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Jason Golomb RSS Feed (Northern Virginia)

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Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $5.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Lovecraftian, But Disappointingly Unfulfilling, January 5, 2015
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This review is from: Deeper (Kindle Edition)
I'd read some really positive reviews of this novel, both from Amazon and elsewhere, and I thought it would make for a fun and light Lovecraftian horror/thriller. It was light, and there's no denying author James Moore's connection to the Lovecraft collective mythos, but it just wasn't a good novel.

The characters were flat, the story was bland and predictable, and there was no pull of the reader into the grander vision of what makes Lovecraft-style stories so (capital G) "Grand".

This would be fine if you're looking for an inexpensive, quick 2-3 day read, with monsters, some mystery and a connective tissue to the world of H.P. The plot flows quickly enough and the writing is capable. I'm extremely respectful and envious of the craft of writing, but potential readers of this work should beware.

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac: A Novel
The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac: A Novel
by Sharma Shields
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.03
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deep and Opaque, 'Sasquatch' is an Interesting Read, December 20, 2014
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“No," he wanted to tell them, "I'm human like you. I’m the same as you, only bigger, stronger, quieter, lonelier, scarier. I am you, intensified.” It dawned on Mr. Krantz: The doctor was looking for a monster. "He is looking for me."
Mr. Krantz in Sharma Shields’ “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac"

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this book. It’s definitely not ‘about’ Sasquatch..not about the hunters who roam the forests looking for the shy monsters…I mean hominids. The main character, Eli, is in fact, a podiatrist-turned-‘Squatch hunter. It’s a natural profession considering his mother left he and his father to live in the woods with a Sasquatch when he was just a young boy.

The books follows the life, family and connections of Eli. It ranges over 63 years and most of the chapters cover a specific vignette during a different year, during Eli’s existence. A few are focused on Mr. Krantz, the main Sasquatch himself, most zero in on Eli and his exceedingly dysfunctional family.

The book is certainly about obsession. Eli tells his (crazy) first wife that he wants to quit podiatry to focus full time on monster-hunting (I mean hominid-hunting): "I feel that if I don't do this, I will die. I will die a sudden horrible death. Have you ever felt that way about something? That you must either commit fully to the task at hand or die an agonizing death?"

And the book is also certainly about self-discovery. Eli continues, "There's nothing to be ashamed of, Gladys," he said. "This is science. It’s about discovery. Self-discovery, even. The more we know about Sasquatch, the more we’ll know of one another."

It’s also about chasing ghosts; perhaps like Ahab chasing that white whale - always just a fingernail’s length out of reach. And there’s lots of regret.

Shields is a terrific writer, and I suspect those with English degrees will chew up the copious amount of symbolism. However, those looking for a thorough and well-connected narrative may have trouble with the opacity of Shields plot-driving machinations.

None of the characters are particularly likable, and despite the relative shallowness of the characters themselves, I found the conclusion more than a bit touching.

The Void
The Void
Price: $5.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Sci-Fi-/Horror/Thriller, December 13, 2014
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This review is from: The Void (Kindle Edition)
Brett Talley's follow up to his magnificent Lovecraftian novel, "That Which Should Not Be", proves that he will carve out a place for himself among modern horror authors. This is a thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi/horror/thriller.

While there are a handful of creepy-crawlies that jump from the darkness, Talley's true mastery is his development of horror through narrative, tone and mood. He builds his story upon a backbone of well-known fictional elements - "The Matrix", "The Odyssey", the film "Event Horizon". And while a bit derivative, it works extremely well and I found myself aching to finish the story.

"Void" is quite short and doubling the size, Talley would've had the opportunity delve deeper into the characterizations and further flesh out the backstory. That aside, I heartily recommend this book.

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5.0 out of 5 stars It works!, December 12, 2014
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It recharges. And it's pink.

The highest form of flattery for a piece of technology is to accuse it of working. That's what this does and does so with a modicum of style.

I have no hesitations in recommending this lightning charging cord.

That Which Should Not Be
That Which Should Not Be
Price: $5.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovecraft Lore and The Horror of the Unseen, December 10, 2014
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“One can never truly know when he steps outside his door whether today will be a day that passes without consequence, or if it will be one that changes everything."
- from Bretty Talley’s “That Which Should Not Be"

"That Which Should Not Be" is a dark and moody book, fit for a cold evening in front of the fire; or an autumnal read, for one wanting to build on the cyclical theme of the season. The writing style wreaks of HP Lovecraft, but also of Bram Stoker.

