The Trouble With Being God: 10th Anniversary Special Edition by William F. Aicher

A naked priest hangs crucified on the wall of an abandoned brewery – the first in a series of grisly murders plaguing the city of Courtsdale. A recurring nightmare of blood, intimacy and death haunts the dreams of journalist, Steven Carvelle.

Someone stalks the city, and with the inside help of homicide detective, Kevin Miles, Steven investigates – searching for the connection tying the terrifying events together. But as the search unfolds and the murders strike closer and closer to home, Steven soon realizes these killings bear an uncanny resemblance to his dreams. Is it connection? Or coincidence? 

Do we really ever know who we are? 

And what is the trouble with being God?

Trigger Warning: Blood and gore as well as graphic descriptions of murder victims.

I admit, dear reader, that I read all of The Trouble With Being God in one evening. I started reading it, expecting to finish it in a few days like I do with most books but found myself so absorbed by the story that I couldn’t put it down.

Yet as much as I enjoyed the story, I simply could not stand the main character, Steven. I found him incredibly annoying. He is verbally and emotionally abusive to his girlfriend. He is rude and sometimes even mean to those he supposedly calls his friends. Though honestly, the same can be said of almost every other character in the book. Aside from Detective Miles, nearly every other character that plays a part in the story is bitter, selfish, and mean.

What saves the book from being a total dumpster fire is Aicher’s writing. The pacing and prose keep the story tight and suspenseful. It is enough to keep the reader engaged and guessing right up to and past the final page.

The way Aicher ends the story will certainly not appeal to everyone. I personally liked it since not everything in real life ends all neatly wrapped up like in books or movies.

The 10th Anniversary edition comes with additional extras like the original epilogue that was not published with the first edition of the book as well as a new afterword by the author. The afterword was interesting and gave insight in to the author and how his feelings towards the book have changed over the 10 years. The epilogue was worthless and didn’t add anything to the story. Personally, I’m glad it was scrapped.

Fans of Aicher’s books will likely enjoy The Trouble With Being God if they haven’t already read it. For any one else, I encourage them to at least give it a try.

The Last Wish (The Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
The Last Wish cover

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves.

Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny.

Technically, The Last Wish is not the first book in The Witcher series though it is often listed as book one. In truth it was printed after The Sword of Destiny – book three – of the series. However, as the events in The Last Wish take place before The Sword of Destiny, it is put first when listing the books of the series.

Since I have not played the Witcher games before reading the books, I did not go in with any expectations aside from the knowledge that this a fantasy series unlike many on the market today. I’m glad for this because from what I understand, there are differences between the two and I know I would be constantly comparing them.

The Last Wish was originally written in Polish and translated to English, a fact that is sometimes obvious while reading. Because while Sapkowski builds a world that is easily believable, the action and story becomes clunky and awkward at times. And as I do not read Polish, I am relying on the English translation when giving my opinion.

The characters that populate the world that Sapkowski writes of are a diverse sort. There are royalty and there are servants, there are those who are human and there are those that are not. These creatures come from a variety of tales and easily recognizable; vampires, elves, goblins, and gnomes.

What gives realism to the world created is that no one character is perfect. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys”. Every character does what they believe is the right thing; for themselves, for their loved ones, for their city or village. Even the titular character – Geralt of Rivera – does not fall in one particular category. As a Witcher, it is his job to seek out the monsters that plague the people. It is a profession he has trained for since he was a child and it is unclear whether he truly enjoys his work or not.

The Last Wish, as well as the rest of the Witcher series, isn’t your ordinary fantasy series. While it does have the creatures that are common in other books, there is also a darkness and a gritty element that may not appeal to everyone. Those who are looking for some realism in their fantasy will likely enjoy it.

Confessions by Kanae Minato (Translated by Stephen Snyder)

Book cover for Confessions by Kanae Minato

Her pupils killed her daughter. Now, she will have her revenge.

After an engagement that ended in tragedy, all Yuko Moriguchi had to live for was her four-year-old child, Manami. Now, after a heartbreaking accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation. 

But first, she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that will upend everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge. 

As avid a reader as I am and with as much free time as I now have, it is still rare for me to finish a book in less than two days. Confessions I finished in one evening.

Confessions is a story about revenge. About having it and the repercussions it brings. Not just to those who are on the receiving end but also to those around them.

Told in a series of stories, each one is dedicated to a person involved with the events. The first one is told in manner of a lecture by Yuko Moriguchi, a teacher who is on the verge of retiring. Having lost her daughter she is naturally distraught and it is when she has pieced the pieces together of what happened that she plans (and executes) her revenge.

