Category Archives: Review

“What do you MEAN ‘YOU DON’T AGREE WITH ME!?’ DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH!!!!?”

49. Dog Blood – David Moody

The second book in the Hater trilogy follows main character and thinking-man’s Hater Danny McCoyne as he searches for his daughter, who has also become a Hater aka not superhuman, not undead, but not interested in anything other than brutally killing or changing over anyone who isn’t currently a Hater.

Along the way there are also threads that the thinking man who generally hated many things is not entirely gone, was not entirely consumed by the Hate and has the possibility of something more moderately hatey… I can’t see any overtones of this book happening in current society today, no sir, I cannot.

Let Belvedere teach you the way. Feel the urge to sneef and chuckle in the face of your enemies wash over you.

Let Belvedere teach you the way. Feel the urge to sneef and chuckle in the face of your enemies wash over you.

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Fighting my internal grammar.

4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened – Allie Brosh

Much has already been said about this book, much. “ALL THE THINGS” have already been said. I too enjoyed Allie Brosh’s blog once it was pointed out to me by my friend David and I very much enjoyed reading the book and of course, as I also have depression that gets pretty serious on occasion (like lately, whee! By the way, “SPRING BREAK!” is my new shorthand cry for help/asking that you please understand that I do not feel good and I would like assistance with potentially slight cheering so I know I should stick around) this book means a lot to me. I’ve found that one of the things I consistently heard about it and the blog posts is that it helps people who don’t have depression understand how depressed people feel – and that’s true. It’s not like one of those miracle “As Seen on TV” things, it really does do that. So if you want someone to understand your depression better, it is a good idea to read the depression parts (make sure you relate, it’s possible you won’t) and hand the book to the person you want to understand and ask them to read the part about the corn nibblet under the fridge. (Side note, why is Word trying to underline “nibblet” like I don’t know how to spell corn words? Suck it, Word. Oh, that’s a fragment, huh? Whatever.)

I would like to entrust all you gentle and not-so-gentle readers with my own recent version of the corn under the fridge story, it’s going to be less skillfully told and it involves a clown and Sean O’Neal. I am a writer and people have purchased my works, I’m sure you can tell based on how well I am telling the story I told you I was going to tell you. Moving on, I am regularly on my own, a solitary woman who does like Neil Diamond, so, it’s easy for me to stay in my depressive states when they suddenly smack me in the head and say, “Don’t enjoy anything. … Keep not enjoying anything. … No one’s coming to ask you if you’d like to enjoy anything ever again, so, holding pattern.” Sometimes though, sometimes, I can find something to break me back out on my own instead of having to rely entirely upon my guinea pigs. On more than one occasion, that something has been an article by Sean O’Neal of The A.V. Club, who apparently also has depression. Ugh, I’m still doing a terrible job getting to the part that matters… Anyway, one time in the recent past, I guess it was July now that I looked up the article , it was a dark and stormy night in the middle of the afternoon and I was looking for reasons to keep my chin up on the internet. Normally a terrible idea. I stumbled across a Newswire article about the new version of Stephen King’s It with a droll title. I started reading, unphased even by the prospect of a scary clown picture and just past multiple paragraphs of graciously deployed O’Neal snark and a terrifying clown illustration was this sentence: “Plump, kissable clown lips—oh so kissable.” and I could not stop laughing. I nearly fell off my couch and found the will to live again. Anti-climactic. Thank you, Sean. Thank you, Allie. Thank you for putting up with that, Gentle Reader. Goodbye, most of my ability to tell a decent story using words.

Merricat, poised for a dramatic escape. Peregrine, poised for a dramatic nap. Spring break! Fight or flight or..sleep.

Merricat, poised for a dramatic escape. Peregrine, poised for a dramatic nap. Spring break! Fight or flight or..sleep.

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This time, it’s corporate intrigue.

