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11/22/63 by Stephen King

8 Jul





I was truly surprised by King’s new novel. And I didn’t have high hopes for it.

After finishing (and greatly disliking) Under the Dome, I debated whether I was done with King. After reading the disappointing Mile 81, I was sure I was done with King. But decided to give him one more change.

Boy am I ever glad I did!

Jake Epping, an English teacher from 2011, is given the chance to go back in time. His friend Al Templeton has a supply closet in his diner that also happens to be a rabbit hole to September of 1958. Al is dying and leaves Jake with an important task: go back in time and stop the assassination of JFK.

This is easy feat. Because the past is obdurate; it moves against Jake and doesn’t want to be changed. But there are also other distractions.

One is: Did Oswald do the deed alone? Jake must determine this before he acts. The second? A woman named Sadie who Jake falls in love with. Will he risk everything, even the love of his past life, to save another?

At 850 pages, my meagre summary of the plot doesn’t come close to covering everything that happens in 11/22/63. But that’s okay. No plot summary would come close because there is so much life in this novel. The parts where Jake is living through the fifties and sixties really come to life in King’s writing and the stories contained within are ones that are at once timeless and essential.

It’s a novel that you want to live in. Rarely have I been so affected by a novel. It really wasn’t about the assassination, but about the characters and that is where King really shines. He made an 850 page novel seem like it was 300 pages; that is how good the writing is.

There are no supernatural elements to the novel, but that isn’t a downside. King has tried something different by writing what could be loosely described as historical romantic fiction. The good thing is that he succeeds on every level.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t want it to end. When I did finish it, I was left breathless, teary eyed and wanting more. That is the mark of a great book and this is Stephen King’s best work to date, hands down.


The Painted Darkness By Brian James Freeman

14 Oct

Henry, like all of us, carries his past with him. But Henry’s past has teeth and have drawn blood already. It will draw blood again.


When Henry was a child, something happened in the words behind his home. Something so awful, so horrible, that he shut the event inside of himself, never to see the light of day again. The only way he lets the horrible memory out is to paint.


But Henry is not just painting. He is painting against the darkness.


Twenty years have passed since that horrible event and Henry still paints. He spends more and more time in front of his easel, letting the art of painting take him away to a place that only Henry knows.


But the darkness waits for no one. During a winter storm, Henry goes down to the cellar in his old stone farm house to fill the steam boiler. As he descends into the cellar, Henry has no idea that he is about to come face to face with the darkness he has been carrying with him for the past twenty years.


And the darkness is hungry…


There are not enough words to describe how truly good The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman is. Excellent, stupendous, enthralling? Not good enough. Amazing, incredible, thrilling? Not even close. Nothing can really describe The Painted Darkness, you have to read and experience it for yourself.


When I first got my advance readers copy of the novel, I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting very much. The book seemed so slim, too slim, really, to be called a novel. But I was wrong, so wonderfully wrong.


It was as I was reading the superb introduction by Brian Keene that I realized I might be in for a treat. Keene called Freeman an artist. And there is no truer word to describe Freeman. I would even go so far as to call him a master of his art.


Though The Painted Darkness is only 179 pages or so, the beauty of the words make the novel feel twice as thick. The power behind the words, their seemingly simple prose, pull the reader in to the ride of a lifetime and leave the reader wanting more.


Everything about this book is spectacular. The wonderful introduction by Brian Keene and the fabulously creepy illustrations by Jill Bauman really help to capture the tone of the novel, the gorgeous cover that pull you into the story.


But it is the novel itself, Henry’s story, that really packs a punch. Alternating between the present and the event that happened twenty years ago, Freeman has crafted a Lovecraftian tale of horror that is never what we think it will be and leaves us wanting so much more.


The Painted Darkness goes beyond being just a good book. It is a great book, a fantastic book, meant to be devoured and then read again so one can savour it and every well placed, beautiful word. Brian James Freeman has written what is most likely the best book of the year.


The Painted Darkness is a novel that captures first the mind, then the heart and taps into our worst fears with gusto. It’s an incredibly well written novel that anyone and everyone should read and experience.


And remember, don’t just paint. Paint against the darkness…


Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones Patrick Carman

13 Sep



I have just enjoyed a totally awesome weekend and this is due entirely in part to Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones by Patrick Carman. It’s the third novel in his Skeleton Creek series of books.

The first two novels in the series, Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine respectively, changed the way that a story could be told. Indeed, it was a story that went beyond the printed pages of a book.

