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Nolene-Patricia Dougan "Dougs" (Ravara, Ireland)

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From Sparta
From Sparta
by Gerald J. Tate
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.55
9 used & new from CDN$ 18.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Shortlisted for Spinetinglers Book of the Year Award, Aug. 24 2009
This review is from: From Sparta (Paperback)
Have you ever wished for a guardian angel, someone to stick up for you, someone to protect you from the evil in the world? All I can say is, "Be careful about what you wish for," because your guardian angel might be more terrifying than anything you have yet encountered. Your guardian angel could be From Sparta.

Two grisly murders rock the sleepy town of Brooksville. There is no evidence; there are no witnesses, just an assortment of mangled body parts. Not one of the investigating detectives has ever seen anything like this before, but, unfortunately, these gruesome murders continue. Only one young man, Joshua, links the murders together, but all the investigating detectives agree that he could not be the killer. Joshua is not physically capable of such a hideous act. So, what is the solution and who could be the real killer? Several badly beaten survivors state that they witnessed an attacker who seemed to be clothed in an ancient Spartan uniform. Who is this man, and where did he come from? Only Joshua can answer these questions, but will Joshua be able to stop him? Will anyone be able to stop the vengeful warrior From Sparta?

Once again, Gerald J. Tate thrills his readership with this latest supernatural shocker. In From Sparta, myth and reality sensationally collide to give us a book that will excite and terrify anyone who dares read it. Like all of Tate's previous works, this book is a cut above the other "gore-fest" novels that flood the market on a daily basis. The pages of Tate's book provide you with characters to whom readers can relate and for whom they can route. These are everyday heroes who have everything to lose.

From Sparta contains Tate's own brand of dark humour, which will make every reader crack a wry smile! In short, it is blood-soaked, blood-tingling, and bloody brilliant!

The only question that remains is, "Do you have the guts to face the man From Sparta...?"

Stages of Undress
Stages of Undress
by Steven Deighan
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Shortlisted for Spinetinglers Book of the Year Award, June 19 2009
This review is from: Stages of Undress (Paperback)
`Who are you?.'
The guy smirked.
`The Devil.'

There's something about this exchange that thrills a horror fan with eager anticipation. We know this story has the potential to be really good. When a writer puts the Devil in their story, it speaks volumes. It almost instantly elevates the quality of anyone's writing. It is as if, by creating your version of the Devil, you are throwing down the gauntlet. This is the Devil after all, and he deserves your respect. Some writers waste this opportunity; in fact, they offer us only caricatures, minions, archfiends, when what we want is the "Ultimate Hellion." Steven Deighan does not disappoint, he gives us a Louis Cyphre.
Steven Deighan's third anthology of stories is short but oh-so- sweet. Since I have read most of his previous works, I know that there are usually a few stories that really stand out. However, with Stages of Undress, he has excelled even himself! Each of the stories he has crafted is superb. "Cappuccino Stains," eerily reminds us that our crimes in this world must be answered in the next. In the "The Beating," art imitates life, but will there be a happy ending? "The Picasso Project" is marvellously morbid, yet beguilingly authentic. And finally, "The Medium," with thick skin is the best story of them all.
Deighan offers the reader just the right amount of shocks and twists to create four clever psychological chillers. The only drawback is that these stories end quite quickly, and, therefore, leave the reader wanting more. But, maybe, this is what the author intends.
Despite this praise, Spinetinglers is only giving Stages of Undress "4 stars," because we don't want to read any more Steven Deighan anthologies. What we want is to read his first novel, because, if he can write like this, using a short format, his first book will be sublime!

The Second Tour
The Second Tour
by Terry P. Rizzuti
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 27.32

5.0 out of 5 stars What was it like in Vietnam--How in the hell do you describe it?", Nov. 6 2008
This review is from: The Second Tour (Paperback)
This is clearly a question about which the author of The Second Tour, Terry P. Rizzuti, has thought long and hard. The results of his deliberation are found within the pages of his stunning debut novel, a work in which readers discover an intriguing and compellingly fresh answer.

