Category Archives: Review

If only we could do something about those wacky billionaires.

46. Stolen – Kelley Armstrong

Adding witches, vampires, demons, a mad scientist, and a sadistic billionaire to her urban fantasy (but this one’s mainly set in an isolated compound) series may have seemed like a good idea at the time for Kelley Armstrong. Second book in the series, throw in everything. And in fact, the Otherworld books are usually fun to read regardless of how many types of supernatural characters have been thrown in – besides, Charlaine Harris did the same thing and it happened on Buffy and Monster Squad and there are so many, many more. If one supernatural thing is real, they all must be! Here’s a kitchen sink for your trouble! It does get tiresome having to learn everyone’s powers over and over – oh you’re not all demon, you’re just half demon and a jerk- okay. On something else, you’d be super tortured and whining about not being able to find love or something…

In the context of Stolen, which came directly after Bitten – a novel dealing entirely with werewolves – it’s quite the expansion on what I thought was going to be a series dealing with the issues of one main species. And in the setting it has – some jerk billionaire uses his resources to capture and hunt different supernatural species, it makes it work. Armstrong’s female characters are very strong and very capable and I appreciate that. Even the imprisoned witches and Elena the werewolf are resourceful and making the effort to make do with their circumstances while finding a way out. It’s far more realistic than panicking and waiting for male characters to help them out…and sometimes it seems like stories have to be set in a fully supernatural universe for that to be truly understood.

Ozma, planning her escape from the couch full of pumpkins.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, Writing

“I knew a man like you once. He was wonderfully handsome and strong and brave. He lasted almost a week.”

56. Harvest Home – Thomas Tryon

The story this book tells has been imitated enough that I knew exactly where we were heading. Like Deathstalker, I’ve seen it all before and could shake my eighties haircut with hubris at it (if I had an eighties haircut). And really, the problem of the main character is hubris. He thinks he’s smart enough to figure out what’s really going on in Cornwall Coombe and stamp out those “old ways” he keeps hearing about. He thinks. He’s no rural sexpot postmaster, or frustrated outsider who should really go to college, and he’s certainly no blind elderly neighbor who just goes with the flow. No, he’s Ned, incredibly pompous narrator, so he goes forth into the corn-based fray (watch out though, corn will sneak up on you when you least expect it), with all the self-righteousness and obsession he can muster.

Finny, you don’t want to cross the Widow Peregrine when she’s looking up at you like that. Don’t get sassy.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review

Act 4 Hope is a Demon Bitch – Hamlet 2

13. Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression – Nell Casey, ed.

To an extent, shorter essays can help make the symptoms, the coping mechanisms, and the general feeling of depression much more comprehensible. When reading longer memoirs I’ve had a harder time finding pieces of what I experience and part of that is just the lack of differing viewpoints. A first person story is never going to have the thoughts of the person watching the one with depression, the friend or significant other trying to understand what they’re going through or helping them, and that’s not enough when trying to root through all the possible rabbit holes of information on the disease. It’s not enough to know the pain of one person, even if there are bits of that pain in all persons with depression. I’m very glad the Unholy Ghost collection was put together because of all of the viewpoints represented.

In the first essay, “A Delicious Placebo” by Virginia Heffernan, I found the description of her endlessly trying to get to the root of her depression incredibly jarring. It hadn’t occurred to me that finding more and more information about Why wouldn’t fix the situation or stop much of anything. I’m used to research, I’m used to figuring things out as a method for solving problems, I am not used to simply accepting that there is a problem to be coped with instead of fixed. Another essay I found incredibly useful was Meri Nana-Amah Danquah’s “Writing the Wrongs of Identity,” in which she mentions that “For every twelve joys, I had twenty-five sorrows… So much wasted time.” I can relate to that way more than I like.

