleaguered lawmen, and silver bullets.

It really ticks off all the expected elements, pulls off great pacing, and makes me think of all the other classics of the genre. Stephen King, especially. And it shows. Hello, Bangor, Maine. :)

It was very enjoyable, scratching all those nostalgia hackles, and it made me howl at the moon.

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The Wisdom of Crowds (The Age of Madness, #3)The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grimdark fantasy returns with a passion. A passion of stupidity, madness, and blood.

This caps the latest trilogy by Abercrombie, continuing the legacy of this bloody land, driving what should have been a time of peace and prosperity down into the mud until we get a novel that's quite the equivalent of the French Revolution.

Mob rule, high idealism turned into a mad bloodbath ruled by the angry and the virtue-signaling insane, frankly stupid, and reality-denying dog-whistlers.

In other words, the Wisdom of Crowds.

And no, we're not seeing ANY correlations with our own world. Nope. Not here. Definitely not.

Fortunately, I also thought this was one hell of a fun, dark ride. I felt sorry for some of my favorite characters in this last cycle, was surprised to see how much everything had changed, and even enjoyed the return of some old characters from the very first trilogy.

Well, here's to hoping there will be at least a LITTLE stability from here on out.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Mr. ShiversMr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm very impressed with this novel for a few reasons, not least because it's a good, long adventure of revenge. I think I loved its feel of near-universal poverty set in the time of the Great Depression the most, however.

The long-off, almost impossible quest to kill the bogeyman named Mr. Shivers across this desolate America, finding bad-off friends on the dole, the trains, the evil lawmen, the poverty, poverty, poverty, just filled me with as much, or much more dread than the bad guy.

But that's okay. Atmosphere is everything in these kinds of novels. While it's not particularly scary, the journey was pretty impressive and immersive.

I should mention I'm a pretty big fan of this author's later works and will still place them much higher than this one, but I AM fascinated to see how different this is from the rest. :)

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

In Sheep's SkinIn Sheep's Skin by Scott Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read for spooktober! 10/17/21

This is definitely no weak-ass horror novel. It's not sitting around, afraid to dive right into the squeamiest and bloodiest aspects of the human heart.

Werewolves, cults, and murders only barely scratch the surface. And if you're looking for a paranormal romance, then I'd definitely tell you to read this, too -- because I'm also a bit twisted. This is an ultimate anti-romance. It has so many of the same features, but really, I can only describe it as a romance dystopia.

Are they bad for each other? Yes. Do they keep coming back for more punishment? Yes. Is it awesomely bloody? Yes. :)

This really needs readers, folks. I'd love to see people's takes on this.

Original review:

*** Pre-Release Review ***

It is my total pleasure to say that Scott Hale has done it again. In a field that has provided so many variations on a werewolf theme, he has, in full awareness of all the conventions, outdone the lot of them.

No cute, loveable werewolves here.

Only complicated human dynamics, fantastic use of Liminal Space (look it up if you're curious), and some of the most gut-wrenching transformations (psychological or meat-grinding) I've ever read.

And I've read a lot of great horrors. I'm no slouch. But when I say this hits my originality radar, I ask you to pay attention. There are several layers of mirroring going on in the story. There are many instances of true surprise. But do you know what the most impressive feature is?

The inevitability. The sick, twisted feel of inevitability.

And this is extra impressive because these two kids are not stupid. They're fully aware of themselves and the danger and their own shortcomings. They do what they can.

But I've got to be honest... I've never seen a more twisted co-dependency relationship in fiction. I mean, there are a LOT of those in fiction, movies, REAL LIFE... but this one pretty much takes the cake.

The full-moon cake. :)

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Defying Destiny (The War of Broken Mirrors, #3)Defying Destiny by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good end to a decent fantasy trilogy. Just saying that this has tons of magic a-la D&D, godlike powers subquests, epic weapons, and tons of adventure doesn't really do it justice. It's character-driven and has an epic load of peeps to enjoy.

