Profile for Sebastien Pharand > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Sebastien Pharand
Top Reviewer Ranking: 422,759
Helpful Votes: 33

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
Sebastien Pharand (Orléans, Ontario, Canada)
(REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
A Choir of Ill Children
A Choir of Ill Children
by Tom Piccirilli
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Meanders, July 18 2004
Tom Piccirilli is no stranger to fans of the indie horror field. I'm so happy to finally see his work released in the mass market format. This is one author who deserves a wider audience. Comparable to Stewart O'Nan, Piccirilli's writing is always beautiful, always lyrical and very deep. Unfortunately, A Choir of Ill Children, the sad and poetic tale of a young tormented soul, just isn't Piccirilli's best effort yet.
The story centers around a young man who has had more than his share of troubles in his life. His father killed himself, his mother disappeared and is still missing, and he is still haunted by horrible dreams and some horrible events of his past. His brothers, conjoined triplets, have powerful minds and thoughts. And everyone in the small town of Kingdom Come is hiding something under the surface. There are just too many dark secrets for this little town.
As the dark forces try to avenge the past, Thomas has to deal with his own ghosts, the ones inhabiting his mind. The fact that everyone arounds him seems to be on his case doesn't help matters either. The novel is at its best when Piccirilli brings us into Thomas's past or when he describes some of Thomas's dreams. Those scenes just feel surreal and disturbing, leaving the reader to feel completely uneasy.
The story meanders without aim for too long. Although you get to know these characters very well, you never actually feel close to any of them. All of this brings us to the heavy finale, where too many things seem to happen all at once. Everything just explodes and, once again, moves aimlessly towards the finish.
That said, A Choir of Ill Children's prose is so powerful, so gripping that you forget about its flaws. Piccirilli has a way of reeling you in and making you want to keep on reading. There is a lot of sadness in these words, the pages are drenched in regret. Superstitions abound, and dark gothic magic comes to play a role in the narrative.
I admired the book for the quality of its prose and for the way in which Piccirilli weaves his narrative so seamlessly. But I think, in the end, I just wanted more out of these characters.

Sellevision: A Novel
Sellevision: A Novel
by Augusten Burroughs
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laughing at the world's expanse, July 8 2004
This review is from: Sellevision: A Novel (Paperback)
Satires are not an easy thing to achieve. But in the hands of Augusten Burroughs, who followed this book by writing two brilliant memoirs that found laughter in the saddest and most extraordinary situations, satire becomes a child's trick.
The book follows the ups and downs of the people working at Sellevision, the nation's newest television phenomena. Sellevision is a home shopping network with class. Or so they'd want you to believe. But judging from the people who work there, you have to ask yourself serious questions.
First off, Max is fired from his job after accidentally exposing his manly assetts on live television. Max doesn't know what he wants to do with his life now that he's jobless. And numerous job interviews lead him to believe that there is nothing else for him out there, until he finds the one avenue that will leave him satisfied in many ways.
Then there is Peggy, the host with a stalker. Her stalker problem and her unhappy life leads her towards the bottle and turns her into a Proza addict. Soon enough, her neurotic personality lands her into a detox centre.
Or what about Leigh, who places a personal ad and meets her perfect match (who just happens to be a millionaire)? Or the young host who is having a relation with her married boss? Or what about the other five or six characters that so well colors the pages of this novel.
The story itself would not have been much without Burroughs's wit and sadistic humour. He's able to take small banal portions of every day life and turn them into complete laugh riots. He's able to make you laugh even under the most strangest or saddest situations.
Sellevision is a one-of-a-kind read. Not only is Burroughs talented when it comes to writing memoirs, but he's a great writer of fiction as well. Sellevision will leave you laughing and smiling until you can't smile anymore. There aren't too many books with that quality on the shelves right now.

Mysterious Skin
Mysterious Skin
by Scott Heim
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.66

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Mesmerizing, July 5 2004
This review is from: Mysterious Skin (Paperback)
Some books are made to affect the reader and make them feel emotions and make them disover worlds or situations they've never knew existed. Scott Heim's Mysterious Skin is a coming of age tale that holds nothing back. It's a fearless and unpretentious effort that will leave you breathless.
The book's complex narrative takes us through the minds of various characters (the novel is told in first person, using different characters to tell different parts of the story). The story starts when Brian and Neil are young boys. Although they are on the same baseball team, they do not know each other. Something happens to them that will mark them forever.
They both find different ways to deal with the event that left them mentally scarred. Many years later, Brian is certain that his blackouts and frequent nose bleeds can only be attributed to the fact that he was abducted by aliens. But as he grows older, the horrible truth slowly reveals itself to him and he quickly realizes that he needs to find Neil in order to put it all behind him.
Neil, on his part, deals with his past in a very different way. Working as an escort, Neil doesn't always know what he wants. He is a very reluctant character in that he thinks he knows who he is what he wants when, in fact, he's a complete stranger to himself. The only way he can find to deal with everything life hands him is through his body and his sexuality.
Offering very complex characters with even more complicated lives, Mysterious Skin is a powerful read that you won't be able to put down. The pain these characters feel just oozes off the page, affecting the reader in various ways. Just wait until Neil and Brian finally meet. Their confrontation is completely heartbreaking. It's almost impossible not to feel for these characters, almost impossible not to sympathize and empathize with them.
Mysterious Skin was Scott Heim's first novel. I can't wait to discover more from this writer. Mysterious Skin really left an impression on me. Highly recommended.