The Second Tour tells the story of Vietnam in fragmented, non-sequential visions from the perspective of Rootie, a low-level marine. He describes how he and his friends survived, how they lived, and how they died--although not necessarily in that order. By also giving readers brief glimpses of his life after Vietnam, he allows them to see the tremendous impact that serving in Vietnam for just thirteen months has had on his life.

Despite his descriptions of the hardships of war, Rizzuti does not make any moral judgements about the men who fought in Vietnam. Rizzuti tells his story in a frank and subtle manner that prevents him from using the clichés to which so many authors of his genre resort. His matter-of-fact, conversational style often makes readers feel as if they have wandered into a bar where a Vietnam veteran is telling his story by recalling bits and pieces of what he remembers--maybe showing them the odd letter that he wrote home while Bob Dylan songs play on the jukebox.

Rizzuti's style of writing completely captivates and intrigues his audience. As his story jumps decades, often within the span of several paragraphs, readers are frequently uncertain from which location or year the narrator is speaking as they read the initial line of any section. Although this may sound confusing or complicated to some potential readers, at no time do readers become overwhelmed, or does the novel become overly convoluted. Because Rootie's flawlessly flowing narrative links all the events together, it is of no consequence that the events are narrated out of sequence; in fact, such a style of narration only adds to the enjoyment of this refreshing take on a subject that has been often explored.

In short, The Second Tour's honesty, sincerity, and authenticity makes it clear from the beginning that this novel could only have been written by someone who was actually in Vietnam. Although a work of fiction, The Second Tour is based on events few have experienced, providing a fascinating insight into war and the boys who eventually become men when they are sent to fight it.

The Second Tour is not only an electrifying read for fans of the genre, but also a fitting epitaph for those who lost their lives far away from home.

Vampire Twilight
Vampire Twilight
by Philip Henry
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.65
10 used & new from CDN$ 7.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Kaaliz is back and he is out for blood..., May 29 2008
This review is from: Vampire Twilight (Paperback)
Kaaliz the vampire has spent ten years in a secret government facility. He has been tortured and experimented on nonstop. His future is bleak as it seems there is no hope of escape. Enter Lucinda. She is mortal and dying of cancer, but she isn't ready to shuffle off this mortal coil without a fight. She hatches a plan and strikes a bargain to free Kaaliz and save her own life.

Kaaliz fulfills his end of the bargain and Lucinda is reborn as Sin the vampire. Together they form a destructive and dangerous team out for revenge. Newly mortal, Claire and Xavier had better watch out.

As with all secret government facilities, things eventually go wrong. In studying and experimenting on the "monsters" that are a threat to mankind, the scientists mistakenly create near-indestructible vampires.

Unlike the first book, the vampires are, for the most part, the bad guys! And we have another addition to the monster family - a near-indestructible vampire created by accident by the secret government scientists. Damn those secret government scientists; they are always messing things up! I mean, despite their intentions, they never seem to make the world a better place. Mulder and Scully were right!!

This is the second novel I have read by Philip Henry and I have to say I am hooked. The first two books in his vampire trilogy push all the right buttons. The stories are funny, scary, and the series promises to be a truly epic and memorable vampire trilogy.

Philip Henry's vampire books combine all the humour and characterization of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the scares and cool factor of Resident Evil. It is a treat for all fans of the vampire genre. Vampire Twilight is a genuine contemporary ode to all the great gothic writers past and present.

In short, the North Coast of Ireland has not seen this much action since the Vikings were marauding.

Vampire Dawn
Vampire Dawn
by Philip Henry
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.38
7 used & new from CDN$ 16.38

5.0 out of 5 stars "They didn't believe the stories....", April 16 2008
This review is from: Vampire Dawn (Paperback)
For all intents and purposes, Claire and Xavier appear to be your typical married couple. They bicker, they get on each other's nerves, and they love having company around for dinner. Their pallets are very specific; they like their meat bloody. They have been married for so long that they know each other fully and completely. How long have they been married you may ask? Oh, about a century, give or take a decade or two. Did I mention that they were vampires...?