Of course, it needs to be read in conjunction with the other two books, but I found this to be an altogether fun, light read. I kinda feel like I just read a JRPG that's heavy on a few D&D concepts, and while that doesn't scream *original*, it did provide me with a good deal of fun.

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Stealing Sorcery (The War of Broken Mirrors, #2)Stealing Sorcery by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I personally think that this second book is better than the first. Or at least, I'm now comfortable enough with the main character that I really enjoyed the part mystery, part tournament, part training, part gorgeous magical bloodshed better than before.

I liked the team building, the discovery of skills, the hints of greater things.

In other words, this was a fine and good fantasy that I admire.

Now, while I won't quite rate these two as some of the finest fantasies I've read, I did have a lot of good, clean, fun. And that's what we're looking for with ancient godlike blades and abilities, no?

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Forging Divinity (The War of Broken Mirrors, #1)Forging Divinity by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sprightly fantasy has a lot of things going for it. Adventure, of course, but its most telling aspect reminds me the most of D&D. Specifically the Domains aspect of wizardry, only fleshed out, given a very active physical role, and turned into a whole Trickster vs. a god (or at least his followers with their own Domain specialties) kind of adventure.

Was I unhappy with the way it turned out? No, not at all. I do like D&D and while this ISN'T a D&D adventure, it has a lot of things in common with it. This is perfectly fair since I originally got into Andrew Rowe's other writing through his LitRPG that really focused on tweaking skills and leveling up, so to speak, and rounding it out with fun characterizations.

Now, while I won't say this is the end-all of fantasy, it is quite enjoyable and I have no complaints.

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Ring ShoutRing Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really fun Lovecraftian horror with a massive racism-issue twist. Set a hundred years ago during some of the worst KKK outbreaks in America, the story is filled with Cthulhu-esq white-hooded monstrosities and some hard-hitting action-adventure in this fast-paced novella.

I thought this tale was just about the perfect shape and size, with all its little singing mouths and hate crimes and slashing swords and temptation, temptation, temptation. :)

A perfect little spooktober novella for those who are utterly sick of the racism and hate.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tender Is the FleshTender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I decided to read this, I thought it was going to be all kinds of good cannibalistic satire and/or a tribute to a Swiftian Modest Proposal crossed with a Sinclair Jungle vibe.

The potential is THERE for it to be scathingly funny, dark, and truly horrific. So I thought to myself... Spooktober!

What did I get? A bureaucratic nightmare. A late-stage capitalist inditement. A dry, overly-formal, industry-heavy *forbidden romance* that was oddly bloodless even for operating a slaughterhouse for human meat.

Could it be that I'm jaded by my horror sensibilities or the sophistication of my dark humor? Because I was merely intellectually horrified and I wasn't overly taken by the characters and my dark humor failed to get roused.

Okay. So it wasn't *meant* to be funny. So therefore it wasn't really a satire. Or if it was a satire, it was too close to home for it to be that darkly funny.

After all, aren't most of us working in veal-fattening pens already? Isn't that the whole point of the Great Resignation?

We're selling our domesticated animals a bit too cheap. And by domesticated animals, I mean us. We're the specified meat product.

What does it say about us that we truly do see ourselves this way?

Or, hell, what does that say about me?

I'm thinking this book is more of a 3.5 rating. Together with the zinger at the end and the basic premise, I would have easily given this a 5 star if it had been a SHORT STORY. But, alas.

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The Mongrel Mage (The Saga of Recluce, #19)The Mongrel Mage by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beltur is quite a lot like all the other MCs in the series. Stolid, balanced, hard-working, kind, and heroic. He might just be cut out of the same old cloth as all the other MCs in the rest of the books, with the exception of time and place.

This MIGHT be a problem for anyone who is wanting a different kind of book from L.E. Modesitt Jr., but frankly, it's L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s style and handling of these precise characters that is so GOOD. Why would I say this? Because most heroes in fiction are not all that balanced or even likable. They're correcting for something that is overwhelmingly evil rather than just being a steady force for change, reacting where one needs to react from a sense of rightness.

