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A Vintage Cover and a Fresh Approach | Reading Chris Holm’s “Dead Harvest”

Dead Harvest Cover Chris Holm the CollectorI originally picked out Chris Holm’s “Dead Harvest” because of the cover, finding it while searching out cool vintage book covers.  Self-publishing a few short stories through Kindle and Nook means you have to make your own covers, and there’s something eternally cool about the old paperback covers.

So how did picking a book by its cover work out for me?  I’d say pretty well.

The last twenty pages of “Dead Harvest” totally makes this book.  The first hundred are great too.  The ones in-between?  Well, they’re decent.  They keep you going, I’ll give you that.

Those pages keep Sam and Kate stumbling, running, and trying to figure things out, stealing bodies, stealing cars, stealing—sorry, hijacking—helicopters all while dodging demons, angels and the majority of the New York City police department.  While some of it seems unnecessary or excessive (the helicopter), I never hit the point I wanted to put it down, probably due to the back-story of Sam Thornton, the Collector, as we find out a little more, not only his own back-story rooted in the 1940s and why he’s damned to an eternity of collecting souls, but also on the mythology that runs throughout the story of demons, angels, and possession.

It’s Sam’s personal back-story and the relationship between man, demon and angel that all comes together at the end, in those last few pages, and adds a little twist to a story that was starting to feel a little sluggish.  Could this book have stood to lose a few pages?  Maybe a hundred?  Sure.

Am I going to continue reading Chris Holm’s ‘the Collector’ series?  Absolutely.  And not just because of the covers.

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The Adventures of the Actionary | Reading ‘the Damned Busters’

the Damned Busters, Book 1, To Hell and Back Series by Matthew HughesThere’s something addicting about Matthew Hughes’ “The Damned Busters”, the first book in his ‘To Hell and Back‘ series featuring insurance actuary Chesney Arnstruther.  After accidentally summoning a demon and causing the legions in Hell to go on strike, Chesney strikes a strange deal with the Devil and becomes novice superhero the Actionary.  Well, at least for two hours every day with the help of the rum-guzzling demon Xaphan, a weasel-faced demon who’s watched one too many Cagney movies.

There’s something addicting about this book… even while there’s something not good about it.

I realize how that sounds, but I don’t know any other way to say it.  I’ve been struggling with this feeling the entire book.  The story is decent and clever, with a humorous style that channels Douglas Adams without truly capturing the absurdity that perfectly captured the essence life itself that Adams seemed to effortlessly put down upon the page throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.

Perhaps just as Chesney is lost within the world of his comic book idol, Malc Turner aka The Driver, his adventures as the Actionary and the events of the book from the moment he summons a demon on, are intended to emulate that comic book atmosphere with characters that are almost bland in their cartoonish, stereotype roles.

When he smashed his finger with the hammer, did drawing blood cause him to summon a demon, or pass out and dream all of this?  Chesney does seem like someone who might faint at the sight of blood.

Good thing “The Damned Busters” is just addictive enough and ends on a cliffhanger that I can’t help but be interested in the second of the trilogy, “Costume Not Included”.

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A Review of Jesse Ball’s “Silence Once Begun”

While “Silence Once Begun” wasn’t my favorite novel by Jesse Ball, it was difficult to put down, so that’s something.  Well, at least it was the second time I started reading it…

Silence Once Begun Cover

Don’t take it from me, buy your own copy

The style is haunting and… well, disjointed, I suppose is the only word I can use to describe it, but that isn’t quite right.  Between “Interviewer’s Notes”, the protagonist’s interjections, the story is told through interviews, letters, and quasi-poetic attempts at the characters feeling lost and broken and searching.  Every speaker warns the interviewer and reader not to trust the previous speakers.

In the last section of the book, on the verge of the big reveal, we’re told:

“You have to be careful whom you trust. Everyone has a version, and most of them are wrong.  In fact, I can tell you quickly: they are all wrong.  I am in a position to help you understand… the world is made up almost entirely of sentimental fools and brutes…

[I am] a sentimental brute, I suppose.  One who means well, but has no feelings for others.”


The big reveal I mentioned isn’t even really the big reveal.  That was.  I just ruined the whole surprise for you, sorry.  Because the underlying story, the Narito Disappearances, that ties all the characters together and keeps you turning the page, isn’t what this novel is really about, and it isn’t about silence either like Tue interviewer would have you believe, not as he understood it at the beginning of his search.  It’s about trust.

The character of Jito Joo is taken advantage of by a man she trusted, she is manipulated into deceiving another in turn.  Her punishment is to be forever alone, forgotten, unseen, unheard.  The man who deceived her is similarly forgotten and ignored when his own deception is revealed.

So it is, that a silence once begun is a trust once betrayed, and, through pride or a sense of duty, even through love it is out inability to move beyond that betrayal.  Instead, the silence becomes an abyss that swallows all memory of ourselves, until once begun we cannot find our way to stop it.

Follow me on Goodreads for more reviews and to see what else I’m reading….

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Cemetery Gates Media is a publisher of horror, paranormal, and fantasy fiction based in Binghamton, N.Y.

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