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little late to the party but i'm once again committing to Carl's 'Once Upon a Time' Challenge!
let's see if I can pull myself away from online fanfiction and read an 'actual' book for a change! 

R.I.P. IX: Book One - The Lost Island by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child


From Amazon:

Gideon Crew--brilliant scientist, master thief--is living on borrowed time. When his mysterious employer, Eli Glinn, gives him an eyebrow-raising mission, he has no reason to refuse. Gideon's task: steal a page from the priceless Book of Kells, now on display in New York City and protected by unbreakable security.

Accomplishing the impossible, Gideon steals the parchment--only to learn that hidden beneath the gorgeously illuminated image is a treasure map dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks. As they ponder the strange map, they realize that the treasure it leads to is no ordinary fortune. It is something far more precious: an amazing discovery that could perhaps even save Gideon's life.

Together with his new partner, Amy, Gideon follows a trail of cryptic clues to an unknown island in a remote corner of the Caribbean Sea. There, off the hostile and desolate Mosquito Coast, the pair realize the extraordinary treasure they are hunting conceals an even greater shock-a revelation so profound that it may benefit the entire human race . . . if Gideon and Amy can survive.

I absolutely adore Preston & Child's Pendergast novels. So, when they came out with a new protaganist together I gave him a try. Gideon is an interesting fellow and I was curious how his storyline would work out over multiple books considering he has less than a year to live, courtesy of a congenital defect in the blood vessels in his brain. Another ongoing character is Gideon's new boss, Eli Glinn. He's first introduced as a philanthropist, but as this book illustrates, his driving impulses are considerably darker than his stated altruistic purposes of helping his fellow man....

As per usual, this book is a fast mover, think rolling a massive boulder over the edge of a cliff fast mover. Gideon is thrown into several tense situations that tax his ingenuity and determination to work thru successfully. I had a sneaking suspicion how things would work out in the end and was not surprised to find it totally justified. Although there were a couple of twisty wrenches thrown in out of nowhere.

If you're looking for a fast, fun, not too taxing on your brainpan storyline this is your book.

Once Upon a Time 8 Challenge Read - The Sacred Seven by Amy Stout


The Sacred Seven - One Land Saga
Author: Amy Stout

A peace between the three races--humans, dwarves and elves--is threatened as a band of giant trolls and an Elfwitch wreak havoc on the land, wiping out village after village. Now a group of unlikely companions--a young mercenary, her dragon, a dwarf and a royal spy--must band together to unite the land which hovers on the brink of destruction.

The book had an interesting premise and begins with the death of the great King that united the one land. His two closest advisors have taken it upon themselves to secret away his youngest offspring, royal twins, in the hopes that raised away from the intrigues and foibles of his court they will have something sorely lacking in his heirs at court...backbone and intelligence.

Jump forward twenty years in time with chapter two and the one land has fallen into warring states with race against race and no one person able to hold the throne for longer than a season or two.

A young dwarf returns home from a ramble and discovers his whole village has been razed to nothing but ash.

A mercenary and her companion, a crippled dragon are hired by a Shoreman to protect an elf witch.
Which turns out to be a massive mistake.

A human mage, her daughter and the soldier that fathered her are poking around in things better left laying.

A shop-keeper and his wife sell an elven bracelet that they were given for safekeeping twenty years before.

These are just a few of the many and varied peoples inhabiting the land that weave in and out of the story, chapter by chapter....

I really wanted to like this book...it just needed to be about 340 pages longer than it was in order to give everyone involved the attention that 'they' and the story needed. It could have also benefited by a good editor. Several times folk just 'appear' with no explanation as if the author thought she had already written them into the storyline. The dragon Grosik is an example. There are also a few occassions where she uses the wrong name, Walther instead of William...and when people supposedly across the village are just 'there' magically and with no explanation. The story weaves from character to character with no particular reason or explanation. The shopkeeper William and his wife Lyda are in the whole book and I don't understand WHY??? Once the bracelet had left their keeping their part in the story was basically done! This happens over and over. The dwarf Walther and his neice Ceely are other examples. In the whole book with basically NO reason. Then in the next to the last chapter Walther is suddenly shown to be an untrained mage?!? What! where did 'that' come from??? The book wandered around aimlessly until it seemed that Ms. Stout realized she needed to wrap it up and then ALL the action happened in the last two chapters! Short chapters at that!