With a story that encompassed both the written (you get to read Ryan’s journal) and the visual (you get to watch Sarah’s video’s online at Carman has created a story and a world that does more than live in our imaginations.

It is the rare cross breed of a novel with multi-media elements that actually works. Both the novel and the multi-media content are top notch. You’ve got your thrilling, mysterious and truly, truly creepy storyline mixed with some incredibly produced videos that only add to the fright.

The same is true of the third novel in the series, Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones. I was a little worried and anxious to see how Carman would change it up a little bit.

The formula for the first two novels was pretty simple: twenty five pages of Ryan’s journal and then a password that would reveal a video at where you could watch videos that would reveal more of the story.

The same is true…and not so true here. But you know what? It still works. And it pays off in a big way.

For Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine, I was left wanting more video to watch, more to interact with. In terms of looking at the Skeleton Creek Series, as an ARG (or Alternate Reality Game) it was kind of lacking.

Unlike another series (such as the Cathy Series by by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman illustrated by Cathy Brigg-which, on a side note, totally rocked) the multi-media portion of Skeleton Creek was pretty lacking.

There is a fan site which is kind of fun, but I always found that I wanted more videos to flesh out the story. Thankfully Carman has heeded my call (and probably lots of others too. I can’t be the only 32 year old that’s reading this series right?) and now there is tons to feast the eyes on.

Inside Ryan’s journal, you get tons of illustrations that highlight the parts of the story and its clues that Ryan and Sarah are working on. And the videos are top notch. More often then not, you get three videos at a time, which is totally cool.

The videos are expertly done. Not only do the ones made to look older genuinely creep you out, the other story central video is very much like the beautifully done Blair Witch Project, which means it’s awesome. The documentary portions actually give you quite a bit of a history lesson, which is actually a very neat angle to the novel.

Thankfully, the real power of Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones is found in the words of the novel themselves. The story rocks along at an incredible pace and you’ll finish it in no time. I myself finished it less than two days.

Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones is expertly done and wonderfully executed in every way. It leaves me thirsting for more. Thankfully I won’t have to be thirsty for very long. The forth (and final?) book in the Skeleton Creek series, titled The Raven, comes out in the spring of 2011 according to Patrick Carman’s website (which has lots of other neat videos to watch too, that give you a look behind the series itself). You can find it at

You’ll notice that, if you read through this review, that I haven’t actually told you anything of the story of Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones. In fact, I haven’t revealed the plot points of the previous two books either. So what does that tell you?

You’ll have to go read the books and watch the videos to uncover the mystery.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

4 Apr



Sarah Addison Allen’s books are magic.

They really are. The stories have magic in them, but the real magic is the joy that they fill you up with once you’ve finished the book.

Her first two novels were Garden Spells (enchanting) and The Sugar Queen (my favourite). Her new novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, is a Southern tale of barbeque, magic, family secrets and redemption.

Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby North Carolina hoping to answer the riddles of her past. Who was her mother? What was she hiding from? And why couldn’t Emily be the person her mother wanted her to be?

She arrives in Mullaby to meet the grandfather she never knew; and discovers that there is more to life than she thought possible. Her grandfather, Vance, is a giant. They call him the Giant of Mullaby. But he is not the oddest thing that lives inside their house.

The wallpaper in Emily’s room changes depending on her mood. And, late at night, Emily sees the Mullaby lights, quick moving shapes that move like quicksilver through the trees behind their house.

When Win, a local boy, starts showing an interest in her, Emily is flattered and flustered all at once. How were his family and her mother connected? And what secret is Win hiding? Why can’t he and his family go out at night?

Julia Winterson runs J’s Barbeque. She plans to stay for six months and pay off her deceased fathers debts. And then leave. Nothing had been good for her in Mullaby and there was no reason things should change now.

To pass the time before she gives herself her freedom, Julia bakes cakes. All kinds of cakes. Cakes mean welcome, they mean joy. But for Julia, who guards an earth shattering secret, cakes mean so much more than that.

Sawyer has always had a sweet sense. He has always been able to smell cakes, no matter where they were hidden. They drew him, called to him. He can see the sprinkles of sugar in the air, the twists of vanilla in the breeze. And Julia’s cakes call to him.

But will she forgive him for what he did, so that their love can grow?

Sarah Addison Allen really is magic. Her understanding of people, of the way they interact with each other, of the magic of life is incredible.

