Abarat (Absolute Midnight) by Clive Barker

Harper Voyager, 2011, First Edition (Hardback)

569 pages



A dazzling fantasy adventure for all ages, the third part of a quintet appearing at two yearly intervals, richly illustrated by the author. 

The Abarat: a magical otherworld composed on an archipelago of twenty-five islands – one for each hour of the day, plus an island out of time.

Candy Quackenbush, escaping her dull, dull life from the most boring place in our world, Chickentown, USA, finds that in the Abarat she has another existence entirely, one which links her to marvels and mysteries; and even to murder… 

In this, the third volume in Clive Barker’s extraordinary fantasy for both adults and children, Candy’s adventures in the amazing world of the Abarat are getting stranger by the Hour. Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight, has sent his henchmen to capture her. Why? she wonders. What would Carrion want with a girl from Minnesota? And why is Candy beginning to feel that the world of the Abarat is familiar to her? Why can she speak words of magic she doesn’t even remember learning?

There is a mystery here. And Carrion, along with his fiendish grandmother, Mater Motley, suspects that whatever Candy is, she could spoil his plans to take control of the Abarat. 

Now Candy’s companions must race against time to save her from the clutches of Carrion, and she must solve the mystery of her past before the forces of Night and Day clash and Absolute Midnight descends upon the islands. 

A final war is about to begin. And Candy is going to need to make some choices that will change her life forever… 


ON THE EARLY COAST of Idjit, where two a.m. looked south over the darkened straits toward the island of Gorgossium, there was a house, its facade much decorated, set high upon the cliffs. Its occupant went by the name of Mr. Kithit, and several others besides, but none of the names were truly his. He was known simply as the Card-Reader. The cards he read were not designed for games of chance. Far from it. He only ever used the Abaratian tarot deck, wherein a reader as expert as Mr. Kithit might find the past murmuring, the present in doubt, and the future barely opening its eyes. A decent living could be made from interpreting the way the cards fell. 


I loved Absolute Midnight. The novel is the third volume in Barker’s Abarat series. I also have hardback, first edition copies of the other two books, Abarat and Days of Magic, Nights of War. Absolute Midnight picks up right where Days of Magic, Nights of War finished after Chickentown has been almost destroyed by Izabella, the Abaratian Sea and Candy has discovered Princess Boa has been living inside her head since Candy was born with her soul inside her.

I would like to say a word about the first edition copy of Absolute Midnight before I continue. The hardback contains over 100 prints of paintings Barker created especially for this volume. The book is printed on very thick, glossy paper. The title of the book is embossed on the front cover. Overall, the novel is a very attractive package and well worth the money. It’s book demanding to be read. Very impressive.

Absolute Midnight is packed with tension, action and adventure as things really take off. Almost from the start Candy is plunged into chaos. She uses magic to have Princess Boa removed from her mind into a physical body. Too late, Candy realises Boa is a nasty piece of work when she tries to kill Candy and then kills the son of the sorceress who separated them when Candy evades her. One adventure follows another at a dizzying pace. Events are much more space out in Abarat and Days of Magic, Nights of War. Barker gives you more room to breathe in the first two volumes. You barely have time to catch your breath in Absolute Midnight. I enjoyed this much faster pace. Everything that happened in the last two volumes has been leading up to this. Absolute Midnight is much, much darker than the previous two volumes. Hence the title. Christopher Carrion’s gran, evil old bitch Mater Motley unleashes an army of darkness on the islands. Queue big battle, massacres and lots of blood and guts. Absolute Midnight contains some truly chilling moments. One of my favourite scenes is when Candy visits her mother in Chickentown in her dreams and is captured by her father, who’s lost his mind and formed a church. He has been corrupted by a set of magical Abaratian hats of a nasty piece of work Candy killed. Candy’s father and his attempts to remove Candy’s memories with an Abaratian machine were truly chilling. There are so many moment I loved and that made me turn the pages over and over again.

One of the best things about Barker’s Abarat series is the characters. Absolute Midnight is no exception. Candy becomes a much more mature and stronger character when she expels Boa from her body. Candy’s father becomes a true, full blood villain and not just the violent thug who haunts Candy’s memories. Mater Motely is every bit as evil as Barker has hinted in other volumes.

Day of Magic, Nights of War was published in 2004, seven years before Absolute Midnight. That’s a long wait. I read Day of Magic, Nights of War for the first time not long after it was published. I’ve forgotten some of what happened in Day of Magic, Nights of War. I found myself getting confused a few times with some of the references in Absolute Midnight to the other volumes. I hope I don’t need to wait as long for the next volume or I may need to do some re-reading.



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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Fiction, Novel, Clive Barker


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I was given an advance review copy for free in exchange for an honest review.


