If smiling is contagious, then we shall frown

5. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is very skilled when it comes to writing unlikeable narrators. I’ve read the three novels she’s put out so far and I honestly did not like any of the narrators. I didn’t enjoy things they had to say or appreciate their actions and I came away from all three novels thinking I didn’t like the books entirely because of the unpleasant reading experience. Having read all three two years ago, and having enjoyed the film version of Gone Girl more so than the book (which I guess I’ll discuss whenever I get around to reviewing it…), I feel differently about Gillian Flynn’s work now. I think that she’s done something that’s important and maybe it should have been clearer to me while I was reading – but I was, like, paying attention to the story. At least, in the case of Dark Places, I think she succeeded in doing something important and successful with an unlikeable narrator – adding another woman to the pile of unlikeable narrators. If you can think of a whole pile of unlikeable, truly unlikeable the whole way through – not just a later-redeemed shrew character, women narrators throughout the literary canon then good for you; I can’t, and as a person who fully embraces the idea of being “gratuitously difficult” (hat tip Shirley Jackson) and has done some reading and reader’s advisory, I wish I could.

On some level I wish I could ignore more easily, social conditioning tells me that when a woman is unlikeable, I should write her off, perhaps as, in the case of Dark Places, damaged goods…clearly she cannot be functional or successful in any way, because she isn’t “nice” or “accommodating.” When a male character is unlikeable, he’s supposed to be translated as a bit of a rascal or someone who “gets things done” and doesn’t have time for pleasantries – which is bullshit. Both genders are capable of pleasantries and being accommodating and also being absolutely terrible or functional. I think that it’s very important to continue to add understanding and thorough consideration to our culture’s concept of women and becoming more and more familiar with women who are not in any way likeable is an excellent contribution to have for Gillian Flynn (especially since her books have sold so well).

I found Libby Day to be a sad, bitter character who responded to the terrifying events of her youth in a sad, bitter way. She had a false ambivalence that she used as a barrier and she made no apologies for how she chose to deal with her situation. I in no way would expect anything different of her, and yet, still don’t like her and I had very little sympathy for her. She made her choices and some of them were creepy- although as a fan of pop culture and some darker materials I could also understand why she would both loathe and need the groups who analyzed every minute detail of the crime and asked her to come and speak at their basement-conventions. Everything that wasn’t from her perspective made me want to continue reading and get through the story to find out who was ultimately responsible and what really happened surrounding the murder of her family.

Danger, slightly grumpy before his true little-old-pig grumpiness set in. I have EOG (Early Onset Grumpiness), he may have caught it from me.

Danger, slightly grumpy before his true little-old-pig grumpiness set in. I have EOG (Early Onset Grumpiness), he may have caught it from me.

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Why am I sticky?

74. Just Checking – Emily Colas

Guinea pigs and I have several things in common – we cannot produce our own vitamin C, we have hair rather than fur, and we are at our best with a consistent routine. I came to this book hoping for some kind of insight into whether or not my personal tics that have occasionally made me seem a bit too particular in situations where I’m apparently not supposed to be so concerned about whether I sit in the exact same chair every time or the fact that someone put some kind of drizzle all over the plate underneath my sandwich when I specifically ordered a sandwich because I didn’t want to use a fork and there shouldn’t be anything sticky underneath a sandwich for fuck’s sake and now I have to leave because my brain is short circuiting are actually OCD. I have decided that they are not, but not based on this book.

I’m basing my “I don’t have full on OCD” armchair-self-diagnosis mostly on the True Life episode about OCD, that one David Sedaris essay where he wants to lick the light switch and has to rock a certain number of times before he goes to sleep, and a mild viewing of an A&E show that I can’t remember the title of. I’ve decided I just have anxiety, which I do, about many things. Don’t drizzle underneath sandwiches. That seems like it should be obvious unless you’re trying to force someone into a meltdown – why would anyone want anything sticky on their hands from underneath the sandwich?! I have eczema, I do not choose things that will deliberately force me to be sticky. That one nearly caused a public scene, and I had no idea it was coming or would seem as bad as it did in person, so it is stuck in my mental craw forever.

