- My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
Hendrix has definitely made some novelist progress since Horrorstor. There are many details in My Best Friend’s Exorcism that really work – the descriptions of Charleston and summer activities in the south in general, the extreme specifics of cassette destruction, and lots and lots of fluids (although I can’t say I ever associated pickles with cadaver labs and I frankly don’t want to, I’ve never thought formalin and pickles had a similar scent either). The description of Margaret in her bed was stomach churning. And I very deeply understood what Abby’s mom was on about when she told her that her rich friends would use her as a scapegoat. I understand that position better than I ever wanted to, the powerful trying to keep the powerless in their place. The book also reads like a shot and I did stay up to keep going to find a non-paranoia inducing scene the second night I was reading it. I have very specific memories of the first time I watched The Exorcist that were invoked reading this (damn it, Regan-me similarities, you still bother me!) and those never make me feel comfortable going to sleep. My imagination is very strong and will not be denied.
On the other hand, the sense that I was being told too many things bothered me at several points. These characters were stronger than the ones in Horrorstor, but they’re still being written with a sense of remove – like they were conceptualized as types and not people and there’s some fight against that but the distance won. The exorcism itself also didn’t work for me; it seemed to go by really quickly and there was a lot of time and build up of what was going on with Gretchen that just didn’t square with the way the exorcism happened. Maybe if WHAM! had been involved instead of Phil Collins. You know Phil Collins made some kind of deal…you know it.
“The power of Phil is not compelling, Belvedere! I didn’t even like ‘Sussudio’!” Pickles will not be exorcised. She was never possessed, so it makes sense.
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.
51. The Drifter – Richie Tankersley Cusick
Mrs. Baxter could have used a nice visit with the Sexual Harassment Panda from South Park before starting on her business plan. When your daughter says the man you hired as a live-in handyman after he just showed up one day at your door in your new town and has been giving her the creeper eyes and you imply that she should stop asking for it -that makes for a saaaaaad panda. Just a reminder, Mrs. Baxter, you should be glad your daughter told you about it BEFORE anything criminally prosecutable happened.
1. Sinking with the Sun – The Raveonettes
2. Shallow Water – Electric Citizen
3. She Cried – Rowland S. Howard
4. Wild Charms – The Kills
5. Goodbye Gemini – Blood Ceremony
6. The Deserters – Rachel Zeffira
7. Constellations – Black Mountain
8. Nothin’ – Rowland S. Howard
9. Headed Nowhere – Those Poor Bastards
10. Big Dark Love – Murder By Death
11. Hollow Earth – Zebras
12. Four Teeth – True Widow
13. Black Eyed Dog – Swans
14. Lonely Sunday – Reignwolf
15. Calla – Russian Circles
Belvedere doesn’t take kindly to age based power imbalances being used to the advantage of walking jean jackets.
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.
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.
59. The Haunting of Frances Rain – Margaret Buffie
Let me start with this, ghosting when someone already has tickets to a very important show that is on your side of the country is not very nice. The person who has the tickets will probably never forgive you, especially if those tickets were to see Uncle Acid on the very day of their birth. However, that very situation is what led me to reading this book in the Atlanta airport while waiting for someone who was a vastly better companion for the entirety of my birthday odyssey (we all knew I was describing myself being ghosted, right, being screwed over is one of the houses for my wheels when it comes to relationships, not just me though, thankfully).
Anyway, I was having a hard time concentrating on it because the baggage claim area associated with the flight I was tracking moved like three times and I kept looking up and seeing that it was different and having to wander down to a big screen and re-check and then go find a new part of the wall to lean on and I got there too early because I know that airport is confusing, I have been a passenger there before. Eventually I found a good post to lean against to wait and realized that this is a pretty intriguing book.
The characters were realistically drawn, which is pretty necessary when there’s a pair of glasses that allow the wearer to see the past as the catalyst for the story… The setting is very densely composed; it’s easy to feel the damp chill and see the rotting remains of the cabin on the island. I also realized that I’ve barely read anything set in Canada and the little details that I didn’t recognize were amusing. And, not unlike the situation that precipitated my starting this book, there were no loose ends that did not resolve in a satisfactory manner. Although, to be fair to satisfactory resolution, the story didn’t have any pandas, but mine totally did. Me and Yang Yang have the same birthday. He was napping through his- that was not my path. But, his name means “little sea” and this story is set on a lake. Everything’s coming full circle there. Ew.
Belvedere has never been to the airport in Atlanta, seen Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, or watched a panda sleep. He’s also never successfully worn glasses to see into the past, paddled a canoe, or had a summer romance while coming to terms with his stepfather. He’s also never made an attempt to ruin anyone’s birthday so he’s definitely still ahead.