Talley has written four short stories that revolve around a central theme. A student from Lovecraft’s famed Miskatonic University is hunting for a lost book of ancient renown. It’s not the Necronomicon, but rather a companion piece to HP’s much discussed fictional tome. While seeking the book, Carter Weston stops at a pub to share a few drinks with locals to see what he can learn. Four locals then each dive into their own dark tale of the supernatural.

Talley channels Lovecraft well through plot development, theme and mood. As is characteristic with this genre, there are few decisive conclusions. The monster in the back of the cave is built upon a pedestal of of suggestion rather than true blood and gore. The horror resides in what’s unseen, or perhaps merely glimpsed.

Frequent and early Lovecraft references pave a very Lovecraftian road. “I must protect the Book. I will not surrender it, no matter what the cost. And if my life is to be forget, then I shall die as I have lived, standing against the black tide that would cover us all."

From the first tale, which contains more than a few shades of ’The Thing’, the storyteller relays ”Demon hunted the forest was that night, and in my dreams, I heard and felt the darkest and foulest beast that ever gibbered its wail from the depths of the pit."

In another story, Lovecraftian lore spews forth, “It was then that my eyes began to open to the dark forces that move in the uncultivated lands beyond the borders of the world we know.” I realize that “X-Files” can certainly be viewed through an Lovecraft-lens: The truth is out there…just beyond reach…just outside of the lighted pathways…just within the darkest recesses of city alleys, of partially opened bedroom doors.

You get a sense that the Wachowski brothers gave more than a little nod to HP as well in the cultish mythology built within their “Matrix” trilogy. From Talley’s book: “There is truth in myth my friend. Around you they walk even now, floating before your blind eyes. They are the flash in the corner of your vision, the shadow of moving where no now walks, the feeling of a presence, when you are completely alone, the whisper in the darkness. That which is, and was, and will be again.”

The following expresses the fulcrum upon which the story balances. Carter chats with the men in the pub between tales:
“Ah, the consummate skeptic,” the Captain said.
“And I would wear the name gladly,” I replied, “for it’s only the skeptic that gives value to the truth."
“Yes,” the Captain said nodding, “but only when he is open to the truth. The skeptic with a closed mind becomes the worst kind of believer."

Myths run deep and rampant within the story. And while the heft of the stories themselves focus on it, the characters themselves act as authorial mouthpiece for its’ analysis. The four individual stories, as well as the connective tissue of the arching narrative, address the threads of an uber-world religion…references to a common foe, to common legends, regionalized as each peoples evolved over time. “But as I said before, in all myth is truth. And do we not see, in the myths of all civilizations, this believe, this feeling, that the gods have lived amongst us? That they have walked on the Earth? That they have ruled it? And at some point were overthrown? From the ancient sands of Egypt to garden-girdled Babylon. From the schools of Greece to the most high and palmy state of Rome, all speak of the same legend, the same faith.”

The writing is a bit clunky in parts and the stories are derivative. Some questionable plot points drive the narrative here and there, but upon reflection, this is likely due to the nascent efforts of an author learning and perfecting his trade. Overall, the book is well-written, the arching plot is well connected and the individual stories, though predictable, are well thought out and do well to build upon the Lovecraftian foundation.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it’s launching pad for me into the discovery of more Lovecraftian lore as well as Talley’s second novel - “The Void”.

Revival: A Novel
Revival: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $11.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King Channels H.P. Lovecraft, November 22, 2014
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This review is from: Revival: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
“Something…Something, something, something. Happened. Happened. Something happened."
Jamie Morton in Stephen King’s “Revival"

“Revival” is a very modern Stephen King novel that channels H.P. Lovecraft at his cyclopean best. His key characters are bold, if not as bold as some of his best work, and his themes are of familiar King material. King is often hammered by critics (professional and amateur alike) for his weak endings. But this ending is strong and memorable. It’s monstrous, dark and creepy as hell. It’s pure Lovecraft and beautiful in it’s austerity.

King has said that his fans love and return to his work, not because they love horror or any specific genre, but they love his very recognizable voice. His voice is strong within the characters, themes and memorable lines. While King’s primary character, Jamie Morton, is not a writer by trade in “Revival", we are reading his story; reviewing the tale he’s written with the benefit of hindsight. King still knows what he knows and he knows the psyche of authors: “…writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped."

