The Stowaway, By James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth ~ 4.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 21st, 2021

320 Pages

Synopsis: From internationally bestselling authors James Murray and Darren Wearmouth comes The Stowaway, a suspenseful masterpiece that leaves a cruise ship stranded at sea with a serial killer hiding aboard…

Two years ago, Maria Fontana was the deciding vote on a jury that set alleged serial killer Wyatt Butler free. Now, she and her family are enjoying vacation on a two week long transatlantic cruise. But when passengers are discovered brutally murdered in a similar way to Butler’s ritualistic MO, the ship goes on lockdown. Maria, one of only twelve people in the world with intimate knowledge of the case, faces a perilous ticking clock. Is it a copycat? Or is she trapped on board with the bloodthirsty maniac she chose to set free? (Goodreads)

To call The Stowaway a fast read doesn’t quite do it justice. I started this 320 page book about 7:00 in the evening and finished it two hours later. The plot isn’t one that requires a lot of deep thinking. The identity of the serial killer is fairly certain from the beginning, and there aren’t that many puzzle pieces to put together. The biggest issue I had concerned a decision Maria made in the first couple of chapters which put not only herself, but her twins at risk. While it was a noble gesture, given that she had two children it didn’t ring quite true to me, and it stayed in the back of mind throughout the rest of the book. It wasn’t enough to stop my enjoyment though. The story itself was extremely tense and suspenseful, and I honestly couldn’t guess how it was going to end. I do need to warn you though, the serial killer here goes after children and there are a few graphic scenes that even made me squeamish. Otherwise, The Stowaway is a heart pounding thriller that I guarantee you’ll find impossible to put down!

My Heart is a Chainsaw, By Stephen Graham Jones ~ 3.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery/Saga Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: August 31st, 2021

416 Pages

Synopsis: In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph. (Goodreads)

Jones’ The Only Good Indians was one of my favorite horror novels of 2020 so I’ve been eagerly looking forward to diving into My Heart is a Chainsaw, especially when I saw the cover and read the premise. After spending the better part of the week making my way through it, I have to be honest and say this is one of the toughest books I’ve had to rate and review since I began this blog seven years ago.

The first chapter was fantastic and immediately hooked me, but then for about 60% of the novel, the story stuttered along at an excruciatingly slow pace. In fact, it was so bad that at certain points I have to be honest and say I skimmed a few sections, which I hate doing because I feel like I’m cheating. The chapters are overly long third person expository-style and are only broken up by Jade’s first person “Slasher 101” papers she’s writing for extra credit for her history class. Thank goodness for these breaks from the otherwise tediousness of the story, because I think they’re the only thing that kept me going. You see,  seventeen-year-old, half-Indian, Jade, is a Slasher expert, and her papers are full of fun facts and Easter eggs about film franchises such as Scream, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and more. She’s also convinced that there’s some sort real life Slasher that’s materialized in her small Idaho town, and that it’s tied somehow to the new gentrified development across the lake. Jade is a tough character to get a hold of and I spent a good portion of the story flipping back and forth on how I felt about her. She’s the poster child of unreliable characters, yet there’s something uniquely vulnerable about her that makes you loathe to turn away without discovering  what lies underneath her puzzling and unlikable exterior. When the truth is finally revealed, it’s as horrifying as the overarching plot itself, and I found myself firmly in her corner rooting for her.

As slow as the the first half of the book is, shortly past the midway point the story takes off like a bat out of Hell and all the teasing little plot points and what seems like an endless amount of minutiae, come together in a bloody and gory crescendo of mayhem and carnage that left me breathlessly wondering who was the killer and who was going to be the Final Girl. If you asked me when I was halfway through the book what I thought, I would have replied that I was disappointed and was probably only going to give it 2.5 stars. But that all changed because of those last 160 or so pages. I still can’t say I loved My Heart is a Chainsaw, but I can say that Stephen Graham Jones being called “the Jordan Peele of horror literature” is pretty on point. I finished it three days ago and it’s still interfering with my sleep. If you decide to give this a try, my advice would be to expect the slow burn of all slow burns. But if you have the time and patience the payoff is worth it…mostly.

RIP Ned Beatty…Brilliant Character Actor Was 83…He “Messed With The Primal Forces Of Nature”…His Two Most Powerful Roles!

Prolific and talented actor Ned Beatty has passed away and John has posted this wonderful tribute to him that I encourage everyone to check out! R.I.P. Ned Beatty.

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One of Hollywood most legendary character Actors died Sunday morning at the age of 83…

Beattie’s manager, Deborah Miller, confirmed the news to Deadline, saying that Beattie passed away from natural causes this morning, surrounded by his family and loved ones. No other details about his death were provided.

“Ned was an iconic, legendary talent, as well as a dear friend,” said Miller, “and he will be missed by us all.”

RIP Ned Beatty…

He had more than 180 screen roles. Here is a look at two of his most powerful performances:

“Deliverance”

Yes, he will always be known as the guy who caused a redneck hillbilly to scream out: “squeal like a pig!”

It’s one of the most shocking moments in cinema history – but it only works because Beatty made the character a real person: with emotions, shame, anger and everything else that really comes when you are…

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Pulse Nightclub Massacre 5th Anniversary

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I’m sorry for posting this so late, but I was out most of the day and am just catching up with my blog now. It’s hard to believe that five years ago today the deadliest attack against the LGBTQ community occurred. As people were joyously celebrating Latin Night at the Pulse Nightclub, a hate-filled person entered the building and killed 49 innocents and injured 53 others.

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In a rare instance of bipartisanship, both the House and the Senate have passed a bill designating the site as a national memorial, and President Biden will be signing it in the coming days. This is welcome news, but so much more needs to be done to protect those in the LGBTQ community. Hate crimes are up nationwide and according to the FBI, 17% of them are against LGBTQs. I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but until we stop judging people on the basis of skin color, religion, sexuality, and any other cockamamie reason those with infantile minds can come up with to denigrate “others,” atrocities such as what happened at Pulse will keep occurring.

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Lyrical Lines

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You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore, before you decide to be happy.

~ Jane Marczewski ~ 

Talent shows like America’s Got Talent are known for having talented contestants with heartbreaking backstories, but Simon’s Golden Buzzer recipient, Jane Marczewski, aka Nightbirde, is one for the books. Battling cancer since 2019, the deceptively fragile looking thirty-year-old showed more strength and perseverance than a great many people, despite at the time of her audition, having been given a 2% chance of survival. Thankfully she’s recently received more positive news, so fingers crossed that she goes back into remission. She also has a beautiful, ethereal voice and a true gift for songwriting. Below I’ve posted her audition video, the lyric video, and a live performance of her original song It’s Okay.