Vampire Dawn is a treat for all fans of this vamp genre. Philip Henry's book is a vampire tale much in the tradition of Buffy, only with more swearing. Like Joss Whedon, Philip Henry employs a flippant style, which is full-to-the-brim with gothic kitsch. Philip Henry's style of storytelling alone would make this book a must-read. But, this novel has other dimensions that make Vampire Dawn stand apart from the myriad of generic vampire stories invading this genre on a weekly basis. Vampire Dawn turns the traditional role of vampire/vampire-slayer on its head. Customarily, the heroes in vampire novels are the slayers. In Vampire Dawn, these vampire slayers are a bit more mean and, at times, completely callous, whereas the vampires are just trying to survive in a world prejudiced against them. According to Vampire Dawn, vampires are not soulless killers, and they seem quite civilized. They do have to kill someone every now and again (every night!), but these acts are never malicious. However, you do come across the odd, homicidal maniac among the vamps. So, in Vampire Dawn, more often than not, you find yourself rooting for the vampires, and you certainly forgive them the odd murder, here and there.

Vampire Dawn is a thrilling read that superbly marries some elements of Buffy, Near Dark, and Lost Boys - all the kitschy classics. However, having said this, fans of gothic lore will not be disappointed by Vampire Dawn, as it also pays homage to classic vampire tales of old. In short, Vampire Dawn is a gothic vampire story with a distinctly modern twist. And, if it has a lesson to teach us, perhaps it is to remind us all that vampires were humans once, too - well maybe not, but you get the idea!

Vampire Dawn is a tantalizing first-taste into Philip Henry's dark and witty world. And, after you read it, I guarantee that you will be thirsty for more..!

The Backwoods [Import]
The Backwoods [Import]
DVD ~ Gary Oldman
Price: CDN$ 16.36
20 used & new from CDN$ 1.41

2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, a bit of a confusing mess., March 27 2008
This review is from: The Backwoods [Import] (DVD)
While holidaying in the Basque region of Spain, two couples discover a child whose hands are severely misshapen. The child has been gravely mistreated, and, as a result, cannot communicate. The two couples reluctantly decide to rescue her and report her circumstances to the authorities. However, severe weather and the denseness of the forest surrounding their holiday home make it impossible for them to make a quick getaway. Soon, the local inhabitants become aware that the girl is missing, and they rightly suspect the holiday-makers of taking her. Suspicions and paranoia begin to fester, and it isn't long before violence erupts. The villagers demand the little girl's return, and her rescuers refuse to give her up. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues, making a return to normalcy impossible for everyone involved.

The premise for The Backwoods is an intriguing one. The idea of how quickly basic human instincts make situations spiral out of control, is nearly always used to good effect in movies. For any writer/director, this concept opens up a myriad of opportunities to shock, as well as to fascinate. This fact probably accounts for why this device is a much-overused set piece. Films of this genre, when well executed, are guaranteed, at the very least, cult-classic status (e.g., Deliverance and Straw Dogs). However, when poorly executed, the resultant films can resemble a confusing, farcical mess. Unfortunately, The Backwoods is an example of the latter.

The Backwoods starts off well, trying to develop the main characters, before violence eventually erupts. However, what we have learned of their character in the initial scenes gives us little insight as to why the characters react as they do to the situation they are dealt. For example, Oldman's character, Paul, is the only one of the four main characters who is thoroughly determined to save the girl. At no time does he falter, even when he could save his life by telling the villagers where the disfigured girl is. This character trait does not hold true, because, up to this point, his character has appeared arrogant and overbearing, with little or no regard for those around him. Having said this, the four leads all give solid, believable performances, and, for the most part, cover up, rather than expose, the inconsistencies in their characters' nature.

Apart from flaws in the development of central characters, this movie has other problems. First, the deformity that the little girl has seems too ludicrous to be believable. If you have ever seen Batman Returns, and you remember the misshapen hands that The Penguin had, you will get the idea. As a viewer, the fact that the little girl has "Penguin hands" makes it hard to take her plight seriously. And finally, the main reason why this movie is farcical rather than stimulating is the movie styles to which it chooses to pay homage. I can understand the stylish, 1970s-vibe it tries to recreate, and I can also appreciate the nods directed toward Peckinpah and Boorman. But, what I can't understand is why the writer and director chose to insert a Sergio Leone-style climactic scene. Up until the final scene, the movie has tried to be dark and thought-provoking. Up until the final moments it has tried to teach the audience something about the human psyche; it has failed miserably, but it has tried. And then, all of the sudden, ten minutes before the end, you have a man-on-man gunfight, reminiscent of a spaghetti western. This ultimate fight appears to be forced and is very much out of place. The only thing that links this final scene to what has preceded it, is the fact that the ultimate scene's outcome is as confusing and pointless as the rest of the movie.