Just Checking for me was not an insightful reading experience. It felt like a slice of life with no purpose, no through line, nothing beyond the robotic reciting of events. The praise on the jacket promised much more, but perhaps those reviewers had the same specific concerns that Colas did. I found her to be a mite on the insufferable side even though I have some similar concerns. Really the whole thing disappointed me, because there are so many dude memoirs where their issues are meant to be funny or relatable, and I “just check” and worry about things all the time, but I couldn’t find any common ground here.

Pammy had a lot of beautiful little habits like not eating the parsley until the stalks were placed by her mouth – damn those messy leaves! - and eating celery stalks in little rows like she’s doing in this picture; I believe these were the result of being a pig who perhaps received too many treats and became accustomed to a different level of personal service...not my fault at all.

Pammy had a lot of beautiful little habits like not eating the parsley until the stalks were placed by her mouth – damn those messy leaves! – and eating celery stalks in little rows like she’s doing in this picture; I believe these were the result of being a pig who perhaps received too many treats and became accustomed to a different level of personal service…not my fault at all.

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Fire in the Hole

5. Sinner – Maggie Stiefvater

As soon as I saw that companion books were being written for the less-than-honorable characters in the Beautiful Creatures and Wolves of Mercy Falls series I was excited to read them. I often like the villain, well, “villain” as in, “not involved in the annoying teen romance that is the purpose of this series” and therefore allowed to not strain their heart strings – or mine –  characters better than the main characters in young adult series. Also, writing a decent contrary perspective is something that cool writers like Elmore Leonard do, and YA could use some more Elmore Leonard-ness. I cannot believe the last season of Justified is happening, I just love Boyd and Raylan so much… Okay, bad Elmore Leonard for TV digression, sorry. I really love Boyd and Raylan. No joke. Super sad to see Justified go.

Anyway, Sinner. Cole St. Clair was definitely the most interesting character in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, and even though I know he’s from New York state, I constantly picture him as Ian the English guy from Lonely Planet with JNCOs and a black t-shirt. I know that image does not suit what anyone would be going for with a former rock star junkie werewolf, but, he’s no Trent Reznor and I don’t know enough about Andrew Eldritch’s personality and despite my usually reliable musical knowledge I can’t think of anyone else (maybe Al Jourgenson) who would be in a band named Narkotika on purpose. Maybe dude from Psychotica, but I didn’t listen to them and it seems to on the nose. Anyhoo, more digressions, I always liked Ian’s semi-maniacal enthusiasm for traveling, he seemed just as willing to please his audience by eating whatever was on offer, like that time in Mongolia he ate marmot – and then ate a sheep’s eyeball in a yurt because he was the honored guest. That’s crowd pleasing. He also had a clearly impressive sweater collection. Cole’s behavior was all over the place in this book and while I still like him, I don’t quite believe him as a character after this story. Occasionally, his behavior seemed too conscientious for a real man in his position and I kept wondering how old he is. I can’t remember it being mentioned. And I know he’s in a YA book, but this one straddled the line a bit in terms of him seeming more like a teen in terms of how he deals with relationships and yearning. Oh, the yearning for Isabel, who I no longer like that much.

Isabel now seems much more like a garden variety bitch model outside of Minnesota, but I guess that’s one type that dates rock stars and does not apologize to their cousins for constantly sending a stream of vitriol at them. Seriously, Isabel felt bad feelings for basically never saying anything nice to her cousin Sofia, but she never really apologized. She needs to apologize. Fictional character, apologize to your fictional cousin, NOW. Shoe shopping is not a sufficient apology for the emotional trauma you caused a young girl who clearly had experienced enough previous, divorce-based emotional trauma to use OCD-style living as a coping mechanism. I lost all my sympathy for Isabel through her treatment of others. And I’ve had relationships where I walked in on things that I misinterpreted because I was dating a suspicious character, so, we could have related. But she chose down and I chose slightly less down.

