Full moon’s coming.

13. The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group – Catherine Jinks

The previous novel in this series was excellent – except for the eating of guinea pigs…I’ve tried to make it clear to people that guinea pigs, based on their gestation period alone, are not the best choice for vampires – or the stupid hospital people on The Walking Dead (All the guinea pigs would have been dead already unless there were already some in the constantly air conditioned hospital and no one stressed them out during the initial stages of the zombie apocalypse…unlikely. Rabbits and rats already have wilderness experience, breed way faster, and rabbits are bigger! Ahhh! I will never get over these bad choices!) – partly because of how it altered the perception that vampires are so strong and full of stolen vigor. Jinks’ vampires are creaky and full of sloth, probably because they eat relatively inactive domesticated animals (see photographic evidence provided by Pammy and Twiglet below).

The werewolf sequel does not suffer from a lack of action, and thankfully some of the vampires do show up to slow it down a touch. It’s much more of a kidnapping story than a werewolf story. I’m not entirely sure that it was a good choice to speed the sequel up so much and throw it completely into action-territory as I ended up feeling like I didn’t really know the major characters. I was just following along to see what happened without any real stake in the outcome.

Pammy and Twiglet being relatively inactive. They were champion synchronized nappers and loungers. Eyes on the prize, ladies.

Pammy and Twiglet being relatively inactive. They were champion synchronized nappers and loungers. Eyes on the prize, ladies.

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“Lying causes cat piss smell.”

36. Riding the Rap – Elmore Leonard

A Deadwood movie has been green lit! Yay! Don’t suddenly back out! I started this year quite ill, the result of a long situation with some two inch thick ice and my trusty meat cleaver… and while I was ill I finally finished watching all of Deadwood. I’ve mentioned how much I love Justified on here before, so, basically I needed to catch up on the earlier incarnation of Timothy Olyphant, lawman. And since HBO DVDs do that evil thing where they force you to click on each episode individually and then each episode has its own menu and you have to click again in order to watch each episode and I have to have a continuous stream of something on my TV in order to sleep, I switched to Justified when I needed to pass out. So, lots of Timothy Olyphant, lawman, lots, all of it great. I do prefer Raylan to Seth Bullock, but it’s mostly because Raylan says a lot more…thanks to Elmore Leonard’s gifted dialogue. I’m hoping that in the Deadwood movie Seth says a lot more. I mean, I love Al and he did need to say the most, but, maybe Seth could say some more things while he’s grimly setting that jaw? A few more? I like hearing him talk.

The plot of Riding the Rap was adapted for Justified, and Raylan doesn’t quite have the major role that I wanted him to have in the book. The criminals in this story are definitely some serious hoopleheads, as usual, including but almost excluding Reverend Dawn, and it has all the Elmore Leonard hallmarks that make his crime novels worth reading, again I mention dialogue – it’s really important to me and he is truly the best -, so it’s good.

Boyd and Raylan, Swearengen and Bullock, Ozymandias and Danger Crumples.

Boyd and Raylan, Swearengen and Bullock, Ozymandias and Danger Crumples.

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Start with a Queen, End with all the Queens

Thus ends the specified “Year of the Ladies.” Although next year starts tomorrow, I’m not clear on whether or not I want to have a theme.

The main thing I know about next year is that I have a lot of art to finish before April.  Another thing I know is that I am both petrified and anxiously awaiting the edited version of the final book in my Squirrelpocalypse trilogy – Night of the Squirrels. I will then revisit it, stare at it wondering what I was thinking, re-write some chunks, probably cry about said chunk re-writing, ask the guinea pigs if they have any ideas about why it turned out so differently than what I planned for the story in 1998 and not get ANY useful answers, and then accept it and rearrange all the semicolons before I format it and put it up with the other two. I finished it this year, on December 5th at 11:53 PM, and immediately wasn’t sure if I liked it. That probably means it’s all right because every single time I finish a book – and I’ve finished two this year, personal best, probably never to be repeated – I’m not sure if I like it. So, I await my cognitive distance and since I like to end with pictures, here are all the sweet little lady pigs that I’ve owned since 2008. Snippiest, most gratuitously disagreeable bunch of cavies ever to exist and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Murderface and Pickles in Hattiesburg

Miss Murderface and Pickles the Drummer (yes, that Pickles, and her full name is the entire line from the opening credits – that’s a behind the scenes secret you couldn’t get from very many sources).

Sepia toned teddy bear ladies Twiglet and Pammy. So fuzzy. So domineering. But so fuzzy and so good at napping.

Sepia toned teddy bear ladies Twiglet and Pammy. So fuzzy. So domineering. But so fuzzy and so good at napping.