4. Symbiont – Mira Grant

Problematically, in the second book of this trilogy, Sal does not magically become more interesting. Damn it. Grant also gives Sal a blank-as-hell brother character and a Harley Quinn-type that pops up to be confused, crazy, beloved by the other characters, and cause some trouble. I am honestly quite annoyed at how closely Tansy of the Parasitology trilogy, a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse… resembles Foxy of the Newsflesh trilogy, a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse. It just makes it seem like not enough time was taken in between writing these trilogies. Parasitology should not be Newsflesh take two, now with less incest and corporate instead of political intrigue. Barely anything happens in Symbiont, it feels like 499 pages of stalling when we could be on our way to a breakneck finish of someone helping Sal learn something while not driving too fast.

Grant’s books are very easy to read and involve some pop science and that’s how I will probably end up reading the last of the trilogy. I’ll be hoping for some of the characters to become realistic or fully fleshed out – three four hundred plus page books are enough space to flesh out characters, right? Right? This is probably another losing battle for me. Why do I expect fully fleshed out characters when I’m 1009 pages into a trilogy? WHY?

Murderface, displaying her level of plot-twist vigilance.

Murderface, displaying her level of plot-twist vigilance.

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“Now I have you with me, under my power”

58. Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill

I have a friend reminiscent of Judas Coyne in Heart Shaped Box, although his tastes run a little on the less expensive side in terms of collectibles, he thinks he’s too old to do certain things (in his case, he isn’t, I told him he has to have a late period – mostly so I can say I told him to while he was in his bitchy-giving up period), he likes the attention, the attention of the ladies, and doesn’t seem to particularly care how old they are…a little bit cliché, yes…but it’s probably possible to count on one hand how many straight men got into playing guitar, especially guitar, for the craft. No offense to all three of you who did that. He also has been through a long period of ditching those aforementioned ladies through extremely callous means. So, it’s a wonder we haven’t dated. There’s reasons. Some of us are trying to make better choices. Both of us, technically, but who knows how long it will last. Probably until we’re in the same place while “N.I.B.” is playing.

Anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me if he told me that he bought a ghost on the internet, it wouldn’t surprise me if he told me he regretted purchasing said ghost because it was haunting him like a displeased ex-girlfriend. After reading Heart Shaped Box, I’m actually waiting for that to happen. Maybe after his next tour and the release of his “just before he got to the bitchy-giving up period” box set. Maybe, not unlike Heart Shaped Box, there will be parts of the haunting that I find supremely unsettling.

Ozma is in love with him, I call her his "inhuman concubine." It's so cute. It's terrible. She's almost three.

Ozma is in love with him, I call her his “inhuman concubine.” It’s so cute. It’s terrible. She’s almost three.

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The album is called Reign in Blood, the song is “Raining Blood.” You’re welcome.

33. Darkest Heart – Nancy A. Collins

It’s recently come to my attention that I still know every single sound in the movie Interview with the Vampire by heart. It was on HBO the other night, presumably in anticipation of that Vampire Chronicles TV series I’ve heard minimal amounts of things about and so I watched it for the first time in ages with Finny, and Peregrine, when Finny got tired of me telling him when a noise I didn’t like was about to come on – like when Louis first dies and when that one prostitute is making that snapping noise at Lestat, and there’s more…there’s always more. I believe the main reason I know it by heart is that I used to listen to it when it was on Pay per View and I couldn’t see it (scrambled), but the sound was perfect. Apparently that’s not what other people were “watching” on scrambled Pay per View but that’s fine.

Anyway, vampires have been of interest to me for a long time, and my mom found Darkest Heart at a library sale and got it for me. It turns out it’s the last in the Sonja Blue series, and I read it first. It did make a little bit of a difference. I wasn’t entirely invested in the character as a vampire who also happened to be a “badass vampire hunter,” perhaps I’ve been tainted by Blade. But I did see a certain familiar conflict between vampiricism and humanity (“Oh, Louis, Louis, still WHINING, Louis!” – best part of the whole movie, unexpectedly) and the plot and action were fast paced (Sonja is not as mopey as Louis, even though I’ve always loved Louis, [named one of my own characters after him – a broody, angry poet werewolf] Sonja is like the Slayer to Louis’ Neutral Milk Hotel) and made it clear that there’s a toothsome quality to the series. I’ve since read more Sonja Blue books and enjoyed them, but I haven’t stumbled across the first one just yet.