Anyway, both of them engaged in more adult behaviors than I would expect in YA while seeming like they hadn’t grown as characters…perhaps that is because this book is set in L.A. The secondary characters, as apparently writing those is one of Stiefvater’s strengths, were nicely drawn and enjoyable, although now I feel like I know better than to ask for their full stories. Unless they involve a scene where Isabel apologizes to Sofia.

Danger Crumples is expressing that Horace has something to apologize for if he ever turns around. Also, meet Horace. Maybe at some point you’ll see his face. He has one.

Danger Crumples is expressing that Horace has something to apologize for if he ever turns around. Also, meet Horace. Maybe at some point you’ll see his face. He has one.

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At night the ice weasels come.

7. When Midnight Comes… – Carol Beach York

I almost feel sorry for this book. I shouldn’t, it’s still more traditionally published and popular than my own work; the story just never went anywhere or did anything. It’s never been in love or on the tundra. It never had its fortune told. This book is a virgin that can’t drive. This book is stuck in a rut, a very short, vague rut, like Wilma, who should have been the main character.

Wilma, like many bedraggled, poor girls forced to visit their rich, pristine family members before her, is not happy. She dropped out of school. She dresses poorly – because she is poor – so clearly that reflects her mental state. Smart people always look super put together. At all times. That’s always been my experience and I’ve never noticed any other trends amongst the intelligentsia. Anyway, Wilma is dull and horrible and boring according to her aunt and her cousin Joan, and obviously to blame for the general sense of unease spreading throughout the Bridgeport’s home. Anyway, the cow that is Wilma is making little Charles ill, Mrs. Bridgeport an insomniac, Joan an anxious, slightly less bright social star, and she’s re-awakened little Emily’s fear of the dark. Or has she? If she had, this book would have been awesome, or, a lot more like Ghoulies. Possibly Carrie. I continuously thought that Wilma was meant to look like the book version of Carrie, I could tell that these characters were thinking “bovine” even if they didn’t say it. They’d never say it because they’re too busy hating her and wishing her away just because she’s not like them. Mrs. Bridgeport made her a shirt! And a dress! And Joan invited her friends over to meet her and then made no effort to include her in the giggling! They’ve done so much just by letting such a beast enter their home and infect it with her inability to be perfect and smart. It’s driven Mrs. Bridgeport to pills. Lots of pills. Well, not too many, she doesn’t want to go too far with sleeping. Also, there’s a grandfather clock that isn’t supposed to work stuck in the house and it does work – at night, sometimes.

The book is a like a field of missed opportunity. The privileged bitterness mounts and then they send Wilma away…and…nothing changes. Then the housekeeper leaves because her fortune teller friend says that the house is totally full of evil spirits and everyone should leave it. And then, scandal, Mrs. Bridgeport sees “SOON” written on the wall in red wax – but she can’t blame Wilma anymore – and, apparently they move. The next scene is one of those “now new people are moving in and charmed by this evil house they don’t know is totally evil” scenes. “Why did the previous family leave?” Well, I think they were needed at Stuffy Rich People Magazine to clutch their pearls and look down on those depraved poors. And, oh look, I’ve summarized the whole thing. Book report.

I seriously wish Wilma had been responsible for the evil spirits. I know that my sympathies were supposed to fall with the poor, put-upon Bridgeports since they took her in for a small vacation and then had a bad time, but it was impossible for me to care about nearly anyone in the family. I also think it was a total dick move on the part of the author to be so ridiculously superficial in every aspect of the story. Mount some dread, lady. Mount some dread.

“’SOON’? It’s no, ‘Welcome Home, Eleanor.’ That’s for sure.”

“’SOON’? It’s no, ‘Welcome Home, Eleanor.’ That’s for sure.”

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Megatherium and me

8. Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy – Melissa Milgrom

This book is glorious. I learned so much from it and took away so much more appreciation for sculpture and silicone and Damien Hirst than I would have expected.