Coma
Coma
by Alex Garland
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Mad Trip Through (Un)Consciousness, June 27 2004
This review is from: Coma (Hardcover)
It had been a while since Alex Garland had published a novel. After The Beach and The Tesseract, Garland worked on the amazing horror flick 28 Days Later. The Coma, a short novella that is, like everything else Garland has written, not easily classifiable. This ends up being the novel's forte and also its biggest flaw.
While trying to help a woman who is being attacked on a subway, Carl is beaten to a bloody pulp and left for dead. A long while later, he wakes up from the coma the attack left him in and returns home. But he soon realizes that nothing is as it used to be. Things have changed, things are wrong, things are just unexplainable. Time seems to be moving faster, Carl finds himself moving from one place to another without remembering having done so. And how about those invisible bleeding wounds on his body?
Garland weaves his narrative just like a dream. One second we're standing in one place, the next we're in a total different setting. Things are disjointed and they don't always make sense for the reader. Until, that is, something crucial is revealed to us that changes the way we see or understand the events taking place in the narrative.
Told in the first person over very short chapters, with interesting visual images to guide us through the story, The Coma is a story that is both imaginary and frighteningly real. As always, Garland lets his imagination run wild to create a one-of-a-kind trip to the human psyche.
Then again, the book left me craving for more. I wanted more out of Carl, wanted to learn more from the characters and the situations they were in. Over the course of two very short chapters, Garland tells us a bit about Carl's childhood, but not enough to eradicate my curiosity. Some sections could have been fleshed out a bit more. It's rare that you'll want more out of a story. These days, most book should listen to the 'less is more' rule. But The Coma is an exception to the rule.
As it stands, The Coma is a very fast read that you'll probably want to read again. An original read that will leave you craving for more.

Paranoia
Paranoia
by Joseph Finder
Edition: Hardcover
41 used & new from CDN$ 1.13

4.0 out of 5 stars What Suspense Is All About, June 26 2004
This review is from: Paranoia (Hardcover)
With Paranoia, Joseph Finder has written the ultimate page turner. This is high octane suspense at its very possible best. Who cares if the book is far-fetched and the characters not very likeable. There is enough suspense and intrigue trapped within these four hundred pages to keep you reading way past your bedtime.
Adam is in a tight bind. His present employer has just found out that he's embezzled a small amount of money for his own personal use. But instead of sending Adam to jail, Wyatt, the leader of a high-tech company, asks him to become a company spy. Adam will have to get a job at Trion Corporation in order to find all that he can about their new projects.
Adam is a smooth talker, a great liar and a great actor. In no time, he finds himself working at Trion and, within just a few weeks, he's working for the CEO himself as a personal assistant. Adam quickly realizes how grueling spy work can be. Although he wants to make amends with Wyatt and clear his name with his old company, his newfound love for his new boss and his love for his new company soon affect the way he sees things. He even feels guilt after a while.
Finder is a master at building suspense. The book's title is all too appropriate for this story because Adam quickly becomes paranoid himself, always looking over his shoulder and wondering who is after him, who is trying to put a stop to his plan, who knows his true identity. There are many obstacles in his way, notably a woman he falls in love with when he's supposed to be spying on her, and his friendship with his new boss. And the fact that some start seeing right through his plans make Adam even more nervous.
Written in short chapters, the book is a frantic high-tech intrigue written for the average reader. You don't need to know a lot about computers or big corporations to understand this one; Finder simplifies everything for the reader and never eternalizes himself on unimportant details. In other words, he's not taking the Michael Crichton route, opting to give his readers just what they need instead of assaulting them with too much information about the tech world.
Although Adam was a great character to follow, I have to admit that there aren't many likeable characters in Paranoia. But since the reader also becomes paranoid as the story progresses, wondering who's being truthful and who isn't, who's an ally and who isn't, I guess this tactique is quite fitting for the story.
This is a great beach novel that should please fans of the suspense and mystery genres. There is enough intrigue here to fully flesh out three novels. Finder somehow finds a way to cram it all into one book, thus creating an enthralling and very entertaining read.