Murderface and the lovely Duncan Hills. I only got to have Duncan for eleven months, but she had the softest ears and the sassiest disposition. She also helped me quite a bit with the planning of Day of the Robots.

Murderface and the lovely Duncan Hills. I only got to have Duncan for eleven months, but she had the softest ears and the sassiest disposition. She also helped me quite a bit with the planning of Day of the Robots.

Merricat and Peregrine, my first non-Mississippi or Iowa born lady pigs. Merricat was frighteningly special and my first lady Abyssinian. She was very small in size, but had a very large bite.

Merricat and Peregrine, my first non-Mississippi or Iowa born lady pigs. Merricat was frighteningly special and my first lady Abyssinian. She was very small in size, but had a very large bite.

Peregrine and Ozma having a mild moment. Peregrine has not been the most friendly of new friends to Ozma, but Ozma's willingness to explore is slowly, very slowly seeping in to Pere.

Peregrine and Ozma having a mild moment. Peregrine has not been the most friendly of new friends to Ozma, but Ozma’s willingness to explore is slowly, very slowly seeping in to Pere.

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Misadventures in Memorial Library

72. Shoot the Damn Dog – Sally Brampton

I was hunting down a book that most likely was mis-shelved some time in the mid-1990s when this title gave me pause. In many academic libraries, the dust jackets do not make it to the shelves, the budget for mylar is very low… anyway, without their dust jackets, there’s no blurb to read and no illustration that could have told me that, hey, she didn’t mean just any dog and the book wasn’t about being very insensitive to pets. It took me a bit to realize that the dog referenced by the title is Winston Churchill’s black dog, the one that symbolizes his depression. That’s the long way round of explaining that this snappy title came back with me, unfortunately, the book I was hunting did not – and that is kind of rare. Technically. Book hunting is one of my best skills. I have learned from reading Shoot the Damn Dog that nicknaming my own depression or choosing a symbol for it, does not fall under any of my best skills.

Sally Brampton lives in London, bonus for her, and relates her very strenuous struggle with depression, and then alcoholism to treat the depression, and then depression again plus the knowledge that alcohol is very ineffective at treating depression, and what actually helped in her case. Hers manifested itself in her throat and so she called it her “throat monster.” I’m actually very disappointed in my depression for not even bothering to manifest in a specific area or take on a recognizable animal personality. I’ve always thought it was just part of my personality- any dogs or monsters would have a hard time convincing me otherwise, and I’ve recently done some reading about the connections between chronic respiratory illnesses and depressive symptoms and that makes more sense in relation to how my depression ebbs and flows than any specific manifestation. I can say that although the lack of animal personality disappoints me, reading about how others have survived their depression and how they experience their symptoms is very helpful. And when you have depression, seeking help is the main thing you should do. Especially if you can give yours a nickname, that’s significant.

Duncan was blacker than the blackest black times infinity, plus a giraffe nose and a couple of dark red rings, but she’s a symbol of cuteness and snippy guinea pig kind. Snippy guinea pigs help me find reasons to keep living through my depressive periods.

Duncan was blacker than the blackest black times infinity, plus a giraffe nose and a couple of dark red rings, but she’s a symbol of cuteness and snippy guinea pig kind. Snippy guinea pigs help me find reasons to keep living through my depressive periods.

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Gary also reviewed the coffee at a Jiffy Lube… also four stars.

45. Drawn to the Grave – Mary Ann Mitchell

I have a tradition of starting a new horror mass market paperback while waiting for my oil to be changed. There’s something about knowing that I’m going to be sitting there for a while, maybe longer than I expect because I waited till the last possible moment the weekend before a lengthy trip like I always do, that helps me cope with the things I find annoying about mass market paperbacks, like how I always end up creasing their spines, how easy it is to lose my place when I get surprised by someone asking to show me my air filter’s dirtiness level, and the paper texture – some of them are printed on just rough enough paper that I hate it! Anyway, Drawn to the Grave was one of the Jiffy Lube paperbacks. While reading it, I kept getting distracted by the re-run of the Casey Kasem Top 40 on the radio and the smell of car fluids that kept winding its way into the waiting room, hyacinths it was not. The story is both engaging and very strange so I kept having to give sarcastic looks at the vinyl cushioned chairs around me as well. None of the chairs had read it, they couldn’t relate. The book felt weirdly like a Lifetime movie mixed with something they would have shown on Cinemax at ten PM in the 1990s. It’s a clever premise; it just struck me in a very off-putting way and I cannot entirely blame the fumes or the interruptions. It might have something to do with how I refuse to ever go on backpacking trips alone or rely on the kindness of strangers if at all possible. I also promise to never choose my lawyer based off of Yelp reviews, Kyle.