Taxidermy and I have a complicated relationship. I’ve been going to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Iowa since I was a small child.  Mammal Hall, and Bird Hall, and Rusty the giant sloth, have tortured/inspired me. The wombat in Mammal Hall may have been a part of jump-starting my love of small, guinea pig shaped mammals (there is no guinea pig in Mammal Hall, there are a lot of terrifying mice though) and since I have yet to see a wombat in person, I’m happy I got the opportunity to see that one. My other favorite piece in there is the skunk that’s posed to spray with its back feet up in the air – nice one to whoever decided on that pose. Mammal Hall also includes a giant room full of skeletons, including an Atlantic right whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling, that I have always loved. Bones are my favorite thing to draw, and they’re just so damn important to understanding why vertebrates look the way they do and how they fit together. The main level of the museum also includes the terrors of my childhood – Rusty the giant sloth and that Devonian Coral Reef beast creature springing out of the wall. I thought Rusty was real for a very, very long time. I also thought that bones were inside the stuffed animals, even though there’s a very clear display on the ground floor of the museum that should have clued me in about that but it didn’t sink in until I read this book.

Rusty is a recreation of a Giant Ground Sloth. A terrifying, costumed for holidays, recreation that many people enjoy. He’s a pretty awesome achievement. In Still Life, I learned that taxidermists and naturalists recreate animals from other kinds of animals in competition and I did wonder what was used to make Rusty happen (and the Gigantopithecus in the basement). The competition discussed in the book takes place at a hotel that I drive by on my way to and from Mississippi, so that struck a chord too. Now I just need to visit the Dead Zoo (not mentioned, but it’s not like I can just go hang out with Damien Hirst’s official taxidermist in her clearly awesome set up) and the Museum of Natural History in New York to finish my appreciation tour. And I’d like to see one of Walter Potter’s works in person. Preferably one with guinea pigs, it’s unfortunate that the collection couldn’t stay together, almost as unfortunate as guinea pig taxidermy usually looks.

I still feel sorry for the Victorian-diorama stuffed guinea pig at After Life.

It is next to impossible to produce an effective guinea pig via taxidermy. That nose is not meant to be preserved, apparently, and it is one of their cutest features – just look at Peregrine’s beauteous nose for proof.

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Punch a higher floor

  1. Forever – Maggie Stiefvater

This is the first entry in what I have declared “The Year of the Ladies.” All my reviews in 2015 will be for books written by women, in honor of my last year’s reading experiment to try to read more books written by women than men. I read about 30 more books by women than I did by men and considering that I am not the most voracious of readers and that most of the books I read were written with adults as their intended audience I’m quite pleased with that result. I found out that I don’t like the work of one horror author I was told I would enjoy and a new series that I really do like from someone in a pretty bestselling writing group – I’m being so vague, just a preview of things I will surely mention in future posts.

For now, I’m starting with a blast from the relatively recent past. The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy has some of the best book design I’ve seen in ages (the first edition hardbacks anyway) – the cut paper, the color choices, the interior ink color choices, it’s a seriously well put together package. I would have read it just because of the design, even if I hadn’t been aware it was about werewolves, and I probably would have enjoyed it about the same amount. I’m not much for romance and Sam and Grace and the poetry and longing glances and the maudlin language they share were never very intriguing or satisfying for me as a reader; probably because I’m a cynical and bitter adult and not a teenager wistfully lusting after the possibility that someone will write a song for me and then turn me into a supernatural creature. So! I was very happy when the last installment in the trilogy included a lot more from some of the more acidic characters, Cole and Isabel. For me it was a pretty fitting end to the story, the action was finally moving at a better clip, and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the wilderness.

Side note – I recently picked up Sinner, the “villain” perspective book from this series (Beautiful Creatures has Dangerous Creatures, so far these are the only two villain or “dark side to the love story that mostly annoyed me” perspectives on established series that I’ve seen) and as I finished Forever in 2011, I’m looking forward to seeing more from the cranky Cole St. Clair.

Murderface, scratching that itch to be the first lady pig to be featured in my year of the ladies. The Queen always comes first, so first she is.