When all was said and done, it's a great premise that was sadly not brought to fruition, and basically left me confused and annoyed. There 'is' a second novel but after my experience with this one i'm loathe to try it. Even tho I would like to know if any of the characters actually achieve a happy ending.

The 2014 Scifi Experience Book 1


In the 23rd Century, war is still hell . . . Navy Corpsman Elliot Carlyle joined up to save lives and see the universe. Now he and Bravo Company's Black Wizards of the interstellar Fleet Marine Force are en route to Bloodworld -- a hellish, volatile rock colonized by the fanatical Salvationists who desired an inhospitable world where they could suffer for humanity's sins. Their penance could prove fatal -- for the Qesh, a strange alien race detected but still mysterious for six decades, have made violent first contact. Suddenly countless lives depend upon Bravo Company -- perhaps even the fate of homeworld Earth itself -- as the Marines prepare to confront a vast force of powerful, inscrutable enemies. And one dedicated medic, singled out by an extraordinary act of valor, will find himself with an astounding opportunity to alter the universe forever . . .

I normally adore these kinds of books, the more detail the better....but this one...welp, I got to about page 95, then skipped thru the rest of the book spot checking and gave up in despair....

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that for some, this book is the bees knees, just not for me.

There are some really, REALLY interesting world building technology things going on, but for me, these things were bogged down in entirely TOO MUCH DETAIL! (I know, I know, I said I LOVED detail) >_<

The main character is a medic and a marine yes, and some medical/military jargon/knowledge is inferred. But, I really don't need everything spelled out in quite so much detail. A Marine has a broken leg, our MC is called to the location, scans the broken limb, determines his course of action, injects nano-bots and selects the program to repair the leg. I personally don't now need a detailed medical history in the different breaks possible in a leg, the history of the nanobots being used to repair the leg and a master's course in the programming of the bots used to repair the leg. The same goes with the military manuevers & Marine jargon. Things that could have taken up a half page or a few paragraphs take entire chapters.  Think Jules Verne '20'000 Leagues Beneath the Sea' or Tom Clancy levels of detail, then square it.... (and I LOVE the early Tom Clancy Jack Ryan books!).

I had the 2nd book all lined up on my IPad ready to read, opened it....same superfluous overly massive quantities of detail in just the 1st chapter....deleted it....

My personal score: 3 out of 10

This one is back up on PBSwap ready to be released into the wild and out of my house!

R.I.P. VIII: Book Four - The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson


Hurray! I made it to 4 books this year...barely, but it counts!

As mentioned in the last post this books description piqued my interest and I ordered it from PBSwap. Was surprised that I received it in about 3 days, so had time to read for the Challenge.

The book starts with 2 gentlemen being dropped off on a fortnight's fishing expedition in the wilds of the west of Ireland, adjacent a tiny insular village called Kraighten. The folk of this village don't seem to understand or speak a word of English, but are quite curious about the new visitors camped out by the stream. Tonnison and our narrator Berreggnog spend several idyllic days fishing and tramping around the valley. Then on a lazy morning they decide to head downstream and explore. They discover in the desolate stony heaths a hidden valley, thickly wooded with the mist and roar of an unseen waterfall. Exploring further down into the valley, they stumble across extensive abandoned gardens and the waterfall. A magnificent cataract boiling out of the mountainside into a deep pit. Jutting out over the pit into the mist of the waterfall is a craig of rock surmounted with the ruins of what was once a sizeable stone mansion. Pilfering about in the ruins they discover a manuscript. And are suddenly taken with a feeling of being watched, and an overweening sensation of evil. Fleeing back to thier camp on the highlands, Berreggnog begins to read what they find to be a diary to Tonnison.