“Revival” is a story about religion and anti-religion. A story about belief and the loss of belief…and an inability to believe. Morton and Paster Charles Jacobs orbit around each other their entire lives. Jacobs opens Morton’s eyes to God, but when his wife and child are taken from him in an awful automobile accident, their worlds diverge sharply only to reconnect, bounce off of each other, and return again.

“…everyone needs a miracle or two, just to prove life is more than just one long trudge from the cradle to the grave."

Religion, belief and obsession are the driving themes of King’s story. King writes about Paster Jacobs, “He spoke with the patience of a true believer. Or a lunatic.” It’s a fine, and often, undefinable, line. Jacobs then transforms, turns his back on true religion. “Religion is the theological equivalent of a quick-buck insurance scam, where you pay in your premium year after year, and then, when you need the benefits you paid for so—pardon the pun—so religiously, you discover the company that took your money does not, in fact, exist."

As usual, King scatters ‘easter eggs’ throughout his novel. He works in a reference to his own “Joyland”. He drops an analogy between Pastor Jacobs and Ahab’s obsessions with the great white whale. And you’ll find a not-so-subtle reference to the author of Frankenstein, while foreshadowing of his rather electric finale — a woman named Janice Shelley, who naturally has a daughter named Mary.

This isn’t King's best, but it’s a wonderful read with a fulfilling conclusion.

Cat's Pride Fresh and Light Fragrance Free Premium Clumping Cat Litter Box, 21-Pound
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4.0 out of 5 stars It works!, November 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not sure that there's anything here that blows me away. It feels lighter and there appears to be less odor, but I'm not sure if that's due to the litter itself or some magical less-smelling cycle my two cats are on.

I give it four starts because there's nothing specifically to detract from the product. I like it. What's not to like?

The Fifth Gospel: A Novel
The Fifth Gospel: A Novel
by Ian Caldwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.25

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Archeo/Religious-Thriller; Dan Brown-esque, but Emotionally Deeper, November 2, 2014
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“We are a religion of captains hoping to go down with the ship…the truth is that what moves the lifeblood of our faith is a thumping impulse toward self-destruction. “Greater love has no one than this," Jesus says in the gospel of John. “To lay down one’s life for one’s friends.””
- from Ian Caldwell’s “The Fifth Gospel”

This is a very strong (and long-awaited) second offering by the co-author of “The Rule of Four”. I won’t spend much time summarizing the story lines…plenty of those words exist already...but suffice it to say that the plot orbits the Shroud of Turin and a newly discovered fifth Gospel. Caldwell’s a bit inconsistent through the first half of the book, in developing the series of mysteries, both secular and non-. But the smoldering plot ignites about midway through. The book is very smart…at times confusing, but very much worth the patience in understanding and learning. Patience is a virtue.

This is certainly similar to Dan Brown and yet it's not. Yes, there exists a mystery and yes, it revolves around a Catholic relic. The story itself is strong: in-depth Catholic knowledge not required. But one won't avoid reading this book and feeling smarter for it. I found myself engrossed by Caldwell’s deft hand at baking an almost religious dissertation (without seeming preachy), woven cleanly around the multi-threaded plot.

Brown has his almost superhuman Robert Langdon, and Caldwell has his Father Alex Andreou. Andreou's smart, wise and a little crafty, but far more human and, in many ways, realistic than Langdon. Langdon is a hero. Fr. Alex is a human. “The Fifth Gospel” is emotionally poignant, drawn subtly around Father Alex and those closest to him, and I’m not ashamed to admit that tears came to my eyes at two different points near the end of the book.

Father Alex narrates the following, perhaps even giving a little nod to the every increasing popularity of religiously-based thriller fiction: “Priests underestimate the appetite of payment for cheap thrills about Jesus. Most of us roll our eyes at the prospect of new gospels. Every cave in Israel seems to contain one, and most turn out to have been written centuries after Chris by little sects of Christian heretics, or else forged for the publicity."

"The Fifth Gospel" is a very good thriller/mystery. But it's more than the latest pseudo-archaeo-Dan Brown clone. It's about family, brothers, and sacrifice.

Highly Recommended.

I received this through the Amazon Vine program.

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Classic Brands U-Shape Memory Foam Travel Pillow, Neck Pillow
Price: $12.09

4.0 out of 5 stars High quality, sturdy and FIRM travel pillow, November 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I just tried this pillow on a trip from Washington D.C. to Buenos Aires, with one layover. I loved it, to be honest. Based on my position and the seat I was in, I could work the pillow into any manner of comfortable positions.