Ben Dunn has not been trafficking marijuana to his high school students. He has, however, been intimate with one, which is probably why the authorities come looking for him one afternoon. After a night spent in the drunk-tank, Ben commissions his friend’s help in planning a revenge-plot against the fellow teacher he blames for his forced removal from the school. In the end, however, he just wants to begin anew. To have his name cleared. To fix the things he’s broken. And to go back and undo the awful things he’s done. But he’s stuck in the present, where the past lingers and the future looms. 


‘Shakespeare should have ended the play with Hamlet’s final words. But the end is never where we want it. The way something ends—such as life or love—can be as unpredictable and removed from reason as the way it begins.’

I was sitting-slash-leaning sideways against the desk at the front of the room when I said this, one knee up, shoulders square to the class. Like I was getting my picture taken. I read in Teacher Man that it’s a more confident looking pose than the one where you keep both feet on the ground, hands clasped in your lap. Hard to tell, though, when you’re the one posing.

Regardless, it’s a limited posture. I don’t see it working in any other stage-like context. 


I loved All My Sins. I absolutely loved it. I started to read it late last night and fell asleep over it at 2am and resumed reading as soon I woke up. You know a books great when you absolutely have to pick it up again.

I love the first person narrator Sneath uses for All My Sins. I really like first person narrators but it can be tricky to pull off so most writers opt for the easier third person narrator. Sneath makes it work a treat in All My Sins. I love the way the novel is written as if Ben, the narrator is telling his life story (confessing his many sins) to Aislin, the love he lost. Sneath even includes little footnotes where Dunn offers additional insight to Aislin (i.e. I said or did this but this was the real motivation). This works really well.

Dunn is a great character. He’s a bit of an anti-hero. He has the best intentions but always manages to fuck it up. He staggers from one disaster to another like a blind man groping in the dark. You know what they say about the road to hell being pathed with good intentions? The choices he makes don’t show him in the best light and he comes across a total asshole at times. But there is something endearing and lovable about him. I wanted to hug him, pat his head and tell him, there, there, it’ll all work out in the end; you just need to stop shooting yourself in the foot. You can’t help root for him and prey he’ll dig his way out of the pit of shit he’s stumbled into eventually.

There are a lot of moments in All My Sins that left me with a lump in my throat. When his Dunn’s father dies and no one can get a hold of him in Ireland because he lost his phone. When Aislin tells him their few day’s together years ago is not significant to her and he believes he’s the father of her child. The times he gets wasted and makes a total arse of himself and everyone around him.

There are a couple of sections where All My Sins takes the form of a play because Dunn wants to accurately record what was said and done. The first time I saw one of these sections I thought oh lord, what the hell is this? Sneath makes this work really well. I thought it was particularly effective when Dunn is arrested for being off his face and trashing a bar.

There is only one thing about All My Sins that niggled me. There are sections where there are several pages of nothing but dialogue. I thought this was too much and should have been broken up with action or reported speech. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of All My Sins. I’m just not a fan of pages of continued dialogue.



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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Daryl Sneath, Fiction, Novel


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mr campion

I was given an advance review copy for free in exchange for an honest review.


“The idyllic English village of Lindsay Carfax isn’t run by the parish council or the local cops as you might suppose. The real bosses are the Carders. They’re a syndicate who run this place – with their own rules.” 

Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion returns to centre stage in this quintessentially British mystery, with appearances from all of Allingham’s regular characters. 

A must for fans of Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.  


‘I find it shocking,’ said Clarissa Webster. ‘Shocking, and, if you must know, rather frightening.’

She pushed back the papers on her roll-top desk, put down an empty glass and lit a cigarette. The back room of the shop called appropriately The Medley, once the kitchen of a Tudor cottage, was part office, part store. Canvases, framed and unframed, lined one wall; cardboard cartons of artists’ materials, convex mirrors, bookends and tourist souvenirs, were stacked in that curious disarray which suggests that it is part of a system understood only by its creator. 


I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Campion’s Farewell. I’d never heard of Margery Allingham or the character before I agreed to review the book. It sounded like a good old mystery yarn and a pleasant change of pace from some of the books I’ve read recently. I loved Mr Campion’s Farewell. I just might have to read some of Margery Allingham’s work now because I liked the character so much.