Another aspect of depression that came up for me when reading these essays was class. There are certain classes of people who are not allowed to admit to themselves or say to others that they have depression. They don’t have money or time to deal with it the way someone of a different class would. They basically have to pretend that there’s nothing wrong with them and if that becomes impossible, they feel weak and are presumably seen by others of the same class as weak. And there is a lot of class warfare in this country that goes under the radar because people don’t even realize they’re being classist. I am sort of in between classes for a few reasons and I’ve found through dealing with my depression that those class barriers when you can’t “perform” are as solid as a steel door. If we want people to be able to get the help they really need, we as a country need to admit that healthcare is a right and that all illnesses are illnesses, not personal failings. No one asked to have their brain broken. No one.

Ozma displays extraordinary self-care and also owner-care skills by grooming on top of a pumpkin mid-photoshoot.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, Writing

“This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation.”

63. NOS4A2 – Joe Hill

Victoria McQueen felt very familiar to me, and not just because we’re both good at finding things. When I originally read the description for NOS4A2 before the book came out, all I could think about was Regan, the main heroine of my Squirrelpocalypse trilogy . I know that Joe Hill and I aren’t working on the same level, but we are working within the same territory. We’re a little bit like the two camps in The Thing. I’m the Norwegian one, for a variety of fun reasons. And it’s little comparisons such as that one that give me the indications that Hill and I are neighbors. Allusions are part of the fabric of our writing. The Thing is, heh, if you know what one of us is alluding to, you’ll either love the whole story more or start to resent it.

I recognized many things in NOS4A2 just as I have in other Hill works. The one that most significantly sparked for me was the bridge. I knew I’d seen it before. The vision that Vic crossing it put in my head was straight out of something that, at the time I read this, I hadn’t seen in a very long time – In the Mouth of Madness. It’s that bridge. Those lights between the boards. That rickety slapping. NOS4A2 is a masterwork of allusion and it’s also just an amazing damn original story- always what I’m aiming for as well. Christmasland reminded me a little too easily of his father’s work, which is neither here nor there, as it mostly made me worried the ending wouldn’t be satisfactory.

Merricat would’ve burned down both camps. She was a finisher and fierce little pig.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Dawn of the Interns, Day of the Robots, Night of the Squirrels, Review, Writing

One of the characters is named Daria. Guess what she’s like.

31. Silk – Caitlin R. Kiernan

I’m not going to lie, there are parts of me that just wish I was a lot cooler in the 1990s. And by “cooler” I mean, older and able to get into clubs where I would have died quickly of an asthma attack because there weren’t any smoking bans back then. Sigh. But I would have seen so many more bands I like in person (surely!) and worn my leather pants with purpose. (I had one pair. They were a very important Christmas present for my psyche. I am proud to report that they didn’t squeak when I wore them, but I did not have nearly enough opportunities. I still have them, but I’m not sure if they fit as they were last deployed on my birthday in 2005.) I probably would have said a lot of really annoying things about how “maybe I’ll just, like, write a novel about vampires or some shit and like, send it in to some random horror publisher,” that totally would have worked out. Totally. Maybe I would have developed a taste for coffee. Perhaps I would have seen Slayer in a much smaller venue than they play now – and developed permanent tinnitus early on. Dreams. As Mitch Hedberg said, “I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask them where they’re goin’ and hook up with them later.”

Anyway, all I could think about while reading Silk was the 1990s. And how ridiculously familiar many of the characters were to friends I’ve known since I did become old enough to get into music venues. Yes, let’s all hang out in the parking lot and speak way too loudly for no reason at 2AM. Let’s. Let’s also never shut up about coffee, oh wait, that’s STILL HAPPENING. Also the smoking. I have one terrible ex-boyfriend who fancied himself a filmmaker who did that thing that everyone who smokes and had a video camera when they weren’t ubiquitous on phones does where they film someone smoking in black and white and linger on the smoke. Linger. Soundtrack it with Portishead. I know I would have loved this book and considered it to be somewhat aspirational when I was in middle school – because I had no idea how annoying most people were going to turn out to be. Even me.

Silk is a little more plot conscious than some of the other Kiernan works I’ve read, but reading it as a jaded, cynical adult with some failure under my belt I had very little ability to care about the characters – partly because they’re interchangeable, partly because the genesis of Kiernan’s atmostpheric, impressionist writing style is here and it doesn’t give much room for fully developing her people.

