Badlands: The Rising – Morgan Brice
A big storm is brewing, there’s a killer on the loose, and the ghosts of Myrtle Beach are restless. Psychic medium Simon Kincaide and his sexy cop boyfriend, homicide detective Vic D’Amato have their hands full helping the Grand Strand brace for rough surf, driving rain, and high winds as a winter storm roars toward shore.
Everyone’s on edge, and rumors are rampant about sightings of Blackcoat Benny, a ghostly omen of danger, and worse, the Gallows Nine, the spirits of nine infamous criminals hanged back in the 1700s, a harbinger of disaster. Rough tides wash the wreck of an old pirate ship into shallow waters, high winds threaten to damage an old mansion with a dark past, and the citizens of the beach town hunker down to ride out the storm.
As the skies grow dark and the sea turns wild, several men from prominent local families end up dead under suspicious circumstances. Simon’s premonition confirms Vic’s gut feeling—the killing is just getting started. As Simon tries to reach out to the spirits of the murdered men to help the investigation, he’s attacked by malicious ghosts that don’t want anyone getting in the way of their long-overdue vengeance.
With the storm hammering the coast, and new victims piling up, Simon is certain that the sins and secrets of the past are coming due, and that the murders have a supernatural link. Vic and Simon race to stop the murders against an unholy deadline, but as they battle rising tides and risen ghosts, can they save the intended victims without getting trapped themselves?
The Rising is the second novel in the Badlands series. It is a MM romance intended for readers 18 years of age and older.
Hmm…I don’t know if I’m in a slump but I wasn’t into this the way I was with the first book, Badlands.
I like Simon and Vic and appreciated that the book avoided the usual petty squabbles between couples, focusing instead on the adjustment to their new life and dealing with the fears and dangers of being in a relationship with a cop and a psychic. However, much as I like these developments, I can’t help feeling that the execution of their couple downtime felt a little mechanical a.k.a kind of blah. This is something I’ve noticed with Morgan Brice‘s books, the smexy times are not necessarily forced into the scenes but they don’t feel organic either.
The book is a great mix of police and psychic procedural, taking time to lay out the step-by-step of the investigations and Simon’s rituals. Simon had to deal with dead pirates, sunken ships, haunted houses and vengeful ghosts while Vic tackled a case of multiple suicides, murder and possibly, spirit possession. The cases crossed paths and led them to two ghosts who were bitter enemies back in the day when they were privateer and pirate. And one of them had a special connection to Simon!
As interesting as these sounded, I wasn’t surprised by any twists. I found that answers came too easily, via visions. This is convenient and welcome since it makes life easier and safer for Simon and Vic but it also makes it easier to predict the outcome. I guess it makes a nice change from the usual vague and obscure psychic visions but unfortunately doesn’t help in creating tension and excitement.
The highlights for me were the seances and these were definitely suspenseful and exciting. Narrator Kale Williams did a wonderful job creating varied voices, some pitiful and some malevolent and he was able to amp up the scare factor effectively. As if that’s not scary enough, it’s quite something to read about these events in the dead of night where spirits were summoned, witches worked their magic and a storm unleashed its fury while an actual one is raging outside right at the exact moment. Talk about realism!
What’s also fascinating about this book are the rich folklore and the magical practices that the author was able to make good use in the story, particularly through Miss Eppie’s and Gabriella’s talents, in addition to Simon’s academic background and his skeleton crew’s gifts Their hoodoo and witch magic made them formidable enemies so it’s a good thing they got Simon’s back. I want to see more of these folk magic again in the future.
Overall, The Rising had all the right ingredients but some things were bland and predictable. This could be a ME thing because many people gave it high ratings. I’d still read the next books. The Badlands series, and Brice‘s paranormal universe as a whole, has many interesting elements that I would like to explore. I’ll give this one a passing grade for now.
Badlands books are best read in order. Review of book 1 here
Other psychic series you might enjoy:
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Are You Loathsome Tonight? – Poppy Z. Brite
Tales of “fearlessly offbeat” horror from the author of Lost Soulsand Exquisite Corpse (Locus).
Poppy Z. Brite, an acclaimed horror fan favorite, is known for going to the edge and back—and this collection of stories, many set against the backdrop of the author’s native New Orleans, explores the outermost regions of murder, sex, death, and religion.