If you're a fan of a stiffer pillow, then you'll love this item. It's made of a high quality form-fit foam, like the 'fancy' bed pillows and mattresses that are available. It's dense, but pliable and very sturdy.

There's only one drawback in my mind (assuming you like a more firm pillow) - there's no easy way to carry this hands-free. It fit into my backpack (normal size travel pack) but only barely. There's a thin elastic band that allows you to wrap it around things, but I didn't find it all that practical. If you use a small rolling case with a handles, this band will work fine...I don't, however.

I received this item from the Amazon Vine program.

Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans
Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, Fascinating, Horrifying Look Into the World of Possession., October 28, 2014
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"On the other side of the coin— Lucifer’s side— the belief that he does not exist at all is an enormous advantage that he has never enjoyed to such a great degree. It is the ultimate camouflage. Not to believe in evil is not to be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession."
- from Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil"

I've had my eye on this little piece of non-fiction history/horror for a few years. But between us...I was too scared to read it. Religiously-based horror is the sub-genre that freaks me out the most (and when you throw children in the mix!? Forget about it). But for this Halloween season I took a deep breath and jumped in.

I'm not religious, and would consider myself a fairly skeptical individual. I do love fiction and I have a broad capacity to suspend my disbelief. Malachi Martin's novel is a piece of non-fiction - true stories of possession and exorcism.
Martin describes these exclusively contemporary accounts as "dramatic illustrations of the way in which personal and intelligent evil moves cunningly along the lines of contemporary fads and interests, and within the usual bounds of experience of ordinary men and women.” That’s cool. I’ll suspend my disbelief for that!

The five stories of possession (and a sixth smaller story) are bracketed by Martin's analyses of possession, exorcism and their place within contemporary popular history and church culture. His writing is clear and vocabulary large. His writing is infused with a palpable passion and erudite depth.

Malachi describes: "The stories that are told on these occasions are dramatic and painful: strange physical ailments in the possessed; marked mental derangement; obvious repugnance to all signs, symbols, mention, and sight of religious objects, places, people, ceremonies."

Each story runs about 80 pages, though a reader's expectations should be clear: the exorcism itself runs 10-20 pages at the most. The rest of the stories detail the backstory of each victim and each priest. The stories are not connected by character nor time.

I chose to read this book with an 'accepting' mindset. I'm the first to admit, while I'm an iPhone-totin' skeptic and rationalist, I passionately embrace the idea that something supernatural or alien can exist. Martin treats his subject very seriously and addresses the doubters: "Church authorities always insist on thorough examinations of the person brought to them for Exorcism, an examination conducted by qualified medical doctors and psychiatrists."

"Certainly, many who claim to be possessed or whom others so describe are merely the victims of some mental or physical disease. In reading records from times when medical and psychological science did not exist or were quite undeveloped, it is clear that grave mistakes were made. A victim of disseminated sclerosis, for example, was taken to be possessed because of his spastic jerkings and slidings and the shocking agony in spinal column and joints. Until quite recently, the victim of Tourette’s syndrome was the perfect target for the accusation of “Possessed!”: torrents of profanities and obscenities, grunts, barks, curses, yelps, snorts, sniffs, tics, foot stomping, facial contortions all appear suddenly and just as suddenly cease in the subject. Nowadays, Tourette’s syndrome responds to drug treatment, and it seems to be a neurological disease involving a chemical abnormality in the brain. Many people suffering from illnesses and diseases well known to us today such as paranoia, Huntington’s chorea, dyslexia, Parkinson’s disease, or even mere skin diseases (psoriasis, herpes I, for instance), were treated as people “possessed” or at least as “touched” by the Devil."

The book is vivid, without being lewd nor lurid. Martin is graphic, and while the book isn’t dramatically frightening, it’s inherent topic is downright scary. "Violent physical transformations seem sometimes to make the lives of the possessed a kind of hell on earth. Their normal processes of secretion and elimination are saturated with inexplicable wrackings and exaggeration...Reflexes sometimes become sporadic or abnormal, sometimes disappear for a time. Breathing can cease for extended periods. Heartbeats are hard to detect. The face is strangely distorted, sometimes also abnormally tight and smooth without the slightest line or furrow."

“Hostage to the Devil” is extremely well written, thought out and considered, and freely dips into theological considerations across a range of secular and non secular ideas. This book is quite heavy, with numerous pages covering the psychophysical characteristics of each characters relation to the specific event. It's an enjoyable, but not easy, read.

Highly recommended.

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