She writes such beautiful, incredible books and, because there is usually some element of food involved, I usually find myself quite hungry during the reading of one of her novels. But I don’t mind at all.

Her sense of observation is spot on, her dialogue rings true and her characters are people you can love and care about and dream about long after you’ve finished the book.

Though her books are always grounded in reality, there is always some element of magic to them, some element of the unknown, that takes what could be a saccharine storyline, but which becomes utter joy in Sarah Addison Allen’s hands.

Her books are joy; she creates joy. And that is the best magic of all.

Androgynous Murder House Party by Steven Rigolosi

10 Sep




Looking to throw a party with flair, verve, pizzazz? Why not rent a belly dancer, a cotton candy machine, a fortune teller, a 1950s jukebox, or a mime? From tame alligators to dancing zebras, we have everything you could possibly want to make your get-together memorable. Call us at 212-555-9090, or visit our Website at for the full list of rentables. You’ll be glad you did!



Robin Anders is dissatisfied with life. An independently wealthy person and an incredible snob, Robin wonders if this shambles of an existence can be called a life?

Hoping to alleviate the boredom, Robin agrees to the requests of Lee, an ex lover, and opens up the Long Island estate house that has been closed for some time. They will have a weekend party and everyone will come: Lee, Alex, Chris, Law and J. The weekend will be fun, they promise; it’ll be lovely.

Robin wonders if the party is a good idea; after all, isn’t it asking too much of someone to tolerate friends who are also charlatans and entertain them at the same time?

But, despite better judgement, Robin agrees. Robin hopes the weekend will go quickly, that it will not be too horrible. Thankfully Robin has a very large supply of pills and alcohol to help numb the tediousness.

Lee agrees to inform everyone and Robin will get the house ready. Robin gets everything she needs for the weekend party from an ad in the back page of The Clarion, a local newspaper. Robin is even able to rent live peacocks to strut outside the house. Nothing is as grand as a peacock.

But when Robin arrives at the Long Island estate, things go from bad to worse. A chandelier in Robin’s bedroom falls to the floor; it would have crushed Robin to a blood pulp had Robin entered a second earlier.

Other weird things begin to happen, each of them a near death experience where Robin could have died. Thankfully, Robin survives each of these transgressions by taking a lot of pills. Even if one is shaken on the inside, one must appear calm on the outside.

Robin does begin to wonder, however, if someone means to do her in. Robin wonders if one of her friends means to commit murder, with Robin as the intended victim?

When Lee is found dead, Robin knows that there is something suspicious going on and that one of the people in their group is a murderer. Robin decides to investigate, to find out who amongst them is a killer, stepping directly into the line of fire.

But there is a bigger mystery than murder afoot that the reader will have to try to figure out on their own: Are Robin, Lee, Alex, Chris, Law and J men or women? Gay or straight? There is only one way to find out…

Let me say two things right off: First, Androgynous Murder House Party is an incredible book. It kept me guessing from page one until the very last page. Androgynous Murder House Party is the third book in Rigolosi’s Tales From the Back Page Series and each book just keeps getting better!

Secondly, Rigolosi should be heralded and commended for writing Androgynous Murder House Party. It was incredibly hard to write this review without giving anything away. I’ve never realized how hard it was to write something without gender and that’s just a review. I can only guess at how hard it was for Rigolosi to write an entire book without giving away who was who and what was what.

Aside from being a top notch mystery, Androgynous Murder House Party is an incredible feat of word craft that left me breathless. Not only is it a book written completely without gender, it is also a very tongue in cheek portrayal of the upper class or the very rich.

It’s a wonderfully sardonic and very funny glimpse into a portion of society that most people would rather avoid. Rigolosi manages to pull off the tone and cadence of Robin’s voice perfectly.

Not only is Androgynous Murder House Party an incredible mystery, it’s also a perfect tongue in cheek portrayal of a society and its people. Even better, it presents the reader with an even bigger mystery to solve that of gender.

Steven Rigolosi has once again reinvented the mystery genre with his best book yet. Androgynous Murder House Party is funny, sarcastic, fresh and edgy. If you read one book this year, make sure that it’s Androgynous Murder House Party. You won’t regret it.

But if you do, send your regrets now. Or regret it later…

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

28 Jul



Connie Goodwin has just achieved her life’s dream: candidacy for the PHD program at Harvard. She must provide her mentor with a PHD dissertation topic shortly. He encourages her to look for a new, unheard of primary research source. But there are other things on her mind.