Confessions is a dark and twisted tale. Twisted in the way that just when you believe you know which way the story is going, Minato causes the story to shift and take a completely different direction. It is not a nice book, several reviews I have seen online call it “fucked up” and I completely concur. It is almost akin to a train wreck – horrifying and yet one cannot look away.

Horror fans are likely to be keen on this particular book. Especially if you are like me and enjoy the more psychological aspect of horror and less of the blood and gore aspect. Certainly not for the feint of heart but a good read nonetheless.

A Debt of Survival by L.F. Falconer

A Debt of Survival cover

The summer of 1969 sees Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. In California, the Manson family commits bloody murder. A half million people descend upon Woodstock in New York. And in Diablo Springs, Nevada, something evil crawls out of the earth.

Fifteen years in law enforcement never prepared Sheriff Don Lattimore for this. Suspecting his daughter is involved in satanic activity within an abandoned house on Redwing Lane, he soon finds himself mired in an investigation straight from the depths of Hell. A wave of destruction sweeps over the county and the death toll rises daily.

Plagued by a mentally unstable witness, a crumbling marriage, and the war-born ghosts of his own past, Lattimore no longer knows where to turn in his battle to preserve his community. Then a stranger comes to town, offering deliverance. Now Lattimore faces a horrific decision. Is he willing to sacrifice a child for the greater good? Even his own? (via Goodreads)

The year of 1969 was, historically, a year of changes. The country itself was in transition, moving from one school of thought to another. And it is in this changing setting that Falconer sets her novel.

A Debt of Survival is not for the faint of heart. It is dark and gritty and at times quite violent. A few scenes are even hard to read simply because they lay the truth of war bare. War, regardless of the time or place, is not pleasant. It doesn’t matter who is on what side, or if those fighting are even human; it is nasty and cruel and Falconer does not shy away from this.

On the surface, A Debt of Survival seems like a rather straight forward horror type novel. It is only as one reads further and gets to the real meat of the story do we realize that not everything is as black and white. That maybe those proclaiming to be the ‘good guys’ aren’t all that good. Or maybe they are but only for their definition of good.

This book had me practically from the first word on the first page up to the final phrase. It kept me on the edge of my seat, eagerly turning the page in an effort to find out just what happens next. The ending is and isn’t satisfying and is a set up for what I sincerely hope will become a series. I would love to find out what happens to these characters down the road.

Provided for Review: The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror

This book was provided for review by the kind people of Nosetouch Press. Thank you!

Two young men working as a team supply a vicious drug dealer with a potent and difficult to come by drug. When one of them tries to go back on the straight and narrow path, his former boss is determined to find him and bring him back.

Every year the people of the town are summoned to harvest the fruit at Genesis Farms. They do not know what kind of fruit it is they are gathering, nor do they know where it eventually goes. All any one knows is that they must go; and not for the money but because they are obligated to.

An unfaithful wife returns from the grave and to her husband’s side. The only issue is that she is missing her head as her husband had sliced it off the night before.

These are but three of the stories included in The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror. Each of the nine stories seems stranger than the last and each touches on a variety of themes. From the paranoia that sometimes arises from rural isolation to the monstrous rituals and arcane ceremonies that are handed down generation to generation.

Personally, I love a good horror and the ones featured in The Fiends in the Furrows were right up my alley. While there is a bit of violence, the stories tend to rely more on psychological horror than physical horror. In this way they remind me of many a foreign horror film. Most (but certainly not all) American horror films rely on blood and gore, on jump scares and other visual signs to try and scare the audience. Foreign horror films on the other hand (again, not all), tend to rely on the psychological. They play with your mind, showing only hints and shadows, making one wonder what is was exactly that they saw.

So it is with the stories in this book. Very little is laid out concrete for the reader. Instead, most things are hinted at, leaving the reader to fill in the details with their own imagination. Leaving them to finish the story and decide what exactly happens next.

I was not familiar with any of the authors features in this collection but that does not mean I did not enjoy them. Each brought their own unique flavor of storytelling and was able to add to the tapestry that is this enthralling book. Reading who love a good page turner and who enjoy thinking about what happens next will surely devour this book just as I have done.

Provided for Review: The Plotters by Un-su Kim (Translated by Sora Kim-Russell)

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at Netgalley. Thank you!

The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin.

Until he breaks the rules. That’s when he meets a trio of young women—a convenience store worker, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed obsessive knitter—with an extraordinary plot of their own.