These books DO. So while a lot of this series seems to be a lot of the same thing, repeating themes and characters, it's still CATHARTIC and different from the rest of the fantasy genre. It began uniquely, it played to its strengths and kept to its strengths. I have no complaints because I still enjoy it.

For those of you who have joined me on this little trip through the series, you understand. We're not reading it for originality anymore. We're reading it for stability.

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Hollow PlacesThe Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when you thought that your normal life with your quirky conspiracy nutter uncle and his strange museum couldn't get a lot stranger...

Honestly, I thought this was a pretty neat book. Add a little evil Narnia, nasty wicker products, a little adventure, and a lot of evil-ex ennui, and you've got a cool little quirky horror with great characters and a nicely developed case of dendrophobia.

A nice, light addition to my spooktober reading list.

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Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Torch that Ignites the Stars (Arcane Ascension, #3)The Torch that Ignites the Stars by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, when it comes right down to knowing what you want and setting all your sights on it, and that little something has to do with magic systems, rules, developing your magic skills -- or just plain breaking the system -- then none of us of that *special* breed can go wrong with LitRPG books like this.

Hey, the tale is all progression, a little mystery, and a lot of learning. I LIKE this kind of thing. Hell, I love it.

And so I am here to say that Andrew Rowe is kicking some major ass again. Tower climbing, tower defense, and massive amounts of RPG under-current designing. :)

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Friday, October 8, 2021

The Sheep Look UpThe Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


So, it turns out this 1972 book that was "too edgy, too dystopic, too environmentally pessimistic" for its time turned out to be just about on-target for about 15 years ago. All the pathogens, fungus, chemical pollutants, all seemed to hit the ACTUAL dystopic levels.

And worse, the political ramifications, even though they appear different, sure seem right on target for today. Lies, lies, corruption, greed, lies, and a little obsfucution. Add in the racism angle, amp it up to realistic proportions for today, and then stir in the full eco-punk ethos.

John Brunner, already a fantastic SF author in any age, really called it on this one.

The darkness in these pages should have made everyone in the '70s perk up and pay attention. We ignored all the warnings, however, and here we are. Again. And now we live in John Brunner's novel.

Okay, maybe most of us no longer live in QUITE that much air pollution, where we have to wear gas masks, but I seem to recall days in the '90s where it was DAMN close before the cities cleaned up the breathable pea soup.

But damn, we never seem to learn, do we?

And yes, the story and the characters are quite fun. Serious, idealistic, or utterly corrupt and pretending for their very lives.

I'm reminded, all over again, why I read through Brunner's entire catalog in the early '90s and loved it.

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Thursday, October 7, 2021

Summer of Night (Seasons of Horror, #1)Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 10/7/21:

This almost seems to be a seasonal regular. And why not? It's a deliciously spooky mystery/horror that revels in childhood and increasingly terrible deaths. In other words: everything a little boy needs.

And just a reminder: this IS the same author who got his chops with horrors before he wrote the utterly classic Hyperion. Just saying.

Original Review:

It's really odd, but out of all these old 80's early 90's-era massive horror tomes to come out, few of them really strike me as worthy of a massive nostalgic revival.

But then, just look at Stephen King's IT. The popularity of Stranger Things. Regular coming-of-age stories like Bradbury was so fond but twisted into dark horrible screaming nightmare shapes. :)

You know what? THIS book really deserves a read or a re-read, ya'll. It's like a cleaned-up version of IT without the parts that make us squirm in a bad way while making us squirm in all the great ways.

I mean, who doesn't love a bunch of 60's-era 11-year-olds shooting guns in rural Illinois? Fighting demons. Or demon-ish. Or ancient gods, ghosts, or demons. I still don't know what it is, but that's the joy of it. We go through this huge process of getting out of school, enjoying summer, living our childhoods again, only to run up against murders, horrible rendition trucks, creepy crawlies, and a lot of interesting history and research about the town. Sound familiar? IT? Who cares. It's awesome. :)

Plus, it's written by one of my favorite authors of horror OR SF. Simmons writes intensely researched s**t, man. And it's always a blast. :)

That nostalgia kick going on? Yeah. This one shouldn't be missed. :)

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak (Necroscope, #4)Necroscope IV: Deadspeak by Brian Lumley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth Necroscope book has us step back and lick our wounds from the last, with Harry being massively underpowered and kinda desperate. It's a nice change.