Mr Campion’s Farewell is an old fashioned mystery novel. We have ageing sleuth, Albert Campion sent to the little village of Lindsay Fairfax to visit his niece. What could possibly go wrong? Strange disappearances. Vandalism. Accidents that may or may not be attempted murder. The tragic death of some students a year before that may or may not be linked to the current events. Oh and not forgetting the Carders, the secret society who rule the village and keep everything hush-hush.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about Mr Campion’s Farewell is the sense of mystery that runs all the way through. These things keep happening and I was left wondering how they were connected. A school teacher goes missing and turns up after nine days. Campion learns of the local legend around ‘nine days wonder’. Odd things happen from time to time and the number nine is usually significant. A school teacher starts to mouth off about the Carders, vanishes and turns up nine days later. A group of students and hippie causing a ruckus are given nine days to clear out and on the ninth day they OD on drugs and two of them die. Campion’s niece takes a bad fall when someone intentionally lays a trp. How is this connected to the school teacher or Campion’s car being trashed? I constantly had all these questions running through my head and had to keep reading so where all the little threads joined in a big knot. I love it when writers do that and let you think for yourself instead of spelling it all out. I really liked all the references to the number nine and thought the idea of a secret sect in Suffolk was great.

I really liked the characters in Mr Campion’s Farewell. Campion was my favourite. He reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes, creeping about the woods and village at night, spying and trying to solve a mystery. There is a great scene where he gets shot in the arse while out hunting with some of the Carders that made me laugh so much I had tears in my eyes. I loved Campion’s wife as well. There are some great scenes between them when Campion is hospitalised after being shot in the arse. I like the other characters as well.

I thought the ending of Mr Campion’s Farewell was great and very original. I never saw it coming. I had no idea how everything connected and was pleasantly surprised. I love it when writers surprise me and Ripley pulls it off.



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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Fiction, Mike Ripley, Novel


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Eighteen tales devoted to mystery and imagination, to other worlds of dreams and nightmares, mediums, odd happenings. 


Disturbing experience at Mrs A-‘s home yesterday evening.



Night-Side is a very early collection of JCO published in 1977. All of the stories were previously published in various magazines.

I thought Night-Side was okay but not on a par with her later such as Heat and Other Stories (1991). I particularly enjoyed the title story, Night-Side, The Widows, Lover, Bloodstains and The Thaw.

Unlike her later collections (Heat and Other Stories), no story really stands out. I probably won’t remember any story I read a week from now. There are stories in collections like Heat and Other Stories that I still think about several years later. No story from Night-Side will stay in my head for very long.

I’ve read much better story collections and a lot worse. There are stories like Night-Side and The Widows that could be something great but sort of fizzle out and never quite fulfil their potential.

I didn’t hate the stories JCO offers in Night-Side but I didn’t love them either. I found the majority of them average and couple were even lacklustre. They stories were just so-so. They are a good example of JCO’s earlier work though and you get a glimpse of how great she could be. I still remember the first time I read High Lonesome: w & Selected Stories, 1966–2006 and JCO blew me away. The stories are all well written they just lacked – something.




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‘The world has teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. Lost in the woods.’ 

Trisha has only veered a little way off the trail. But in her panic to get back to the path, Trisha takes a turning that leads into the tangled undergrowth. Deeper and deeper in the terrifying woods.

At first it’s just the bugs, midges and mosquitoes. Then comes the hunger. For comfort she tunes her Walkman into broadcasts of the Red Sox baseball games and the performances of her hero Tom Gordon.

As darkness begins to fall, Trisha realises that she is not alone. There’s something else in the woods – watching. Waiting . . . 


THE WORLD had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. At ten o’clock on a morning in early June she was sitting in the back seat of her mother’s Dodge Caravan, wearing her blue Red Sox batting practice jersey (the one with 36 GORDON on the back) and playing with Mona, her doll. At ten thirty she was lost in the woods. By eleven she was trying not to be terrified, trying not to let herself think, This is serious, this is very serious. Trying not to think that sometimes when people got lost in the woods they got seriously hurt. Sometimes they died. 


I’ve read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon several times though not for years. I love the title of this short little novel. The title gives away absolutely nothing about the novel and even implies it might be love story. Very clever Mr King.

On the surface The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon seems to be a deceptively simple story. A girl gets lost in the woods. You can guess what happens. However, in his usual style King offers something much deeper with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I love the way King gradually builds tension and suspense. Trisha is quite calm at first and confident she will find her way back to the path. As she gets more and more lost, the novel takes on darker and darker tones and becomes quite unsettling. I love the contrast of light and dark in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

I think King created a very real world in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I could easily imagine a real girl getting lost in the woods and stumbling deeper and deeper into the woods, overcome and delirious with hunger and cold. King gave me shivers down my spine with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. This novel focuses on psychological horror and trauma rather than supernatural ones. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of King’s very few ‘straight’ novels.

There is only thing about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon that just doesn’t work for me. Trisha is hunted through the woods by a bear. King makes the mistake of giving the bear supernatural elements (i.e. Trisha feels something has drawn a circle around her when she’s asleep somehow marketing her out and scaring off other predators). Trisha imagines the bear is some kind of wasp god! There is a scene towards the end when she prepares to fight the bear that I found ludicrous. Why couldn’t it just be a hungry bear looking for dinner?