Featuring titles such as “In Vermis Veritas,” “Entertaining Mr. Orton,” and “Mussolini and the Axeman’s Jazz,” as well as collaborations with Christa Faust and David Ferguson, this volume also offers notes on each story by the author, an introduction by #1 NewYork Times–bestselling author Peter Straub, and an afterword by Caitlín R. Kiernan. Are You Loathsome Tonight? is an edgy, gruesome tour of “the darkness at the heart of things [with] a number of superb stories, powerful in style and characters” (Locus)
It’s time to bust out Poppy Z. Brite.
Poppy and Clive Barker were my go-to authors back when I was still in my horror phase. This collection of shorts with the lovely title of Are You Loathsome Tonight? is a potent brew of gay, gore, sex and violence with a ghost or two coming back for more.
I had fun and a bit of nostalgic pleasure creeping myself out with the kind of stories I used to read. Blood and violent deaths I could deal but the thing that made me tsk in disapproval is Poppy’s tendency to objectify Thai ladyboys and Asian twinks, treating them as nothing more than exotic pieces of meat to be fucked and eviscerated by serial killing white boys. Let’s put this sad trope to rest, shall we?
In Vermis Veritas: In which a maggot contemplates his existence and rejoices in being a maggot. Well, enjoy your meal.
Arise: Washed up British pop star faked his own death and is now hiding in Gabon. Receives a missive from former band mate to come to North Carolina where he found new inspiration thus giving new meaning to the phrase making a comeback.
Saved: Billy who get off at guns and violence hires an Asian submissive to do his bidding. Asian sub complies, sex play ensues and Billy’s trigger finger twitches. Gratuitous.
King of Cats: A shifter version of The Poor Miller’s Apprentice and the Cat in which Nick, the apprentice, preferred the company of cats to the humdrum life of a miller. Can’t blame you, Nick.
Self-Made Man: Yet another Asian gay boy falls prey to blonde, blue-eyed Justin, a lonely cannibal who just wants a living boy to call his own. That twist in the climax was unexpected but at least they got their revenge.
Pin Money: A stab at historical featuring French-Chinese Perique and his complicated relationship with his father. Interesting characters and setting. I would love to read this as a full length novel.
America: Two-man band on the road share tall tales. This is really more of a sketch than a story and possibly, a shout-out to Lovecraft.
Entertaining Mr. Orton: Featuring two sets of couples, one, old queens in a relationship that has long since expired and the other, young men still very much in love. Goes from sad, bitter and tired to fresh, cute and sweet.
Monday’s Special: Another sketch where Mr. Brite becomes Dr. Brite as Poppy indulges in a fantasy where he took a different career path. Stick to you day job, Poppy.
Vine of the Soul: Adorable couple, Trevor and Zach from Drawing Blood, celebrates the coming of the new millennium in Amsterdam with a new concoction of chemicals. Powder sniffing aside, this is the fluffiest story of the collection.
Mussolini and the Axeman’s Jazz: Putting a twist on the historical events of the WWI era where the ghost of Francis Ferdinand goes on a hunt for the author of his assassination. I like the usual standard fare of serial killings interwoven with actual historical tidbits but the execution lack oomph.
Are You Loathsome Tonight?: The title piece paints a sordid picture of Elvis’ decline and demise for our morbid pleasure. TMI on Elvis’ bowel movement and hygiene practices. I’m more of a Beatles fan.
In Vermis Veritas – 4 Stars
Arise – 4 Stars
Saved – 4 Stars
King of Cats – 3.5 Stars
Self-Made Man – 3.5 Stars
Pin Money – 4 Stars
America – 3 Stars
Entertaining Mr. Orton – 4 Stars
Monday’s Special – 3 Stars
Vine of the Soul – 4.5 Stars
Mussolini and the Axeman’s Jazz – 2.5 Stars
Are You Loathsome Tonight? – 3.5 Stars
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Psycop: Body and Soul – Jordan Castillo Price
Thanksgiving can’t end too soon for Victor Bayne, who’s finding Jacob’s family hard to swallow. Luckily, he’s called back to work to track down a high-profile missing person.
Meanwhile, Jacob tries to find a home they can move into that’s not infested–with either cockroaches, or ghosts. As if the house-hunting isn’t stressful enough, Vic’s new partner Bob Zigler doesn’t seem to think he can do anything right. A deceased junkie with a bone to pick leads Vic and Zig on a wild chase that ends in a basement full of horrors.
Took me two tries before I got Body and Soul right. In the first try, Vic’s pill popping is so off-putting and I was like, I didn’t want to read about a junkie. Second try succeeded because I had a change of perspective and told myself Vic is taking meds and everybody takes one or two to keep going. Heck, even I got my own daily maintenance. So I’m sorry, Vic.