In short, The Backwoods is a jumbled mess, which is full of inconsistencies in character, plot, and style. The only factor that rescues The Backwoods from being a complete disaster are the proficient performances of its lead actors. If you want to watch a film that explores basic human instincts, why not try Magnolia Pictures', The Signal. You will find that film a lot more entertaining and a lot less confusing than this shambolic piece of filmmaking.

A Scary Story
A Scary Story
by Adam Shiels
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.77
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.76

3.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of the End, March 25 2008
This review is from: A Scary Story (Paperback)
James Black is a killer, no more than that. In fact, he is a malevolent, psychotic monster. He is a cold, calculating, intelligent, and feral murderer who, for the most part, kills indiscriminately. Frank Thorn, a police detective, has sworn to stop James Black, no matter what it takes. There is only one problem: James Black seems to be superhuman, because he can't be stopped. Black has been declared dead several times, but he has always returned to exact murderous revenge on his pursuers.

Black's exploits have been well documented, and his ability to survive and evade the authorities have brought him to the notice of another organisation. This organization is one with more power than any government, and more dangerous than any killer. The nameless men of this organisation are also pursuing James Black, but if they catch him, will they stop his killing? And, do they even want to stop him?

It seems that the whole world is chasing James Black. The question is, "Can he be caught?"

A Scary Story is the prequel to Adam Shiels Genocide, and it is a fitting taster for what is to follow. In A Scary Story, we first meet James Black, and he is just as brutal and frightening as he is in Genocide. Splattered throughout A Scary Story, are more than enough bloody murders to satisfy even the most fiendish of appetites. The main theme of A Scary Story is the cat-and-mouse chase between Frank Thorn and James Black; however, the book has another subplot, which is the author's master stroke. Shiels includes a consortium of nameless, powerful men, who sit around in boardrooms and discuss the world, and the fate of its occupants. These anonymous men talk as if we were all part of some great game, about which only they know the rules. This gives the book an X-Files quality, which, in this author's opinion, is never a bad thing.

I have only one minor criticism of this scary story, which is that if you are going to craft a serial killer, he has to likeable in some way. To make an audience cotton to the bad guy, you have to give him an engaging quality, whether it be the suave sophistication of a Hannibal Lecter or the deliciously delectable social ineptitude of a Dexter. One of the greatest guilty pleasures a horror fan gets is to root for the bad guy.

If you like your stories bloody, with the suggestion of a conspiracy theory or two, then A Scary Story is the book for you! It is a devilish incarnation that will splendidly satisfy the sick minds of horror fans - just like me!

Lords Of The Bow
Lords Of The Bow
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.03

13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Temujin of the Wolves has become Genghis Khan., Feb. 9 2008
This review is from: Lords Of The Bow (Hardcover)
Journey with "Temujin of the Wolves," as he unites the tribes of the Mongols and becomes the conquering warlord, Genghis Khan.

When I was asked to review this book, I was filled with anticipation. What could be better than to sit back and dive into a book that tells the story of Genghis Khan? I expected a story filled with Machiavellian intrigue, glorious battles, and bloody revenge, all centered on a slick, iron-willed central character worthy of a legend. What I got was a rather dry retelling of historical events. The book seems to lean more toward a factual account of the many battles and sieges that resulted in Genghis Khan's victory of the Chin Empire. In fact, most of the characters seem devoid of any personality, and it is a struggle to either empathise or even appreciate any of them.

Genghis Khan is as much a figure of legend as he is a figure of history. And, I think any author can be forgiven for including a bit of mythos in retelling the story of the great Genghis Khan. Sadly, the author, Conn Iggulden, has chosen not to include anything he could not prove to be true, and thus, I think his story suffers for that fact.