Pickles imitates the Hype Williams’ music video staple – fish eye lens. She’s all nose here, and not too long ago someone told me guinea pigs are “all nose” and I’m a little irritated to find proof as I don’t like how he said it. Damn it, Vincent.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, Writing

“On the business end of a beam of despair”

4. Them or Us – David Moody

Welcome to the post-post-apocalypse, where if you can’t get your mental shit together, you’re doomed. Then again, you always were doomed, even if you could get your mental shit together because there’s some probably tiny handed dictator waiting to only give you food if you’re fittingly sycophantic and brutal. Sheesh. How do these people gain power? Oh wait, regardless of country, sometimes they get voted in.

Them or Us is a fittingly bleak and mildly brutal end to the Hater trilogy, set in Lowestoft, and yet, The Darkness’ fate was not mentioned. I assume Justin and Dan and co. are fine and were in a bunker when the bombs fell – after all, bombs are really only supposed to fall on Slough, isn’t that how the poem goes?

It was the coming of the …Belvedere. Damnit, too many syllables, and “Bel Bel” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Black Shuck.” He was certainly “a curious beast” though. Oooooooh.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, Writing

“Surveillance does. I hate those.”

35. Shock Value – Jason Zinoman

Short essays on horror movies that gave me the impression that a lot of horror directors act like dicks. That’s actually not too much of a surprise. There’s an accepted attitude of dickishness that has been at work in creative enterprises for an extraordinarily long time, and if you take the lack of opportunities for women into account, it gets even dickier. And sometimes that dickishness works in the favor of the horror audience, sometimes it doesn’t. Too many cooks. Also, there are apparently several factual inaccuracies in the book and that is an important thing to consider if you are into serious film criticism. I’m not that serious, but I do like accuracy so I’m at an impasse. My favorite fact from the book was easily verifiable, so you know I’m trying not to lie to you.

Anyway, I learned many interesting little tidbits from Zinoman’s work and I really enjoyed the chapters on Alien and Texas Chainsaw Massacre in particular. One name that I didn’t know before reading this that I really should have is Dan O’Bannon – although leaving Dan out seems to have been kind of a thing back in the day. Apparently he and John Carpenter ended up frenemies and he worked on that failed Jodorowsky version of Dune and is responsible for the chestburster scene from Alien existing and H.R. Giger being involved in Alien. He is not specifically responsible for my very favorite fact from the book, the one I didn’t know and committed to memory because I knew I would need to repeat it as much as possible – one of the working titles of Alien was “Star Beast.” I cannot imagine how little gravitas Alien would have had if it stayed “Star Beast.” Holy shit that is a terrible title for a horror movie. Or a thriller. Or anything that is supposed to have dark suspense. It evokes the He-Man cartoon for me. The over-projected voices, the furry half-there clothing, the complete lack of suspense…that’s what Star Beast says to me.

I could've named Danger Crumples "Star Beast" and it would've made more sense than calling Alien "Star Beast."

I could’ve named Danger Crumples “Star Beast” and it would’ve made more sense than calling Alien “Star Beast.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review

Fitter. Happier. Whatever.

16. Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

A common problem amongst depressed persons and persons with depressive tendencies is isolation. Some people are truly isolated and some are just mentally isolating themselves, both have valid situations, but this conceptually is one of the reasons that Reasons to Stay Alive was not particularly useful for me. When I was finished reading this I wanted to read a memoir of depression that didn’t end with the person happily married. Why is that the end? It doesn’t seem like it should really be the end, based on my recent experience listening to several married persons talking about how much they hate being around other people. I didn’t want to be insulting, but I did feel the urge to remind them that a quick way to get rid of all those people they know is to get divorced and move alone to a place they’ve never been. It’s entirely possible to get to a location where no one knows you and then you won’t have to worry about anyone asking how you are or being interested in your existence.