Murderface, scratching that itch to be the first lady pig to be featured in my year of the ladies. The Queen always comes first, so first she is.

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‘Please, use the word….”hamburger time” when speaking to us.’

Ah, Metalocalypse. So useful. So helpful. I’m not reviewing Metalocalypse, which is in some respects basically a lifestyle/aspirational show to me; I’m also not reviewing any books in this entry. It’s the year-end for this blog, and it’s been a rather shit year for me and the pigs, and that seems to happen a lot…anyway, I couldn’t post about either of these events when they happened because they hurt too much and frankly, they still hurt too much, I hate losing pigs. I hate hamburger time. This year hamburger time struck in April and October and could strike again at any time for my little Merricat.

P is for Pammy, who died of a massive amount of interior tumors. She was five years old and knew every single one of the pigs in my “I’m going to start keeping guinea pigs again” herd of late 2008, which is one small reason why I miss her so much. She had a little star-shaped feetsie (Mischa!) in every incident, every epidemic, every happy moment that herd went through. And she was also super cuddly and quite a bit classier than all the other pigs (sorry, other pigs, it’s true and you know it). She was my first teddy bear pig, she lived in three states, she went through an amazing amount for a guinea pig and I thought she was actually a Terminator. She was not. Or maybe she was. First generation guinea pig Terminator. She probably was.

Pammy with baby Twiglet.

Pammy with baby Twiglet.

Snuggling with Thaddeus, the Romeo to her Juliet, including balcony scenes.

Snuggling with Thaddeus, the Romeo to her Juliet, including balcony scenes.

Pillow-napping, with her squirrely buttskirt on full display.

Pillow-napping, with her squirrely buttskirt on full display.

Like I said previously, she wasn’t eaten and she never will be. She did have free reign to investigate the mixing bowls though.

Like I said previously, she wasn’t eaten and she never will be. She did have free reign to investigate the mixing bowls though.

After Thaddeus passed at Christmas, she was stuck with Ozy and Danger Crumples to follow her lead. Thankfully, they all got along together quite nicely.

After Thaddeus passed at Christmas, she was stuck with Ozy and Danger Crumples to follow her lead. Thankfully, they all got along together quite nicely.

O is for Ozymandias, and once again I say fuck bladder stones.

I found Ozy after Mortemer passed away. He had been returned to a place where I bought hay and guinea pig food, and when I stuck my finger in his cage, he sniffed me and immediately popcorned. I took that as the sign that he was meant to join my herd. He wanted Belvedere to love him, and was sort of okay with being friends with Danger Crumples most of the time (they did seem to enjoy solving mysteries together from my chair), he loved Pammy and was a good companion to her in her final months; most of all he was a sweetheart of a teddy bear pig. He took over a lot of Belvedere’s duties after he passed, like sitting behind me on the chair and checking on me every so often by suddenly appearing right next to my right eye and chewing on the bars to let me know he was still alive when I got home. He passed a stone shortly after I got him, which was really odd and a very surprising thing in my experience – Pickles’ stones were huge, Bel’s stones were huge, I don’t know how Ozy “lucked out” with smaller stones for two years – and I altered his diet completely to try to save him from more stones. It didn’t work forever, but it worked for almost three years. I miss him and his mournful vocal tone dearly, he was the last of my teddy bears.

Ozymandias with the blanket that only he was ever allowed to use.

Ozymandias with the blanket that only he was ever allowed to use.

Here he is cuddled under Mark Sandman.

Here he is cuddled under Mark Sandman.

Solving a mystery in a new room with Danger Crumples.

Solving a mystery in a new room with Danger Crumples.

Charming the ladies, as always, with Miss Peregrine, his last little girlfriend.

Charming the ladies, as always, with Miss Peregrine, his last little girlfriend.

Danger and Ozy, still trying to get somewhere other than the couch.

Danger and Ozy, still trying to get somewhere other than the couch.