However, the novel is not all bad, as there is enough blood- and-guts to keep even the most ghoulish reader pleased. Also, the small glimpse the reader has of Genghis Khan's mercilessly competitive and highly suspicious sons is a good teaser for the next book in the series.

I have no doubt that Lords of the Bow will be just a blip in Conn Iggulden's illustrious storytelling career, and by the time he gets to Kubla Khan, he will be back on track.

In short, the author seems to be more concerned with making his book historically accurate than to tell a good story. If you like reading about the history of the Mongols and Genghis Khan, then this is the book for you. But, if you want to read a tale filled with high adventure and passion, then avoid Lords of the Bow at all costs.

Interesting Bits
Interesting Bits
by Justin Pollard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.95
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

3.0 out of 5 stars Unlike Queen Victoria, We Are Very Amused!, Feb. 6 2008
This review is from: Interesting Bits (Hardcover)
"Whom are you?' he asked, for he had attended business college."
If the quote above tickles your funny bone, then Justin Pollard's The Interesting Bits is the book for you!
The Interesting Bits is full of little blithe, historical, anecdotes, which have been placed together in thematic chapters. Everything from "Men of the cloth" to "Bedhopping" is covered with enthusiastic relish. Pollard's book will sometimes make you exclaim, "That can't be true," and it will often make you question your own education.
The Interesting Bits is not the sort of book you should read all at once, as each tantalising tidbit is laid out in such a way that after a time, one light-hearted recount may merge into the next. This would be a shame, as each factoid has its own unique humour, and more than one of the anecdotes will put the odd historical misconception to right. For example, Captain Bligh was not a Captain, there was never a ship called the HMS Bounty, and Bligh himself was actually quite a nice chap, who showed leniency to all crew members under his command. Charles Laughton and Anthony Hopkins should be ashamed of themselves, for portraying Bligh as such a cruel and dastardly villain!
Even if it did not state on the front of this book that Justin Pollard was one of the writers of QI, you would have guessed almost immediately that he contributed to this popular BBC programme. The Interesting Bits has a very similar style to QI; however, you do miss Stephen Fry's cerebral wit and Alan Davies' cheeky banter.
The Interesting Bits will contradict much of what you were taught in school. It will make you ramble on, for at least five minutes, about how your history teacher knew nothing of history and was, quite frankly, and probably still is, planting untruths in impressionable young minds. But, after your rant is over, you will delight in the sometimes improbable, sometimes shocking, but often amusing, chestnuts that Justin Pollard's The Interesting Bits has to offer... Enjoy!

Live Free or Die Hard (Unrated Widescreen Edition)
Live Free or Die Hard (Unrated Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by stephensstuff
Price: CDN$ 22.95
29 used & new from CDN$ 1.04

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's always about the money, Feb. 3 2008
John McClane is back and he's gone digital...

Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is trying to scare America. He is a virtual terrorist... or so it seems. He is actually setting up a very elaborate scheme that involves quite a lot of very expendable computer hackers just to cover up the fact that he wants to steal some cash. When this little fact becomes known, you fully realise that you are watching a Die Hard Movie.

Live Free or Die Hard is the fourth installment in arguably the best action movie franchise ever seen and Die Hard 4.0 does not disappoint. It is full of the ingredients that we have come to love about the Die Hard movies. You have very intelligent, well-dressed, charismatic bad guys, John McClane getting more beat up and dirty as the film progresses (his distinctive white muscle vest is missing this time round) and thieves posing as terrorists. All of this is fairly familiar ground for the Die Hard movies; however, at no time does it seem unoriginal or clichéd, instead making you feel a little bit nostalgic as you enjoy the watching the unbelievable stunts interlaced with the odd sarcastic comments from the man himself, John McClane and his particularly sassy daughter.

There is the odd nod to the other Die Hard movies to keep the movie geeks happy. You have a Special Agent Johnson, (no relation), a brilliant cameo from Kevin Smith, and a couple of very obvious Star Wars references.

In short, Die Hard 4.0 is funny, action packed and has moved with the times. John McClane has never let us down...

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