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a very good novel. King offers us something different than his usual stuff.





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PAGES: 427


YEAR: 1987



A captivating tale of heroic adventure, of dragons and princes, of mysterious mice and magical men, as only Stephen King can tell it.

The king is dead, murdered by a strange and horrible poison. But while the land of Delain mourns, the magician Flagg, unscrupulous, greedy and powerful, plots. Soon the king’s oldest son, Peter, is imprisoned at the top of a high tower, the Needle, for his father’s murder, while his younger brother, Thomas inherits the throne.

Only Peter knows the truth of his own innocence, and the truth of the evil that is Flagg. And only Peter can save Delain from the horror Flagg has in store. He has a plan, but it is dangerous and desperate and if he fails there will be no second chance. And all the while, Flagg’s words echo in his mind: ‘I’ll carry your head on my saddle-horn for a thousand years. Here I come, Peter! Coming for your head!’


Once, in a kingdom called Delain, there was a King with two sons.


The Eyes of the Dragon reminds me of the Dark Tower novels. Not least the similarity in some of the characters. I can easily imagine Roland telling his ka-tet this tale around a camp-fire as they had along the path of the Beam.

The Eyes of the Dragon is written in the style of a traditional fairy tale / bedtime story. All the expected elements are here. Good versus evil. Murder. Corruption. Treachery. All the elements of a good fantasy romp.

The villain in The Eyes of The Dragon is a nasty magician called Flagg. King fans know this name well. Flagg appears in many forms and with different names in countless King novels including The Dark Tower novels and The Stand. I love it when King does this. I love the little threads that link his novels together. The little linking strands that a non-king fan would never pick up on.

The Eyes of the Dragon is a simple tale, much simpler than King’s other novels. That’s the beauty of this little gem. The Eyes of The Dragon is a traditional story or a fable. I can imagine Roland from The Dark Tower novels being read this story tucked up into bed by his mother.

I love The Eyes of The Dragon, I absolutely love it. I’ve read this novel five or six times. I love it more each time.




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PAGES: 102


YEAR: 2011


I bought this e-book from


In this chilling original stand-alone novella, available exclusively as an eBook, Dean Koontz offers a taste of what’s to come in his novel, 77 Shadow Street, with a mesmerizing tale of a homeless boy at large in a city fraught with threats … both human and otherwise. Includes the first chapter of 77 Shadow Street.

Twelve-year-old Crispin has lived on the streets since he was nine – with only his wits and his daring to sustain him, and only his silent dog, Harley, to call his friend. He is always on the move, never lingering in any one place long enough to risk being discovered.

Still, there are certain places he returns to, like the hushed environs of St. Mary Salome Cemetery, a place where Crispin can feel at peace – safe, at least for a while, from the fearsome memories that plague him … and seep into his darkest nightmares.

But not only are his dreams haunted. Crispin has seen ghosts in the dead of night, and sensed dimensions beyond reason in broad daylight.

Alone, drifting, and scavenging to survive is no life for a boy. But the life Crispin has left behind, and is still running scared from, is an unspeakable alternative … that may yet catch up with him.

There is more to Crispin’s world, and its darkest corners have yet to be encountered, in this eBook’s special bonus: a spine-tingling excerpt from Dean Koontz’s forthcoming novel, 77 Shadow Street.


Crispin lives wild in the city, a feral boy of twelve, and he has no friend but Harley, though Harley never speaks.


The Moonlit Mind is a prelude to Koontz’s novel, 77 Shadow Street. Unlike, Wilderness this novella can be read stand alone.

I like the structure used in The Moonlit Mind. The novella moves back and forth in time. In the present, Crispin, a boy on the run from very nasty people and his sole companion, a dog named after his murdered brother live on the streets. They move constantly so the people hunting them lost their trail. The flashbacks reveal, with mounting suspense just how they ended up in this predicament. This structure built tension and compelled me to read on.

The Moonlit Mind is packed with suspense and tension. I loved the sinister and disturbing hints revealed in flashbacks. Koontz piles on unease, creepiness and suspense until it’s almost unbearable. I had chills all the way through.

Crispin befriends a sixteen year old girl, also on the run since she fled the house where her parents were slaughtered. I thought she was a fascinating character like Annamaria in the Odd Thomas books. I liked the relationship between them. I want to read 77 Shadow Street. I hope Crispin and the mysterious girl both make an appearance.

I loved the ending of The Moonlit Mind. Koontz packs a punch with this one. I need to read 77 Shadow Street now to see where Crispin’s story fits in. Damn you Dean Koontz for giving me more books to add to my already long list. I loved The Moonlit Mind. Great title as well.



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Posted by on April 5, 2014 in Dean Koontz, E-book, Fiction, Novella


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