Drawing Mortemer has the opposite effect of all the drawing in Drawn to the Grave, well, sort of, I remember him better but I still get older.

Drawing Mortemer has the opposite effect of all the drawing in Drawn to the Grave, well, sort of, I remember him better but I still get older.

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My joints also reacted to the descriptions in this here book. I feel old.

54. The Keeper – Sarah Langan

There is a somewhat obvious comparison to be made when a writer sets a horror novel that encompasses quite a few perspectives in a small town in Maine. That nearly avoided, I really enjoyed Sarah Langan’s debut novel; it’s creepy and weird and bizarre and she created a wholly immersive experience. And, thankfully, I can’t say that she’s used solely stereotypes and cookie cutters to create her female characters, they’re not just there to react either. There are some definitely multi-dimensional, relatively reprehensible ladies doing some things in The Keeper. However, it’s the attention to the environment- how the rain makes the people of the town feel, the smells, that sets Langan apart. Now that I’ve finished three novels of hers, describing the environment in all its mineraly, sulphur-stinking glory seems to be her trademark and it has occasionally made my eyes burn (my allergies have that powerful of an effect on my psyche).

The chocolate-faced Abyssinian about to be eaten by a fake alligator skull is Ozma. She’s from Milwaukee. She and Peregrine almost get along. Lady pigs are awfully complicated and apparently completely unintimidated by fake alligator skulls.

The chocolate-faced Abyssinian about to be eaten by a fake alligator skull is Ozma. She’s from Milwaukee. She and Peregrine almost get along. Lady pigs are awfully complicated and apparently completely unintimidated by fake alligator skulls.

 

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On the way up, it was state three of six; on the way down, it’s state four of six.

63. Devil’s Knot – Mara Leveritt

As a long time metal listener who wore a lot of black while pissed off in high school and who always will, I was very concerned about this case when I first heard of it. To me, it was clearly a witch-hunt and nothing else. The clear mishandling, superstitions believed over facts, and ignorance on display added weight to a lot of stereotypes about the south and certainly influenced my own views before I lived there. It’s easy to lump all of the southern states together, and in the case of West Memphis, I’m sure there are still many people who don’t know that it’s in Arkansas and not Tennessee…there’s a whole Mississippi River in between West Memphis and Memphis, and when three teenagers get locked up for a crime that involves a lot of forethought like the murders of those three boys, it’s easy to make sweeping generalizations.

Devil’s Knot is a very thorough examination of the murders, the trial, and the evidence that makes an excellent companion piece to the Paradise Lost documentaries and that holds the region, the people involved – except for maybe Mr. Byers, and the evidence at a pretty objective arm’s length, which I appreciated since I read it after moving back up. I can’t say that I didn’t find any ignorance during the years that I spent driving up and down I-55, which does take you through West Memphis and past the wooded area where the boys were murdered, I can say that I found it in both directions and one side is just a tad more self-righteous about it and that still annoys me. The bureaucratic process doesn’t seem to be all that helpful for most poor people, regardless of where they’re from or currently living, so, really, ignorance and agendas that harm the poor abound across this great land – and that bureaucratic bullshit was egregiously on display in relation to this case. I can say that I was very happy to read this knowing that the West Memphis Three were already free, even though the state refuses to acknowledge how horribly they mishandled the whole case and that does not help any of the families involved.

Leveritt has also combined forces with Jason Baldwin to write a sequel to Devil’s Knot called Dark Spell, I’m looking forward to reading that one.

Mr. Cheese and I stopped for gas in West Memphis on the way back to Mississippi once and some people saw us feeding Pammy (she would not eat her roadtrip lettuce in her carrier, she had to be taken out and convinced that it was fine to eat) and thought she was a monkey. She did have a butt skirt, but no prehensile tail, not a monkey.

Mr. Cheese and I stopped for gas in West Memphis on the way back to Mississippi once and some people saw us feeding Pammy (she would not eat her roadtrip lettuce in her carrier, she had to be taken out and convinced that it was fine to eat) and thought she was a monkey. She did have a butt skirt, but no prehensile tail, not a monkey.

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The word of the day is “disappointed.” Scream accordingly.

44. I Know I Am, But What Are You? – Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee has always been one of the correspondents I enjoyed most on The Daily Show so I was happy when I saw that she had written an autobiography. It seemed like a good way to find out more about her own sense of humor for longer than a Daily Show segment. I cannot say that I really enjoyed the experience of reading this though, there were parts of it that were pretty messed up and I can’t really sympathize with her short crime spree. I definitely cringed inside more than I snickered at anything that happened and it left me feeling uncomfortable as a human. Definitely not what I expected, but I guess I should have inferred that the reading experience might be cringeworthy based on the fact that the title isn’t capitalized on the cover of the hardback edition. What are you trying to tell me with that?