"Yes, please, tell me more about all those noises I don't even understand in this movie." - Peregrine

“Yes, please, tell me more about all those noises I don’t even understand in this movie.” – Peregrine

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“Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”

61. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

In a world where many people are constantly being asked to complete the workload of three people without complaint and it seems clear that the only people who truly matter are people with money, it can be hard to find solid ground mentally.

I have seen many articles about persons in my age group that maintain the sentiment that there is something wrong with my generation because we’re not all thriving. We’re not buying what we’re supposed to. We’re not behaving as our predecessors behaved. We’re finding, at a higher rate than the past few previous generations, that we will not be making more in our lifetimes than our parents did and so what monetary class we were born into is likely to be the monetary class we die in, or we can always go lower, that’s an option too. We’re not quite “daring greatly” after being saddled with large amounts of debt in order to try greatly to find gainful, full time employment.

There are some examples of people who have done really well, who are anomalies amongst the BA-having, underemployed masses. And it’s fun to have those examples pointed out to you as though because you are smart, you should be just like those examples, when that’s very unlikely to happen for you. Paring down your goals to basically just survival feels embarrassing when you graduated from college with hope, got as Master’s degree with hope, went for a Ph.D. in your research field with hope. It’s humiliating to know that even though you made serious efforts to better yourself and pursue something you found truly worthwhile, the opportunities aren’t there after you graduated and you will be greeted with comments like “You should’ve gone into engineering,” when you have no aptitude for that and there are certainly unemployed STEM graduates feeling just as embarrassed for hoping as you are.

Reading Daring Greatly was an interesting experience for me because it came at a time when I thought I was on my way to, well, daring greatly. I’d shrugged off what I thought was the baggage I needed to shrug off, surely now was the time for some minimal self-help and then lots of happy times would follow instantly. I, of course, forgot that I’m a human with depression who works in public service full time. Oops. Even still, I appreciate what Dr. Brown has to say. I think there is a lot of validity to her views on vulnerability and I was happy she showed her work because I honestly have a lot of trouble reading material that could be considered “self help” without a nice level of bitter detached cynicism. One thing though, being courageously willing to put yourself out there in some scenarios can also lead to you becoming the non-vulnerability-interested’s scapegoat, so, it also pays to remember that not everyone can face the truth of some situations.

Duncan, daring blurrily to show her sweet little giraffe nose.

Duncan, daring blurrily to show her sweet little giraffe nose.

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I still get twitchy about the question: “Who’s got my golden arm?” It’s probably why I don’t really care for precious metals.

48. Long Lankin – Lindsey Barraclough

Every once in a while, less so nowadays, someone creates (or illustrates, damnit, Stephen Gammell) a story for young people that will scare them half to death. It will stick in the back of their minds, jumping to the surface when they hear a noise, see a creepy tree, or are walking all alone, late at night, past a graveyard. Long Lankin is a scary fucking book. Reading it made me jumpy and paranoid during the daylight and frankly, a story about post-World War II era British children and folklore should not have managed to accomplish that task. The last thing that made me that jumpy was The Blair Witch Project (saw it in the theater, pre-most of the hype or at least I had no access to hype, didn’t think it was real though, still scary. No corners).

There’s a level of scarcity and secrecy in Long Lankin that just puts a damper on the mood and pushes it into a murky, stifling place. Children aren’t allowed to know what they need to know and there’s an exciting amount of dramatic tension at play as a result. Another contributor to the effectiveness are Barraclough’s lush descriptions. She does an excellent job describing how rooms feel when the windows have been nailed shut for years and I can even feel my breath hitch thinking about the stale air (of course, as an allergic-asthmatic, that’s always going to be a sticking point of terror for me). And that classic British damp is ever-present, rotting away the shingles and leaving room for creepy beasties to get through.

The one thing that didn’t work for me was the ending, but it’s quite the journey to get there, so overall it’s a worthwhile read.

Pickles dramatically reenacts my experience reading Long Lankin. Did you hear that?

Pickles dramatically reenacts my experience reading Long Lankin. Did you hear that?