Finally, M is for Merricat, who isn’t dead yet. Merricat is about one year old, I adopted her with Peregrine after Pammy passed, and she has been diagnosed with liver cancer. She and I have a very strong bond, so, of course she has craptastic-genes. We evolutionary mistakes have to stick together. I decided against chemotherapy because she is so tiny and I want her to enjoy what’s left of her life and the prognosis for a runt is not ever going to be great. So far, she has been demanding, territorial, runs around purring, and gazes out from under her log bridge like a tiny demon in the morning. She’s glorious. It’s possible that by the time this posts she’ll be gone and I’ll have lost three pigs this year and it will still feel like I’ve lost three million pigs. No more hamburger time!

My tiny demon.

My tiny demon.

Her antics occasionally tired Pere out.

Her antics occasionally tired Pere out.

Danger Crumples and Merricat are tired of being photographed.

Danger Crumples and Merricat are tired of being photographed.

Merricat, Peregrine, Ozymandias, and Danger Crumples. They were an excellent mini-herd.

Merricat, Peregrine, Ozymandias, and Danger Crumples. They were an excellent mini-herd.

And now, a song for my little ones, courtesy of Dethklok (the Toki ones are always the best):

 

 

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At the Mountains of Merricat

  1. The Basement Office – Evelyn Sabbag

Whenever contemplating winning the lottery, one of the first things I think about is always how I would set up my studio – my brightly lit, above ground studio. After reading The Basement Office, I know that staying above ground is a good idea for a few reasons. Several furry and scaly ones and psychological ones too. I almost wondered if, by deciding to set up his happy-time home office in his basement, Alan was asking to be psychologically isolated and ruin basically every aspect of his life. Relationship with wife – ruined! Relationship with work colleagues and friends – ruined! Relationship with Gandalf the excellently named cat – probably also ruined (Gandalf’s perspective isn’t fully explored)! Relationship with alcohol – blossoming… Sabbag does a great job of balancing the aspects of the basement-related disturbance that could be Alan-madness and the ones that are just a man trying to self-destruct right when he seems to have gotten what he wanted and should be on his way to living a bit of a dream life. It’s a reminder that even if I get my imaginary-studio, I could just use it to drive myself nutballs. Although having read this, I now know I could also hire a ferret to help me out with that. In the meantime, I have Merricat.

You want someone to fight off the monsters in the basement? Merricat’s your girl.

You want someone to fight off the monsters in the basement? Merricat’s your girl.

Here she is fighting a spider. It looks like it’s not going her way, but note her calm demeanor.

Here she is fighting a spider. It looks like it’s not going her way, but note her calm demeanor.

 

 

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He can’t talk because he’s a pony… I think it’s his lung

40. Bronze – Kit Reed

Based on the three books and a short story I’ve read by Kit Reed so far (Enclave, Little Sisters of the Apocalypse, Bronze, & “Waiting”), I feel she is the Ween of authors. While there are some similar concepts in her books – strongly developed female characters (including likeable and non-likeable ones), an overarching sense of impending doom – if they weren’t labeled I wouldn’t have automatically known any of them were by the same author. Ween’s albums frequently span different genres and styles of music and it’s one of the reasons I love them so damn much. I’ve also enjoyed everything I’ve read from Kit Reed so far.

I do have a couple of issues with this one – for one thing, I read a first edition, with typos, and it ended with a comma. When I went online to research whether or not it is supposed to end with a comma (It could have been a period and it would have been just fine!) I found that this book has been largely ignored on Amazon – it has one review, one star (so, I have two reviews now on Dawn of the Interns and both are very nice, but it feels weird to me to be thinking that my book is doing better than something by Kit Reed in any capacity) and on Goodreads as well, one review with threeish stars, I gave my own book five stars (I like it. I’ve read it several times years after finishing it and pretending it didn’t exist and I like it. And other authors I respect also gave their books five stars, I feel no shame in liking my own work; I’m filling a niche, man, filling a funny, rodenty niche). And no one discussed the comma! So now I have to find another copy of the paperback or something to sort my punctuation business out. Anyway, the people who reviewed it didn’t seem to like it much, didn’t care about what happened and I guess that’s okay. That wasn’t exactly my experience.