Victor Bayne is a person with a difficult personality. He’s neurotic, socially awkward and has a lot of bad memories of psych-wards just waiting to be triggered. That’s not to say he’s not without his charm because Jacob Marks is head over heels in love with him. And I personally love Vic’s bland attitude towards most things. That and his commentaries.
Jacob is looking for a place they could both move into, someplace free of ghosts. Vic is sure there must be a place somewhere in a city as big as Chicago. Turns out it’s harder to find one than they think. Major points to Jacob for having the patience of a saint and for indulging Vic.
Also I was listening to this in the small hours of the morning, which is the prime time for anxieties and dark thoughts. I was fervently hoping my subconscious do not pick up on the images of dead people with half their heads attached or those nasty voodooed things Vic and Zig found in the basement. What my stupid brain projected in my sleep was that of a toddler with hideous features and bendy limbs. Must be that ghost baby in Vic’s laundry room. Good job creeping me out, JCP!
Despite their ,IMO, rather abrupt start, Vic and Jacob’s relationship is going extremely well. Jacob is still the image of a perfect (sometimes too perfect) boyfriend but I’m cottoning on to the idea that there are good, dependable boyfriends in the world and one of them happens to love Vic. Also, I enjoyed tagging along with Vic and Zig in their investigation and it looks like Vic is starting to like Zigler as his partner. Zig’s a good guy so I hope he sticks around.
Yay! I am finally getting the hang of Psycop and I’m in it for the long haul.
What on earth happened to Lisa?
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
The Tutor – Bonnie Dee
Gothic romance with a twist.
Elements of The Sound of Music, The Enchanted Garden, Jane Eyre, and “true” ghost hunting shows make this story feel familiar. Gay love makes it unique.
Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.
His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.
But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.
This seems like a book where there should be a person on the cover running away from a foreboding manor while looking back. However instead of a woman, it should be that book model above. Rowan Mcallister’s We Met in Dreams had one such cover.
The Tutor is a Gothic novel without the deep, complicated prose of the Gothic classics. It is dark, atmospheric and creepy but the scare factor is blunted by the irreverent humor and blase attitude of the almost always cheery Graham Cowrie. Graham is, in his own words, a jovial, affable person with an active imagination. He really is. He tends to be cheeky even to the ghostly voice of the dead wife, Lavinia, in his head.
He laughs at the face of spirit possession.
Graham, whom I suspect is an atheist, seems to only half believe this ghost business the entire time even when he was looking for ways to exorcise the spirits. I liked this side of him. His personality was what carried the book to the end.
Richard Allinson is a dour, sad man who is terrible at dealing with his traumatized sons. I don’t know what attracted Graham to him other than he is handsome and he pinged on Graham’s gaydar. That and their mutual love of books perhaps. Whatever the case I think Richard and his equally sad sons need a ray of sunshine in their lives and if Graham is it, then who I am to say otherwise. Graham certainly loved playing the coquette with Richard and Richard wasn’t so bad after having all his USTs resolved.
Whitney and Clive are nine-year old twin boys grieving the loss of their mother. Clive does not speak because of the trauma and Whitney is the one who speaks for both of them. At first, they try to drive Graham away with pranks and tricks but Graham won them over with his fun, inventive lessons and masterful story telling. Juggling the responsibilities of tutor, nursemaid and caretaker, Graham tries to keep young active minds occupied, help the boys get over their loss and try to reconcile them with their father. All that is missing in this scenario is a talk about favorite things and making play clothes out of draperies.
Allinson Hall is exactly the kind of house with a name I want to get lost in, minus the malevolent spirit. Can you imagine all the secret places you can discover?! As much a character as a setting, the hall is dark, gloomy and cold and infects its inhabitants with melancholy so profound they kill themselves. It doesn’t help that it rains all the time and nobody seems to have an umbrella.
The resolution was cliche. I keep thinking maybe we will get an ending where all these mysterious happenings would be explained by perfectly logical, non-supernatural means but Bonnie Dee went ahead with the ghosts, evil spirits and Exorcism 101 techniques. Funnily enough, Graham still seems to be taking things a bit too lightly. He really is the best guy to take when exploring haunted houses.
By itself, the story was moderately enjoyable but I could definitely say the experience was made better because of narrator, Ruri Carter, whose dry comments and occasional profanity as heard through Graham’s acquired posh accent seemed funnier than they actually are. When a plummy voice says “fuck”, I imagined this is how William sounds like when he says “Fuck you, Harry! I’m next in line.”
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love