The Plotters is one of those novels that doesn’t quite fit in to any one genre. On the one hand you have a dark novel filled with violence and a game of cat and mouse that keeps one guessing up to the last pages. On the other hand, you have an almost slice-of-life type of story with the main character, Reseng, simply trying to get through another day. It is an interesting mixture and a dichotomy that shouldn’t work yet somehow does.

Now I will not lie to you dear reader, there is a good deal of violence in this book. Not surprising considering this is a book about assassins. People shoot at each other, have knife fights, so forth and so on; and while the fight scenes don’t go in to too much detail, there is still the potential that some readers could find it triggering.

While The Plotters was an enjoyable read, it did start at a kind of slow pace. For the majority of the first half of the book we are following Reseng as he goes about his business as an assassin. It isn’t until over halfway through the book that we meet the three women who challenge his views of the underworld in which he resides. Perhaps if he had met these women earlier, the book would have taken a different turn from what it did.

On the whole, I liked reading The Plotters. While I am quite sure some of the nuances were lost in the translation from Korean to English, it was still enough to keep me interested and reading. Readers who enjoy darker, film noir type stories will likely enjoy this one as well.

Provided for review: After Hope Dies by Lilly Haraden

This book was provided for review by the folks at NetGalley

This is what happens after America dies: the monsters take over.

A young prostitute’s reanimated soul prowls the streets, seeking revenge against her killers. The reclusive nerd who lives next door suffers from a serious problem that goes far beyond the time-bending demon infesting his body. And across town, an occult guide owns a brothel where you can buy a child for cheap.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this dark literary fantasy debut examines life for the most disadvantaged who call post-prosperity America home.

Author/Publisher/Reviewers Note: This book deals with darker themes including racist content, depictions of rape, and strong themes of child sexualization/exploitation. If ANY of these subjects make you uncomfortable, then this is not the story for you.

My dearest reader, if the above paragraph in bold as well as the brief description above has not already convinced you, let me state it AGAIN – this book contains disturbing imagery. It is NOT for the faint of heart or easily offended. There are numerous passages that require the reader to have a strong constitution. Several of the reviews I have seen, the person reading it did not take the warning seriously and sadly suffered for it.

All of that aside: After Hope Dies is an excellent book. It provides a truly scary “What if…?” that once the reader finishes the book – including the epilogue – will leave them wondering just how much could potentially occur.

In three short stories, After Hope Dies, follows several individuals in a not to distant future. The city they are in could be anywhere in the United States and the persons the overall story centers on live in one of the poorest sections. Drug use as well as vices of other kinds run rampant and all of the characters are affected in one way or another.

While each individual story has its own main character, they also cross over in to the other stories. The child prostitute in the first story is the next door neighbor of the game playing introvert of the second story, and she goes to school with the younger sister who features in the third story. The introvert runs in the same gaming circles as the older sister in the third story. And between them all is the brothel owner and his assistant. They all play off of one another, acting and reacting to events as they occur.

Each person has their own story and Haraden does an admirable job of delving in to each one. It is certainly not an easy task, some of the jobs that these characters take on could be described as distasteful, yet they all do what they must. They make deals with demons with the intent of living another day.

Haraden’s writing is smooth and strong. As disturbing as some scenes are, they are penned in a way that is not difficult to imagine. The stories are easy to follow and the characters can be related to by most. As someone who is whiter than the proverbial sour cream, I will never be able to fully relate to the discrimination (both internal and external) faced by many. Reading After Hope Dies however, gave me a tiny inkling and takes me one step closer to understanding.

At times hard to read and hard to stomach, it is an engrossing book and one I simply must recommend.

Provided for Review: A Prayer for the Necromancer (The Shinigami Tomes #1) by C. Wain

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at Netgalley

Blood… Fear… Death… Love…

The legends of old tell of a primordial Creator. Merciful and lonely he was when he breathed new life into the barren womb of Oar, the everlasting universe. The Creator’s very essence and mana stood silently for stability and life.

Amidst gods and mages, the warming darkness of a mysterious man enshrouds the life of a young village girl. What happens when common beliefs hide the true evil in light? What happens when a rogue and despised necromancer sacrifices his own flesh for the sake of others?

A Prayer for the Necromancer is the story of Kaze Niss. A necromancer living in disgrace, feared and hated by many. He is on a dark path, searching for a way to avenge the wrongful death of his father. Travelling this path has so far led to death and destruction, but it has done little to deter Kaze. He will have his revenge.