I have yet to find any books related to depression that don’t emphasize connection with other people as a “way out” and yet I’ve noticed that consistently finding connection in person is one of the things that is dwindling as technology addiction continues to manipulate peoples’ ability to communicate and muddles the line between the figurative desire for isolation (“Ugh, I hate being invited to do things.”/”Why isn’t anyone liking my latest instagram!?”) and what it really means. I’m glad that Matt Haig was able to maintain a meaningful connection throughout the episodes that he relates in Reasons to Stay Alive and that he found his reasons. And I know that in some cases, it doesn’t matter that someone has connections or support, they’re still not going to cope; but I still want to see the other side of that explored in print. I think that this era of technological disassociation and nutball governance requires new kinds of reasoning for hope. For the most part, mine’s finding the absurdity in small things. Mostly words and cavies.

 

Mortemer and Murderface in their dotage, napping. They are unable to like any of my posts to this very day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, Writing

“I love my answering machine”

54. My Secret Admirer – Carol Ellis

Isolated teen sparks the interest of local maniac, rejects common sense, lives to tell the tale. It’s hard when you move to a new town and your parents immediately abandon you to fend for yourself in your extremely isolated home. Perhaps, if you were a teenage girl who had never seen a single news report or experienced other humans, you might think that suddenly having a secret admirer leave you gifts when you are completely alone in an unfamiliar place would be fun, perhaps cute, and it wouldn’t set off every internal personal safety alarm you have even though you keep acting like you have those on your trips to town. The ominous rocks aren’t calling you, Jenny, and they certainly aren’t leaving you presents. Yeesh.

Mixtape –
1. Burden in My Hand – Soundgarden
2. What’s a Girl to Do? – Bat for Lashes
3. Comanche Moon – The Black Angels
4. Get Found – Bass Drum of Death
5. Too Real – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6. Crazy Love – Chelsea Wolfe
7. Deep Blue – Arcade Fire
8. A Brief History of Love – The Big Pink
9. Behind the Wheel – Depeche Mode
10. No Direction – Logan 5
11. Length of Love – Interpol
12. Kalopsia – Queens of the Stone Age
13. With My Eyes Closed – The Raveonettes
14. Something I Can Never Have – Vitamin String Quartet

Merricat asks, “Really? Listen to the dog, Jenny. Peaches knows what’s up.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, YA Megamix Summer

Late 1800s newspaper front pages are like: murder, murder, accident, murder, Druids, somebody’s running for office, fire, a boat sank, murder.

7. One Evil Summer – R.L. Stine

A long time ago, in a land about one hundred miles away from the land I am currently occupying, I settled in to a long afternoon of playing while sort of watching TV and stumbled upon a movie where this weird lady took a baby into the woods and gave the baby to a tree. It seemed interesting and so I watched the rest of it -and this was before the internet, before the little guide on the television, and we had no subscription to TV Guide, and so it took me a REALLY long time to figure out that it was The Guardian. Bastard film of William Friedkin who would scare me half to death by creating a relatable situation in The Exorcist – he took his name off The Guardian for cable, not that I saw the beginning where it also explained that Druids worshipped trees (but- but- when were they building henges in danger of being crushed?). I saw some wolves, I got confused, and I am now never surprised by evil nanny stories. One Evil Summer is an evil nanny/babysitter story and it needed more wolves. And a creepy tree.

Mixtape –
1. I Am the Sun – Swans
2. Black God Forest – Those Poor Bastards
3. Are You Okay? – Dum Dum Girls
4. Anything, Anything – Dramarama
5. Jinx – Snakefinger
6. Lady Shoes – Jesus Lizard
7. 1985 – Kvelertak
8. Cat Claw – The Kills
9. Vacation – Absolutely Not
10. The Serpent & The Pig – Zebras
11. Two Hearted Woman – Electric Citizen
12. Drawing Down the Moon – Blood Ceremony
13. Nothin’ – Rowland S. Howard
14. Charmer – Kings of Leon
15. Superstition – The Kills
16. Wide At Midnight – The Wytches

When they film Ozymandias’ story, which might involve creepy trees prior to my having acquired him, it’s likely that Sam Raimi will sign on to direct initially, but then we’ll have to settle for William Friedkin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, YA Megamix Summer