Twiglet, nearly napping in protest of the proper nouns that remain lowercase in the title.

Twiglet, nearly napping in protest of the proper nouns that remain lowercase in the title.

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Oh, Daisy, I’m so sorry. How did it happen? …He walked.

43. Witch’s Sister – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The first in the series. Mrs. Tuggle is freaking terrifying. She’s manipulative, she has a funny name but she is not a nice, amusing, pleasant elderly lady…she’s like the elderly neighbor from Spaced if she really had been cooking Colin (I mean, Lancelot) ala Fatal Attraction instead of whatever she was doing with a stuffed rabbit on the stove – I’ve never used the stove-boiling option for cleaning the pigs’ stuffed animals, I stick with the washer and dryer, was she sterilizing? Dogs are involved, I barely understand them because they’re not misunderstood fuzzy things that don’t make me sneeze originally from South America. Anyhoo, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has a serious gift for creating disturbing images and situations and making some shit tense for child readers. So very tense. Someday I suspect I will locate Witch Water, The Witch Herself, and The Witch Returns and finish reading the series and end up just as scared as I did when I read The Witch’s Eye as a kid.

Belvedere’s best “standing on a pumpkin” photo. Thankfully, Mrs. Tuggle and her creeptastic attempts at manipulation will never reach his adorable little head. He was only ever loyal to me anyway, that witch would never have gotten to him.

Belvedere’s best “standing on a pumpkin” photo. Thankfully, Mrs. Tuggle and her creeptastic attempts at manipulation will never reach his adorable little head. He was only ever loyal to me anyway, that witch would never have gotten to him.

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“This is where the fish lives.”

60. Michelle Remembers – Michelle Smith & Lawrence Pazder, M.D.

A bit of a fudge in my “Year of Ladies” to include a book co-written by a dude, however, I think it’s warranted because this book is not only basically Michelle’s fault, but it’s also full of her own words with lots of ellipses between thoughts.

Michelle Remembers is The Chronicle that could be righteously blamed for a lot of the Satanic Panic. I’ve been aware of it for a long time as a Satanic Panic enthusiast and finally found a copy in the horror section of Half Price Books – on 50% off day! A sign if ever there was one. Strangely, it was not locked up in the special pricy books cabinet where it had less potential to harm anyone or inspire them to make up repressed memories. And, shockingly, I was less than impressed. The X-Files episode with Mrs. Paddock was way better. The Touch of Satan, the MST3K episode from which I quoted my title, was also way better, as long as it’s that exact episode. The Touch of Satan on its own is probably about the same level of inspiring as Michelle Remembers, that quoted title is a real line of dialogue. Someone wrote that on purpose and put it into a film. I’ve had to look it up several times to make sure they didn’t mean to say “This is where the fish live,” as in multiple fish, but that’s not what it is, it’s “This is where the fish lives,” as in only one fish. Geez-us, I have so much trouble with that. The only hope I have is that it wasn’t written that way, even though it was spoken that way.

Anyway, back to Michelle, so… Michelle shows up needing to get something off her chest and ends up in hours and hours and hours-long sessions with Dr. Pazder, going back to “that place” and recounting endless weirdness and ritual abuse and she decides to start kicking it religious-style so she feels warm and safe again despite all the ridiculous abuse and then she and her psychiatrist get married (that’s not in the book, though). I can see how this would be taken seriously when it was published. Dr. Pazder has an M.D., the editor includes a nice note, there’s some corroborative evidence of hospitalizations presented in the narrative. That said, my problem is that Satan actually shows up and so does Mary and so does Jesus. Once Satan showed up at one of the shitty Canadian Satanic rituals specifically so that he could wrap his tail around Michelle’s neck I was beyond out. Suspension of disbelief ruined! I don’t care how many rashes Michelle got – and man, I get hives and rashes for no particular reason all the time, so, perhaps she was allergic to Dr. Pazder’s floor and also demonstrating her inner guilt for making it all up? My other super-glib explanation is that Michelle wanted to be an inspirational novelist, because when I write my novels, I occasionally feel like I blacked out and went to a different place because I’m writing down what I see in my head. It’s like a movie, but I’ve never considered writing about poop-covered crosses as my security blanket like Michelle, those just don’t reside in my head. Although I’ve never imagined a lake occupied by a single fish either, so maybe my imagination just isn’t working hard enough because I haven’t been touched (enough?) by Satan. Ichy.

“Isn’t there an ethical issue raised when one marries their psychiatrist?” Merricat wonders as she swallows your soul.

“Isn’t there an ethical issue raised when one marries their psychiatrist?” Merricat wonders as she swallows your soul.

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