Here starts the main body of the story. The narrator is a older gentleman, who with his spinster sister and loyal dog Pepper lives in the house on the craig. He begins to experience strange occurences in the house and the surrounding environs and begins the diary to keep track of them. This first half of the novel is where the horror appelation applies and is quite expertly handled. The manuscript outlines his out of body experiences that have taken place in the house and the horrors that occur once he returns.  The second portion of the book is where Lovecrafts' critique comes into play. Suddenly we're made aware that the gentleman has loved and lost, and his loss is what keeps him in the house over the pit. This portion of the book gets VERY existential, dealing with the passages of vast quantities of time and the death of stars and universes as observed by our victorian gentleman. Then the manuscript ends...and Tonnison & Berreggnog are left with great misgivings and questions about whether or not the man was a madman, or there are really such unseen and unknowable horrors in the world.

I can see why H.P. Lovecraft liked it. And, I now know exactly where the misplaced sentimentality he spoke of in his review comes in. This is a complex little book. You can definitely tell by the writing style and the way the subject matter is handled that it was written at the turn of the 19th century. William Hope Hodgson was born in 1877 and died in 1918. He has the victorian fascination with the unseen workings of the world, the occult and the new advancements in science and technologies of the time. And, he LOVES adverbs! Another reviewer has totalled up the number and it is and impressive 1277 of them in a 27 chapter, 186 page book! And, 524 of them were left dangling!

All in all, I was glad I read it. While reading it is easy to see in one's minds eye the scenes he is describing, so well does he use his adverbs. :D    It would make a lovely 'Dark Tower' B-grade Horror movie!

R.I.P. VIII: Book Three - The Third Gate by Lincoln Child


Amazon Book Description:
Under the direction of famed explorer Porter Stone, an archaeological team is secretly attempting to locate the tomb of an ancient pharaoh who was unlike any other in history. Stone believes he has found the burial chamber of King Narmer, the near mythical god- king who united upper and lower Egypt in 3200 B.C., and the archaeologist has reason to believe that the greatest prize of all—Narmer’s crown—might be buried with him. No crown of an Egyptian king has ever been discovered, and Narmer’s is the elusive “double” crown of the two Egypts, supposedly pos­sessed of awesome powers.

The dig itself is located in one of the most forbidding places on earth—the Sudd, a nearly  impassable swamp in north­ern Sudan. Amid the nightmarish, disorienting tangle of mud and dead vegetation, a series of harrowing and inexpli­cable occurrences are causing people on the expedition to fear a centuries- old curse. With a monumental discovery in reach, Professor Jeremy Logan is brought onto the project to investigate. What he finds will raise new questions . . . and alarm.

In the hands of master storyteller Lincoln Child, The Third Gate breaks new ground and introduces a fascinating new protagonist to the thriller world.

This is the second outing for Child's character and problem solver of uncanny enigmas, Jeremy Logan, who was introduced in the novel 'Terminal Freeze'.

This book was...interesting, a quick read, and not one of Child's best. I had basically figured out who/what the culprit was by the ninth chapter of the book. That's not to say that it's not a entertaining read! It's just pretty much what my family terms a 'popcorn' book. Quick, easy, entertaining...tasty...but not filling. There were still a few unexpected twists to the plot before the end of the book, (the circumstances surrounding the apogee of the action in the last 3 chapters was sketchy and problematic to me). The protagonist is likeable, the real treat of the book is the exemplary description of the surroundings and environment of the Sudd, (it's basically a character in and of itself), and the description/detail given to the grave goods and burial chambers of Pharoah Narmer.

If I was rating it on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 4.

On a side note, one thing I was interested in was that one of the minor characters in the book was reading a book 'The House on the Borderland' by William Hope Hodgson. So, I went onto PBSwap and looked it up. Turns out that Mr. Hodgson was quite a prolific horror/occult/sf novelist in the late 1800's with a bent towards the ocean and piratical undertakings. H. P. Lovecraft wrote of 'The House on the Borderland', "but for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality [it] would be a classic of the first water". So, I ordered it out of curiosity. It also seems that Mr. Hodgson was uncommonly fond of adverbs...

(no subject)


my second read for the R.I.P. challenge is Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory.

from the frontispiece...