My thing is that, while it’s got that little “a tale of terror” phrase attached to the title, it’s like reading a horror story by someone who is used to horror occurring in real life as opposed to being supernaturally based. There are some supernatural elements in the story, not many though, and they aren’t fully explored. I would have been very pleased if the horror had not been spurred on mainly by a consistently stated terror felt by the characters (I was happy that the priest who heard one of their non-confessions of whining was also annoyed by their inability to be direct about what was going on); if it had been environmentally presented in addition to being regularly stated it would have been better, as that would have allowed much more of a build in unease. To be fair, I am an artist and I suck at sculpture but Mr. Cheese doesn’t and he’s used wax to cast in iron, so I’m not oblivious to artistic processes, even lost wax. I think that gave me an edge in understanding the super-bitch villainess and her drive to keep the Benedict family name at the top of the artistic money chain, even by totally evil means. My artistic familiarity also allowed me to know exactly what the twist was going to be, but it did not play out as I expected – so, I have a lot of respect for that. For all the wailing and teeth gnashing and “you don’t understand!” of the terrified Benedict family members, I definitely will allow that the twist was nicely played out. If they’d said less and acted more creepy than whiny I would have appreciated it more though. There were zero times when I wanted to give up on the story, seemingly unlike other reviewers, and in contrast to the super-bitch villainess there was a meek but working on it heroine and Great Aunt Benta, the Gandalf of the Benedict family, so, yay for multiple fully formed female characters!

This is Peregrine. She’s newish and she looks like Sam the Eagle in certain lights. Surely, if someone was making a really serious, gigantic, multi-figure bronze sculpture, they’d want to sculpt a wax figure of her and include it. I mean, look at that stance.

This is Peregrine. She’s newish and she looks like Sam the Eagle in certain lights. Surely, if someone was making a really serious, gigantic, multi-figure bronze sculpture, they’d want to sculpt a wax figure of her and include it. I mean, look at that stance.

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Scorched cinnamon.

22. Dark Harvest – Norman Partridge

Carrie for the Pumpkinhead set. It’s not an epistolary work and it’s taking elements from The Long Walk and “The Lottery” as well (of course, Carrie also had that incident with the rocks); but, for the most part the shifting perspectives, the matter of fact tone, the destruction of homes and businesses, and especially the “we’re ending this shit tonight” element of The October Boy’s journey through the town were very reminiscent of Carrie. If it had been just a bit longer or dwelled just a bit more on the reality of the town perhaps I would have felt more like the characters had some stakes they were up against though. So, the Guild doesn’t like people leaving town, huh? Why? Consequences and their evil motivations didn’t feel fully discussed to me. At least not to the point where I felt something original was happening.

When you use tropes from two Stephen King books and toss in some Shirley Jackson I want some depth because I’m being asked to treat this as an original story as opposed to an homage and it’s not a movie. The thing is, in a novel you have the space to establish stakes, establish why the reader should care, establish a person or persons for the reader to care about and for me this was light on all of those things and at 169 pages, I’m not surprised. I would have appreciated more. Maybe more people should have been allowed to speak out loud to each other, I can’t help but think that the lack of dialogue might be what’s not working for me. Basically though, this is the kind of book where I want to say “it was really cool” or “this part was awesome” because I do like a good pumpkinhead and I enjoy the ideas of ancient rites or creepy traditions in small towns and I really like reading about small-town America in time periods where help is not a cell-phone call away, but I didn’t take much from this besides immediately wanting to describe it as I did in my first fragment, “Carrie for the Pumpkinhead set.” So nice I said it twice.

Look, Ozymadias already won. He gets to leave the town. At one point I believe the town was facetiously referred to as “Corncob,” I am not sure what its real imaginary-town name is.

Look, Ozymandias already won. He gets to leave the town. At one point I believe the town was facetiously referred to as “Corncob,” I am not sure what its real imaginary-town name is.

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