Her New Age mother, Grace, has asked her to clean out her Grandmother’s house. Not having anything to do aside from research, Connie agrees, despite a wish to do the exact opposite. While cleaning the house, she finds a key tucked inside of an old bible.

Inside the empty shaft of the key is a slip of paper. On the paper is a name: Deliverance Dane. As she digs into the story of Deliverance Dane, Connie realizes that Deliverance was a Witch, accused during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

But what she doesn’t know is that she is connected to Deliverance in an incredible way. And, though Connie doesn’t believe in Witchcraft, what does she do when she is given proof that Witchcraft actually exists?

As she delves further into the mystery surrounding Deliverance Day, she realizes that she is connected to her, and the Salem Witch Trials, in a way that she could not imagine.

This is by far one of my favourite books of 2009 and I can’t wait to read the authors next book. She deftly weaves history, romance, suspense, intrigue and magic into one of the most amazing novels ever written.

Normally, books set in modern day that have a historical background read like text books. The author tries to incorporate the history we need to know and ends up dragging down the storyline, making it lag. Not so in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Though we do come away with a thorough history of The Salem Witch Trials, and its causes, the book is written in a breezy, easy to read manner.

Connie is an incredibly likeable character who, though bookish, is a strong woman, a refreshing change from a lot of fiction out there today. I also love the fact that the author introduced the love interest, Sam, so well; their meeting and the build up of their relationship was incredibly natural and very sweet.

If you’re looking for the special book this summer, look no further than The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. With enough history, romance, magic and surprise twists, it’s writing at its best and is pure magic.

Who Gets The Apartment by Steven Rigolosi

25 May


who gets


Central Park West & 72nd Street. Luxurious 3,000 sq ft. duplex penthouse: 2 bedrooms, fireplaces in LR & master BR, 3 baths, cathedral ceilings, all modern kitchen with DW & all new appliances, dining room, balcony overlooking the park, doorman bldg. with full security features, basement parking included. $600/month. Two-year lease. Available first of the month. Call 212-555-2997.

It all started with a newspaper ad.

Corrine Jensen’s life it about to change. And not for the better.  Facing eviction from her current home because she can’t afford the condo fees, she wonders if she will end up homeless and on the streets.

Untill she reads a classified ad on the “Bulletin Board” of the Clarion, a community newspaper published on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. At first Corrine can’t believe her eyes; a luxury apartment for $600 a month? There had to be some sort of mistake. Corrine contacts the rental agent, Andrew Weisch, who assures her that there is no mistake. The apartment can be hers for first and last month’s rent.

Corrine can’t believe her luck. She pays Weisch first and last and he hands her the keys to apartment 18D. He tells her she can move in on the first and Corrine is overjoyed and believes that her luck may finally be changing.

Until she goes to move in.

When she arrives at apartment 18 D, she finds that the apartment has also been promised to three other people: Ollie, and up and coming artist, Venice, an assistant district attorney and Ian, a computer expert. They’ve all been promised the apartment and each has paid first and last months rent. They’ve all been duped.

They examine their leases and find that each one of them is a legally binding document. But now the question remains: Who gets the apartment? Each of the four has no place to go, they’re all essentially homeless; and each of them wants the apartment very, very badly. So who gets the apartment? But more importantly…

….what is each of them willing to do to get it?

Be warned before you start reading: this is not your average run of the mill mystery. Who Gets The Apartment? Is a serious mind trip that just gets better with each page. A quick prologue gives you the impression that you are in for a wild ride but you have no idea what’s coming.

What sets this novel apart from other mysteries is that you are given four possible scenarios, each more puzzling than the last, and you have no idea which one is the real outcome of the situation until the very end. It’s almost like a choose your own adventure except you’re shown each outcome and the story won’t let you go.

I absolutely loved this book. It gives the mystery genre something to be immensely proud of. Rigolosi has crafted four very different scenarios of guile, suspense and pitch perfect humour that the novel moves forward at break neck speed.

The characters are unique and far from the usual cookie cutter talking heads that populate normal mysteries and you would swear you know someone exactly like them. Rigolosi is really an expert in studying the human mind and uses this to great flair within the pages of Who Gets the Apartment?

I haven’t had so much fun reading a mystery in eons. Who Gets the Apartment? is perfect for a day at the beach, a ride on the bus. It’s good for anywhere you want to be entertained because one thing is for sure: Once you start Who Gets the Apartment? you won’t want to put it down until the very last page.