That being said, this book has all the goodies of the previous ones. Expansive dives into the vampire villains, iffy allies, great history, and lots and lots of the helpful dead.

Where this kinda read like a formula of the previous books, I didn't really mind because it was a fun ride. The scope is always larger than I expect out of any vampire books, easily sliding around huge time periods or places (or other worlds) and falling back to where it is most grounded: spy stuff and defeating overpowered enemies. :)

Oh, and this is a great way to enjoy spooktober. :)

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Monday, October 4, 2021

When Sorrows Come (October Daye, #15)When Sorrows Come by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So you know your life is dark and depressing but then comes along Seanan McGuire with a new October Daye book and EVERYTHING suddenly gets sunshine and joy.

Why? Because we finally see whether Toby can get married without getting blood all over her dress!

*spoiler* She doesn't. *spoiler*

Fortunately, that's not really a spoiler. Merely a tease. And not only do we GET THE DEED, but we also get the deed, indeed, in CANADA.

So, if you like insurrection, elf-shots, stabbings, more insurrection, and a wonderful stop-and-start wedding ceremony with your favorite UF characters, AND you just can't get enough of the Luidaeg terrifying... um... EVERYONE... then you've come to the right place.

So delightful.

Of course, if you're reading this and wondering if it should be the right place to jump into the series... THINK AGAIN. Get your ass back to book 1 and catch up. Sheesh. Some people. *Yeah. I'm looking at you.*

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Sunday, October 3, 2021

KokoKoko by Peter Straub
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I may put this on my horror bookshelf, but in point of fact, it's a straight thriller in the mid-eighties extra page-count kind of way that lets us delve deep into the tortured psyches of a band of men, Vietnam vets, who get embroiled in the machinations of a serial killer -- or indeed, one of their own.

Straub has a great grasp on characterizations and the meandering plot has a lot in common with all of the epic horror novels of the '80s that always came in big thick books. That being said, you must either love these guys or the book might be a slog.

In my case, I had a great time revisiting the horrors of the past, the drunken PTSD of the present, the thrill of the hunt, and plenty of twists and turns to always keep me guessing. From setting up kill boxes to plain ole investigation to taking trips down memory lane to pry some of those cold dead clues from your own experiences, it always kept me interested.

If I were to compare this to modern thriller-type novels, I'd first point out that the newer kinds would have cut this novel in half. But to me, I think it's doing the tale a disservice. I MISS epic long horrors and thrillers that lead us gently into caring for our cast before serving them up on a bloody platter.

That being said, I feel kinda bad that I never went on to read any of Straub's other works other than the collaboration he did with Stephen King. BUT, I can definitely see why the two of them were able to pull off the collaboration. There is a great deal of respect and there are a lot of similarities between the two.

For anyone on the fence about this, I do want to say it's a really good novel, but it is rather dependent on whether you click with the characters. I got lucky, and I had a great time, but mileage might vary.

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Friday, October 1, 2021

How the Multiverse Got Its RevengeHow the Multiverse Got Its Revenge by K. Eason
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, I'm in the same boat with a lot of reviewers for this one.

I really enjoyed the light touch, the humor, and the character-centric royal intrigue of the first book. At least, I enjoyed it enough to want to see where Rory would go with it.

The second book just fell into a fairly average space opera with pretty standard onboard spacecraft subplots, be it finding a superweapon or getting into spacecraft scuffles, or handling aliens.

None of this is a dealbreaker, of course. But it does require the familiar light touch, humor, and charm. And sadly, I didn't really feel it in this one. Indeed, I admit to feeling a bit bored over fairly long stretches.

The first was pretty good, but this, sadly, was merely average and felt kinda forced. Star-Wars, it is not.

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