 It is a world like our own in every respect...save one. In the 1950's, random acts of possession begin to occur. Ordinary men, women, and children are the targets of entities that seem to spring from the depths of the collective unconscious, pop-cultural avatars some call demons. There's the Truth, implacable avenger of falsehood. The Captain, brave and self-sacrificing soldier. The Little Angel, whose kiss brings death, whether desired or not. And a string of others, ranging from the bizarre to the benign to the horrific.
  As a boy, Del Pierce is possessed by the Hellion, an entity whose mischief-making can be deadly. With the help of Del's family and a caring psychiatrist, the demon is exorcised...or is it? Years later, following a car accident, the Hellion is back, trapped inside Del's head and clamoring to get out.
  Del's quest for help leads him to Valis, an entity possessing the science fiction writer formerly known as Phillip K. Dick; to Mother Mariette, a nun who inspires decidedly unchaste feelings; and to the Human League, a secret society devoted to the extermination of demons. All believe that Del holds the key to the plague of possession - and it's solution. But for Del, the cure may be worse than the disease.

I really, Really, REALLY enjoyed this book! Hard to believe it's Mr. Gregory's first novel.

It's interesting the small & large changes that have been wrought upon the world by the demons. In this universe, President Eisenhower is killed by a demon known as the Kamikaze...which brings Vice-President Nixon to power...whereupon he begins a campaign against the demons highly reminiscent of McCarthy's Red Scare of 'our' worlds 1950's. All restaurants have a designated table and chair for the Fat Boy. There are monuments at airports as protection against the Kamikaze. Smokestack Johnny rides the rails, sometimes helping the trains and their conductors out, but more usually speeding them to their destruction.

It's in this world, at Chicago's O'Hare airport that we start the story and meet Del. He's coming home for a visit when his exit is delayed by the appearance of a demon in the concourse...the Painter. Airport security and cops hold back the masses and let the demon do as he will. They all know by now that you can't stop a demon until it's fulfilled it's desire. In this case the Painter is mostly harmless, except for some property destruction in it's quest to finish it's design. A mixed media portrait of a small farmhouse, red silo and barn. It smiles at Del, as if in recognition....finishes it's artwork and leaves it's temporary host, confused and remembering nothing of what just happened.

This is typical of most possessions. If the host survives that is.

Most of the demons Del has knowledge of are well known to us. In our world they're the comicbook superheros and pulp fiction anti-heros. The Captain is our Captain America. The Truth is the Shadow. The Hellion is Dennis the Menace or a Katzenjammer Kid.

The Hellion possessed Del when he was five and stayed with him until it was exorcised 3 years later. But, when Del has an accident when he's 14, suddenly he begins hearing voices except it's not voices so much as scratching and movement in his head. Like his head is a cage and something in it, wants out... His family takes him to see a psychiatrist who he works with for years learning techniques to quiet the thing in his head. Mental exercises, meditation...and drugs, lots of drugs. It worked, or did it? We meet Del after he's had an accident in the Colorado mountains. His car slid thru a guard rail and went over an embankment and he almost drowned. After the accident the scratchings and stirrings in his head have begun again. He's spent the last several months in a mental institution where his episodes have gotten worse. Now the thing in his head is awake all the time, he's started losing control at night and has taken to chaining himself to the bed. He's came home to Chicago in the hopes of meeting a Dr. Ram at the next ICOP (International Conference on Possession) Conference along with it's attendant flock of hangers-on and possession hopefuls, the Demonicon. Which is like Dragoncon on acid. But things start going majorly wrong for Del at the conference when Dr. Ram is killed by a con-goer...and Del had came to that morning in the local police department's drunk tank after blacking out the night before.

This book is fun, fast, furious and thought provoking. The demons are both easily recognizable as tropes and frighteningly, unpredictable in whom they possess. I'm not going to go too into depth as to all of Del's trials and tribulations as he attempts to get his demon OUT OF HIS HEAD (spoilers) but this is easily the most thought provoking novel i've read since 'The Sparrow' and it's sequel 'Children of God' by Mary Doria Russell. Which I would also highly recommend anyone read for the Science Fiction Challenge Carl holds.  Like those two books, 'Pandemonium' makes you think about self identity, what constitues reality and the power of love. Pandemonium is going on my 'to keep' bookshelf and i'm definitely trying to get my hands on his next novels.