1. I Come from the Water – Toadies
2. Mud – Legendary Shack Shakers
3. I.O.U. – Tomahawk
4. The Worst There Is – The Ettes
5. Runaway Girls – Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats
6. If Crimson Was Your Colour – Witchcraft
7. Solitary Traveler – Torche
8. Black Motorcade – Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats
9. I Am Lost – Those Poor Bastards
10. A Tall Shadow – Graveyard Train
11. In the Pines – Widowspeak
12. Sweetheart in the Summer – Ween
13. Cemetery Breeding – Black Mountain
14. Sulk – Trust
15. Mile Markers – The Dead Weather
16. Capt. Midnight – Tomahawk
17. Shout Me Out – TV on the Radio
48. The Grounding of Group Six – Julian F. Thompson
For me, this book has a bit of a reputation. I knew I had to read it, but I was also dreading it a little bit, because when you decide that you’re going to write this one kind of story and then you hear about a YA book from the 1980s that has a similar plot and you’re totally immersed in pop culture and read a ton of 1980s YA but you hadn’t come across this yet…it causes a rumble of anxiety. So imagine my surprise when I started reading it and got a smidge bored. Surprise.
To me, Thompson copped out, in a few areas. The book could best be described as “murky,” like when I put too much paint in one spot trying to fix something I didn’t realize wasn’t going to work when I started. Losing the light areas means I lose the depth of color I want and The Grounding of Group Six could have used more depth. The characters overlapped a little too much for me and the significance of the situation as a whole was glossed over emotionally throughout the book in favor of somewhat effective revengencing. The antagonists were definitely interesting, but reading about the main group just made me feel like I was reading The Breakfast Club, camping edition. And that would have been okay if any larger, emotionally significant choices had been made. Too many near misses.
The photographic choice I made to let Belvedere’s little white pants be the focus in this photo instead of Mortemer’s adorable face is my analogy of the process of making choices while writing this book.
1. Underachievers March and Fight Song – Archers of Loaf
2. Fairweather Friends – Queens of the Stone Age
3. Secret Plans – Eagles of Death Metal
4. The Deadenin’ – Legendary Shack Shakers
5. When God Comes Back – All Them Witches
6. Overkill (Live) – Motorhead
7. My Own Bare Hands – Ween
8. Mudslide – The Darkness
9. Got the Power – Eagles of Death Metal
10. I’m Not a Young Man Anymore – The Wolfmen
11. Climb Safely – Restavrant
12. Lazy as Fuck – Evil Cowards
13. Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy) – Ween
14. Always Looking – Dum Dum Girls
15. Kissy Kissy – The Kills
16. Staring at the Sun – TV on the Radio
17. Fault Line – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
44. The Strain – Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
So, I like Guillermo Del Toro, quite a bit. Details like the Hellboy II elf prince guy’s blood looking exactly like McDonald’s barbecue sauce not withstanding- even though I was fond of that and consider it to be a clever observation regardless of whether or not it really is clever- I feel like I can usually trust his world building and storytelling for the most part. I really enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth. Anyway, The Strain had some serious-level clunkiness and suffered a bit from the “this is a novel, but we’d prefer it to be a screenplay of some sort” syndrome.
I do not care for Ephraim. That is not helpful when reading the book. I also do not care for his family. Whatever, Kelly. My lack of concern was not helped by the television show, at all. In fact, it made me totally hate Zack. There is no award for not doing what you’ve been asked to do for your own safety, kid, and if there was, Carl is, was, and always will be the winner…emeritus. Get in the house, Carl! Where’s Carl? Carl is not in the house. Moving on yet again, I also feel bad for the actress who plays Kelly because she keeps playing characters who end up in relationships with supernatural creatures – or are trying to, like she was on Bitten. She’s got a really good “concerned” tone in her voice, but I hope she someday gets into a better supernatural relationship, one that doesn’t kill her like on Being Human or turn her into a bald vampire like on The Strain. I haven’t really moved on, have I? My favorite things about this first of the trilogy is that it spawned a really disgusting advertising campaign for the TV show, that the Abraham Sertrakian character is played quite nicely by David Bradley, and the A.V. Club comments section for the TV show recaps wherein the discussion of Corey Stoll’s wig in the episodes is delightful – I agree, the wig’s state of disarray really does convey the majority of the emotion Ephraim the annoying is feeling.
“The wig is not that bad!” – Belvedere
“Yes it is! You know it is.” – Pickles
10. Spirit – Graham Masterton
Oh, Graham. Jeebus. I am a big fan of the Snow Queen fairytale, especially Kelly Link’s version “Travels with the Snow Queen” from Stranger Things Happen (no one will ever regret reading this short story collection, so, I unabashedly recommend it); and this was the second Graham “master of the vulgar description that gets stuck in your head and makes you basically forget most of the plot” Masterton book I’ve read, so I feel like I was prepared when I read this, but I was quite taken aback by the olive oil scene. Totally prepared for the frostbitten to a crisp man scene [insert Pillsbury Doughboy giggle], not the olive oil. Why was that even in there? Anyway, it was an interesting take on the Snow Queen, and the perils of regret and losing a child, and ghosts, and girls named Peggy and a primer on things that should not happen with cooking oils… Hard frown.
“They did what with olive oil?” Belvedere, perpetually too young to read Graham Masterton books. I wouldn’t even let his mother Murderface read a Graham Masterton book and she was a very advanced pig.