The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from CDN$ 4.24

4.0 out of 5 stars A great follow-up. But is the end really near?, June 15 2004
I can't believe there is one book left in the Dark Tower series. This is King's epic (actually, I think there is no word to decribe the scope of what he's accomplished with this book). But this might very well be the most challenging and daring book in the series yet. Because this time, all bets are off. King does something with the Dark Tower that could very well confuse some readers, but which should awe almost everyone. Hate it or love it, you'll still be highly interested in what King is doing here.
The book picks up where The Wolves of the Calla left off. Susannah has returned to 1999. She is still pregnant and her mind is still being held hostage by the phantom Mia. Roland and his ka-tet have to reopen the door and leave The Calla in order to return to Susannah and save her from a pregnancy that could very well kill her.
When they cross, Roland and Eddie are taken back to the 70s where they meet Tower to try and convince him to sell that lot where the rose is growing. But the most interesting thing here is that Roland and Eddie also confront a man named Stephen King, the very writer who is writing the book of their lives. Yes, King has written himself in the novel in a gutso twist that only intensifies and mystifies the book's power.
Meanwhile, Susannah is trying to face Mia and control the pregnancy. Over the years, King has become interested with the human psyche. Once again, we find scenes where Susannah is trapped within the walls and rooms of her own mind. My only real complaint with the book is that King keeps Jake and Pere Callahan away from the story for much too long. They only appear near the end of the book and they aren't given much to do at all.
The book ends on a jawbreaker finale that will leave you begging for more. This installment is lean and brilliantly written. King once again plays with space and time to create a world (or worlds) that are unique and distinct. The pacing is so frantic that you'll finish the book in no time.
The Dark Tower series has become something of a self-reflection for King. The book finishes with journals of the author himself. The fact that he has made himself a prominant character in the story still amazes me. I can't read what the last book has in store for us. But I also can't help feeling a bit sad because the series will be ending very soon. Too soon.

Memorial Day
Memorial Day
by Harry Shannon
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Shannon does it again!!!, June 2 2004
This review is from: Memorial Day (Hardcover)
Harry Shannon has quickly become one of the brightest new voice in horror fiction. But what happens when a talented horror writer tries his hand at writing a noir violent thriller? Well, the result is Memorial day, and engrossing, original and compelling read that surprises at every turn.
Mike Callahan is no longer shining in the spotlight. After years of boosing and abuse, he has finally decided to go down the sobriety route. He moves back to his hometown of Dry Wells and takes a job as a radio host in the hopes of finding redemption and maybe even solace. But on his very first night on the air, Callahan receives a call from a distressed young woman who just wants to talk. He quickly becomes uneasy with the conversation and stops it just as his show ends. Then, on his way home, Callahan finds the body of a dead man lying in the street.
Days later, the daughter of the richest man in town is murdered. Was she the young girl who called his show? And who in the small town of Dry Wells can be trusted? Well, no one it seems, save for one young man who befriends Callahan and helps him in his investigation. Of course, Callahan quickly becomes a suspect himself and must uncover the town's darks secrets before it is too late. This is the kind of scenario where everyone is a suspect. The impeding feel of paranoia grabs you by the gut and doesn't let go of you until the very last page.
I will not say any more about the book because I do not want to ruin a completely, all-around enjoyable read. What I will say is that Callahan was one of my favorite characters in years; he can be compared to Chandler's Marlowe or Connelly's Harry Bosch. And Shannon's style never tires. His book always have this frantic quality to them that makes you keep on turning the pages way past your bedtime. His characters are vivid, realistic and always flawed, something I wish more authors could make use of.
I've already read Memorial Day twice. I can't wait to read the next Callahan novel, or Shannon's next for that matter. Do yourself a favor and discover one of the most entertaining new voice in genre fiction. It's been a while since we've had the chance to encounter such an original voice. Shannon's future seems very bright indeed.

Midnight Mass
Midnight Mass
by F. Paul Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.89