First read for R.I.P. VIII: The Chatham School Affair


A friend of mine was moving apartments and unloaded about 8 huge boxes of books at my house that he no longer wanted. A bunch of them were Advance Readers Copys because his wife worked at a local bookstore. This was one of the ones that I kept because it sounded interesting.

The story is told by our narrator Henry Griswald. Henry is old now, a bachelor all of his days, preferring the company of his books to that of others. But the story takes place in his youth, when he was 11, young, impressionable, and unknowingly disgruntled with his life, longing for something....something different...

That something arrives on a bus from Boston. A lovely young woman named Elizabeth Channing who is to be a new teacher in the school his father founded and runs; Chatham School for Boys. Elizabeth is tall, slender, dark of hair and fair of skin with startling ice blue eyes and a keen and curious mind and an underlying melacholic fleeting darkness. She is a world traveller, raised by her father from the age of 4, travelling from country to country and being tutored in all things that he found fascinating. He passed away in Lido, near Venice and Ms. Channing was sent to Africa where she lived with her uncle and his family, until she comes to the Cape Code community of Chatham to teach art, and is housed in a small primitive cottage on the outskirts of Chatham on the bank of Black Pond. She enthralls Henry with her stories of places, people and things far away from the staid little Cape Cod community he has lived in all his life. She encourages his artistic talent and opens his minds eye to far places and different philosophies than those of his tight laced and puritan father.

Then Ms. Channing meets Mr. Leland Reed, another teacher at the school. Tall, dark and damaged in WWI on the fields of France. Mr. Reed cuts an imposing figure with his cane and his scars and teaches the classics, Byron, Shelley, Keats... and is shaken in his placid acceptance of the lot that is now his life when he meets Ms. Channing with her quick intelligence and knowledge of the authors and places that he teaches, but has never experienced in places and person the way she has... Mr. Reed lives on the opposite bank of Black Pond with his wife of 5 years and their young daughter.

Henry is present for the entirety of the tragedy that is fixing to take place on Black Pond and he tells the story from his knowledge after the fact and the many years he has now lived. The story moves between the present and the past and slowly unfolds with a sense of forboding and suspense building as to the events that took place so very long ago.  Henry has a secret...and now he's the only one of the protaganists that 'truly' knows what happened that day so long ago on Black Pond that scarred the tiny village of Chatham. A tragic romance, that at the time he felt was a great adventure, and now with the wisdom of hindsight and observation of the people involved and the many and varied ways that everyone behaved, he sees the damage done...to those that are gone and the few left who remember...

The Chatham School Affair.

personally, I couldn't put the book down once I got started. Mr. Cook is a deft hand with words and brings to life the town and environs of Chatham, the Cape and the wide wide world as surely as Ray Bradbury brought to life Mr. Dark's Traveling Extravaganza in 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'. After a few pages you get used to Henry's way of telling things, things that are happening in the present that spark his memories of the past. The suspense builds throughout the novel. From his first meeting with the beautiful Ms. Channing to his last memory of her before her death. His disappointment and dissatisfaction with his father, his mother, his life... His longing for adventure and the wide world beyond the Cape. His disillusion during the proceedings of the affair that takes place and it's aftermath. And, his secret... and what he learned that short year long ago that has led to him being the lonely old man that he is today.  I wanted to cry several times during reading this, had my suspicions about several things that were later confirmed, but with a twist that I didn't see coming.  Since this was an ARC copy I was occasionally pulled out of the dialogue by some WHOPPERs of typos and mispellings and occasionally just flat out the wrong word! that i'm sure was corrected in the final print run, but it didn't destroy my enjoyment of a darn good story, well told and just disturbing enough to be a R.I.P. read!

R.I.P. VIII !!!


wow, this year's R.I.P. has crept up on me with little cat feet!
I'm not quite as far west as Carl is and our summer has just now started to get warm/hot much less cool enough for the R.I.P. challenge!  anyhoo, I'm in for Peril the First! and Peril on the Screen, and possibly a little bit of Perilous Short Story's considering I've got Chris Priestly's Tales of the Black Ship setting in a stack unread...