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Electric blue, page 92.

31. They Thirst – Robert McCammon

Some of the territory this book covers is familiar- if only listening, and, say, heeding warnings were revered qualities. They’re not in this book and they don’t seem to be in real life either. If only.

Anyway, this is McCammon’s take on the ensemble vampire story, and he chose a large amount of space to work with, which works to his disadvantage. It’s lengthy and wordy and a little flat in a way that reminds me of They Live (They live, they thirst. They’re doing so much!) and it’s not going to show you anything new if you’ve already read any vampire books, or, say, The Stand and Salem’s Lot. It’s one of McCammon’s early novels, and having read the later-written Swan Song first, I can see attempts at what he will achieve with an ensemble cast and a slightly out of the way supervillain. I am inclined to give some points for effort, although certain characters that become important are completely out of left field when they suddenly appear (Ratty…) and others with potential are too flat to invest in because there are so many people to follow (Andy and Solange, in particular). The main aspect that interested me was the Hammer Horror throwback of the castle.

Mortemer and Belvedere in their own ensemble drama. Father and son, scampering over a quilt on a double bed, scampering in search of a good hiding spot... to take a nap.

Mortemer and Belvedere in their own ensemble drama. Father and son, scampering over a quilt on a double bed, scampering in search of a good hiding spot… to take a nap.

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Art is a flat circle.

10. Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

Outsider art, taxidermy I don’t have to see, serial murder, solid female characters – well, solid characters in general, and some very unexpected surrealist imagery…it’s like Beukes had several of my reading habits in mind when she started writing.

Each character has a different angle on the central story and brings a different part of Detroit’s atmosphere in as well. It was really fun reading a book about Detroit that brought in the broken parts but also did some taking to task of the pretentious humans making artistic lemonade out of ruins.

There’s a lot to Broken Monsters. A lot of detail, a lot of tension, a lot of pieces that normally would have made me cringe treated with enough information and deference that I can tell she did a lot of research, essentially it provides a lot of reasons to follow Beukes as an author.

Merricat giving that look that means "I know you didn't say what you wanted to say about scenes that reminded you of True Detective's antler graffiti in this review."

Merricat giving that look that means “I know you didn’t say what you wanted to say about scenes that reminded you of True Detective’s antler graffiti in this review.”

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[Judge Perd is not a judge.]

3. An Unquiet Mind – Kay Redfield Jamison

“A Memoir of Moods and Madness” and a stone cold classic for anyone interested in mental health, An Unquiet Mind is also an engaging read. Jamison’s experience with manic behavior was extremely interesting to me – her description of running rather endlessly around a parking lot during the process of earning her degree and using “we’re psych students” as the reason when questioned stood out in particular. It sort of suits the trope of going into psychiatry because one has psychological issues, but, that doesn’t have to be true. It’s very possible to ignore your own symptoms regardless of what you’re learning about or what level of professional development you’ve achieved. Brains are tricksy.

One thing to remember while reading An Unquiet Mind is that, especially if you don’t have anyone to catch you or clean up the giant mess you may have made while manic, this is definitely not an instructional manual for what to do if you are also experiencing manic or depressive episodes. It’s a memoir, and it has helpful examples, but it is not a self-help manual. You may recognize yourself, you may end up being a little envious of some of the things Jamison has gotten to do, you may not even care about getting to stay in England for long periods of time to write (I miss it). It always amuses me that I know the struggle to publish as an academic writer exists, but when you read material from people who have ended up with published work, when they discuss writing their proposals it’s just like a given that it’s going to happen- of course it did, but, somebody should write in one of their failed projects too, give the folks at home something to relate to on the other side because there’s a lot of failed academics out there who probably assumed their work was going to get published too… (Full disclosure, I am not an academic writer. I’ve just seen a lot of stressed out academics as a librarian and I’m guessing not all of them had a streamlined path to publish their research. And I’ve read or skimmed a crapload of extremely dry articles, so I wonder if the academic writers with stronger writing voices are getting shafted.)

Twiglet, a stone cold classic anchor pig.

Twiglet, a stone cold classic anchor pig.

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