Personally, I found A Prayer for the Necromancer to be one of those books that has an interesting premise but fails in the execution. Kaze is supposed to be the kind of character that has a gray morality, yet I found him to be quite unlikable. He is selfish and even when we are meant to be rooting for him, it was difficult for me to do so.

Wain’s style of writing was also troublesome. Many of the same words and phrases are used continuously throughout the story. One particular word that Wain seems to like to use is “giggle”. From young female characters to older male characters, they all giggle. Personally, I found this a bit off putting since no man I know giggles. Chuckles? Yes. Laughs out loud? Sure. Giggles? No.

For me, A Prayer for the Necromancer is very much a diamond in the rough. The overall premise and world building is interesting and given some more work via editors and such, it could be a must read. In time it could do well, it just needs a bit more polish.

Provided for Review – The Lady in the Cellar: Murder, Scandal, and Insanity in Victorian Bloomsbury by Sinclair McKay

Number 4, Euston Square was a home like many in Victorian London. A boarding house, it was respectable, well-kept, and hospitable to those staying there. Yet beneath that veneer there seemed to be a darkness lurking.

In early May 1879, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the coal cellar. An investigation discovers she is an elderly woman named Matilda Hacker, a former resident of the boarding house. Questions are immediately raised. How did she die? How did she come to be buried in the coal cellar? And most importantly, who could have killed her?

In the investigation that followed, every resident of the home was scrutinized and more than a few secrets were brought to light. Someone in that house had killed Matilda Hacker and someone knew the truth.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this ebook in exchange for a review.

The Lady in the Cellar is a true story. In the early summer of 1879, a body was discovered in the coal cellar of a boarding house. Almost every person who was there was a potential suspect. It was a story the newspapers grabbed on to, especially once more and more details started to come to light. And in a time when the so called ‘middle class’ were coming in to their own and the lines between classes were sometimes blurred, there were an abundance of details to titillate and delight.

The case of the murder of Matilda Hacker is a bizarre one. And it is one that the author covers in great detail. At times it feels like McKay is trying to reach a page count with their writing as there are long passages going in to details that nothing to do with the case itself. While it can be interesting to read about some of history about the family that owned the boarding house, with no actual relevancy, it leaves one to wonder why it was included.

Some of the other reviews I have seen where the reader did not finish the book lament the fact that McKay’s writing can be a bit tedious at times. It is an opinion I must agree with. Attention to detail is one thing, but to inundate a reader with information can be a it much. The actual trial and its aftermath take up roughly half of the book. And it is this half of the book that is the most interesting. It is slogging through the first half of the book and getting to the ‘good bits’ however, that can be difficult.

It is very obvious that McKay did a great amount of research in writing The Lady in the Cellar. The book is chock full of information and little details to draw the reader in. And while the actual case of the murder of Ms. Hacker was never solved, McKay gives a plausible ‘what if?’ scenario towards the end.

While I am sure there are those readers who dislike true crime books for one reason or another, I urge my readers to give this one a try when it hits shelves. In a day and age of sensational media such as ours, it is little wonder that the case of the lady in the cellar was so fascinating to the reading public of the day. It is my hope that modern day readers will enjoy it as well.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran

Poor Christina is young and alone. Her every relationship seems cursed, each one slowly turning to poison. The only one that doesn’t seem to have soured is the one with her co-worker.

Christina is also at times kind. When visiting her mother’s grave, she notices a nearby grave left derelict. Thinking she is helping, she pulls the weeds growing around and tidies the tombstone up a bit.

Her simple act of kindness causes someone to notice and Christina realizes she is no longer alone. For what was laid to rest beneath that stone has attached itself to her and to it she will be the perfect wife. And, God help her, the perfect mother.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran is the perfect creepy story to start off the month of October with. It is a short story – more a novella than a novel – and is therefore a fairly quick read.

This is the first book by Curran that I have read, but judging from his titles on GoodReads, he has a flair for the strange. His books run the gambit and it looks like his readers love them.

Corpse Rider is very much a psychological book. Written in a way that makes the reader wonder just how much is real and how much is in Christina’s mind. Did she really see a figure in black on that hot, sunny day in the cemetery? Was there really a hearse driven by that same figure at her work a few days later? As Christina is the only one seeing these things, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps she is going insane.

At times, it certainly feels that way. Every one around her is skeptical as there simply isn’t any proof. No proof until the very, very end.

I won’t go too far in to what happens next because to do so will ruin the ending for any one who decides to read this. Personally, I recommend it to my readers. Especially to those who like a good, creepy read. So grab your favorite hot drink, a warm fuzzy blanket, and curl up with this great thriller.