2.0 out of 5 stars And then?, May 20 2004
This review is from: Midnight Mass (Hardcover)
In his introduction to Midnight Mass, F. Paul Wilson explains that this story came to him in order to bring the vampire genre back to its horror roots (ie, away from the Anne Rice type and closer to King's Salems' Lot). But is the novel worth reading? I really had to trudge through this one. The story is filled with unsympathetic characters, predictable plot lines and pages after pages of boring exposition. In the end, Midnight Mass doesn't rejuvenate the vampire genre, it just makes it feel even more tired.
Father Joe Cahill is one of the few survivors of the Apocalypse. Vampires have taken over the earth and very few humans are left alive. And the ones who are are too terrified to try and stand against the new terror. When Joe returns to his parish after a long absence, he joins Sister Carol and his niece Lacey in trying to build a rebellion against the figures of the night.
It doesn't help at all that these characters feel like cardboard cutouts of better, more fleshed out people. If only Wilson could have given these characters a real history and purpose, this story would have been much stronger. We need to care for at least one character in order to make a story successful and engrossing for the reader.
Halfway through the novel, a plot twist occurs that is supposed to shock the reader and drive the story in a completely new direction. But none of it really surprised me. In fact, this plot twist was so obvious that I was disappointed to see Wilson make use of it.
And the vampires are also unoriginal and uninteresting. They are protected during the daytime by groups of men dressed in cowboy outfits. These men are supposed to be terrifying, but they drop quicker than flies. The vampires, on their part, aren't a big threat either; they all seem tame even if Wilson tries hard to make them terrifying.
In the end, Midnight Mass was a big disappointment. Wilson is capable of much better. I am a fast reader, but it took me a great deal to finish this one. I really hope that, one of these days, an author WILL write a vampire novel that WILL bring us back to the greatness of Salem's Lot, where the horrors seem to jump right off the page. As it stands, Midnight Mass isn't even close to that kind of greatness. Very little scare and very little originality makes a dud in my book. I guess I'll just have to go back to the Repairman Jack novels to remind myself of what Wilson is really capable.

The Speed Queen
The Speed Queen
by Stewart O'Nan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.37
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.95

4.0 out of 5 stars The Truth of Violence, May 4 2004
This review is from: The Speed Queen (Paperback)
The Speed Queen starts with the words, "Why did I kill them? I didn't kill them. It's not even a question" and ends with "Just remember, everything I've told you is true. I'm completely innocent. Try to be nice to me, okay? Just tell a good story." Those words are spoken by Marjorie, the troubled heroine (if you can call her that...) of O'Nan's novel.
Marjorie is on death row, telling her story to a recorder for a Stephen King-like writer while awaiting her execution. Marjorie was found guilty of murdering eight people, including a cop, while on a murder spree with her husband Lamont and her friend Natalie. But do not call her a serial killer because, although she was present when the murders occurred, the circumstances revolving around them might or might not make an innocent out of her.
During the course of the novel, Marjorie tells us her whole story, from her childhood until the day she meets Lamont. She tells us how she met Natalie and how their strange relationship led to the grisly murders. She even tells us about her innocent baby boy and how he had to witness some of the murders they committed.
You could call The Speed Queen a cross-breed between Natural Born Killers and Badlands. But it is Marjorie's truthfulness that makes this one fresh and different. She is such a well-drawn character that you can't help but like her, no matter what she has done. You even feel sorry for her at times. This novel is so well written that its realistic tone and feel will send shivers crawling down your whole body.
Stewart O'Nan has written a tour de force that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page. O'Nan's writing is sharp, witty and full of dark humour. This is an hypnotic read you won't be able to put down.

Turtle Warrior A Novel
Turtle Warrior A Novel
by Mary Ellis
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 1.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, Engrossing, A Masterpiece, May 1 2004
This review is from: Turtle Warrior A Novel (Hardcover)
Think the words in the title above are a bit much? Well, you won't after reading this amazing and surprising debut novel that knocked me off my feet. This is that rare gut-wrenching novel that will leave your yearning for more. I cannot believe that this is Mary Relindes Ellis's first novel because The Turtle Warrior displays the maturity and skill that only a veteran could hold.
The story begins when Bill is an eight year old boy who wants only one thing; to please his big brother Jimmy (the novel opens with a beautiful passage that tells us right off the bat what these two characters really are about). But when Jimmy leaves for Nam to fight in the war, Bill is left alone with his abusive father and his sadness-torn mother. He has very little recourse to escape all the abuse and the tears. The only thing he has are his brother's letters.
But when his brother goes MIA, Bill is no longer able to escape the harsh reality of his life. He can't even find solace in his next-door neighbours, a couple who could never have children and who have adopted the two boys as their own. These two are more like parents to Bill and Jimmy than their real parents ever were.
The novel then jumps forward in time to present Jimmy as a teenager. And then as an adult. But the novel never loses its focus, nor does it deviates from its main purpose; to describe, in details, the power of human emotions.
Told from various point of views, the novel meanders through the lives of these numerous characters, until we get to know them all too well. When Bill starts drinking heavily - the only way he knows to escape his life - and threatens to become his father's spit image, the reader never hates the boy. We can only care for him because of all the tragedy he has been able to survive. And I have to say that I loved the fact that the only character who does not speak in the first person in this novel is Bill. He is presented through the eyes of others, a sad boy who is misunderstood by most.
The Turtle Warrior was such a great read that, right after finishing the novel, I went back and re-read some passages. Its lyrical and powerful prose and its realistic and flawed characters only add another layer of greatness to the narrative. I bought this book because of its beautiful cover, and now I hope everyone will run out and give this one a chance.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20