24. Relics – Tim Lebbon
A perfect couple – one American criminology student and an English male human named Vince who is very affectionate. In London. Tragically torn apart by the black market trade in artifacts. It’s an age old story. Not really. Trying to find a missing person and ending up in a completely bizarre version of the world you thought you knew and realizing they weren’t who you thought they were is actually an age old story, but this version of it was quite fun and clicked along at a fast pace.
Relics is like what would happen if China Mieville’s bizarro-London was trimmed down and forced to make sense all the time. Lebbon does a great job of including different elements of the supernatural and not overdoing it so he can show you he’s heard of some more types of creatures. The only area where it’s heavy on the random creature information is well contained within a collection and a later a “nice” dinner, so it’s much easier to process.
This is the start of a series and I very much hope that Lebbon doesn’t go kitchen sink in the other books. I mean, it’s not like the scope isn’t widened at the end, but, I hope not to the point of “I did research on mythological creatures and I want you to know it” madness that happens with some authors.
Mortemer did a lot of research on mythological creatures, but he never bragged about it.
85. Theme Music – T. Marie Vandelly
At first, mostly due to chapter length – which is like 20 pages per, yikes – I did not think I was going to like this book. I thought I was going to have to say, why didn’t anyone mention how chapter length can help with pacing in this author’s first published book? How did it not come up? Thankfully, later on, things started moving. I still am not a fan of chapters over 10 pages in any book that wants to thrill, however, there is more to like in Theme Music than dislike overall.
I think this author made good by creating a modern domestic thriller that’s way more interesting than other modern domestic thrillers I’ve read about people being rich and having affairs and that leading to entitlement murders. So much of domestic abuse and murder between couples/families is really about entitlement, as in feeling entitled to do whatever you want and also control someone else’s ability to do whatever they want, like if they, say, wanted to divorce you or not be strangled or leave their millions to someone else. Theme Music has one hell of a domestic murder and the family involved doesn’t have an estate and yet, still manages to keep a variety of fun secrets- there’s even a secret keeping selfish aunt who manages to seem much more well rounded by the end of the story, so, yay, character development!
I also think that it’s because the domestic elements are so well thought out that the ending bothered me. Not the main twist. And because this book is WAY newer than most of what I review I’ll be a bit kind with spoiling it and just say the kitchen possession twist, which is both specific and vague. It made more sense to me when there was a hallucination element present.
The whole thing is also really gory and I really appreciated that. Things that hurt, hurt. Things that are sticky and terrible were sticky and terrible. Broken glass didn’t magically go away. Also, very horrifying for anyone with allergies and asthma – mildew smells! They haunt the furniture in this book and my nostrils and the part of my brain that knows I’ll encounter them again. It’s a good thing this book was new. I get very disappointed when the 80s and 90s novels I buy turn out to smell and I have to set them aside in my unfortunately nonarchival decontamination system for months before I can read them.
One father who never murdered anyone, Mortemer, with his biggest baby girl Pickles and Mama Murderface.
I am once again venturing out into the public to show my artwork and potentially sell a thing or two. This time I’ll be at Walker Stalker/Heroes & Villains Fan Fest in Chicago April 19, 20, &21 – I’m on the Walker Stalker side where my insistence on printing skulls and irreparably altering the world of horror to make it more guinea piggy makes more sense.
And now, a preview of some of the new stuff I’m bringing:
I’m not bringing Finny. He’ll be too busy riding his actual Big Wheel down haunted hallways.
Oh look, it’s the whole parody series of The Finning featuring Finny, Horace, and Mortemer- ready for you to stare at forever and ever. And ever.
I did finish this painting and I’m totally bringing it as long as nothing catastrophic happens at the scanning place I just took it to… As I’m on the zombie side of the convention, I continued my Romero parodying works with Peegshow. It really is finished though.
Night of the Living Ozma. She’s got her trowel, she’s black and whiteish and ready to eat someone controversially.
Stay tuned to this same guinea pig channel for a preview of the new book parodies. Yes, this time I will have much more evidence that my booth name Guinea Pigs and Books makes logical sense!
32. Slay Bells – Jo Gibson
If there is anything that the 1989 Dan Haggerty Christmas classic Elves has taught us, it’s that working in the mall on Christmas will lead to a Nazi plot coming to fruition through terrible puppetry. Take that, underemployed seasonal humans!
Slay Bells follows a similar line except that one must replace “terrible puppetry” with “really stupid reasons for killing people.” You under-priced a pie! Death is your Christmas gift! I get that he wasn’t happy about the mall being built on the farm he was supposed to inherit, but I’m not so sure the homicidally insane are going to be successful farmers anyway. It takes a different set of instincts, although being really committed to the land is definitely important.
Guinea pigs have many different sets of instincts. Mortemer’s told him he should re-design Murderface’s ear for Christmas. Not what she had in mind.
1. “sat” – Kauan
2. “The Pagans Had It Right” – Devil in a Woodpile
3. “Winter Is Coming” – Ramin Djawadi
4. “Christmas Is A-Coming” – Leadbelly
5. “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” – Elvis Presley
6. “Christmas” – Gallon Drunk
7. “A Gun for Christmas” – The Vandals
8. “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” – The Darkness
9. “The List” – Ha Ha Tonka
10. “Gremlins” – The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
11. “White Christmas” – Ron Gallo
12. “Don’t Think I’m Santa Claus” – Lil McClintock
13. “Blue Snowfall” – Kelly Hogan
14. “O Holy Night” – Murder By Death
15. “I’m Drunk Again This Christmas” – Zach Schmidt
16. “Will Hell Be Your Santa Claus?” – Rev. J.M. Gates
17. “Happy New Year Blues” – Mary Harris
Present the last – It’s better than butter.
60. Half Empty – David Rakoff
A friend of mine bought this book for me and told me that when she saw it, it “reminded her of me.” What she didn’t know is that when we worked together at the public library, I came across this book several times while shelving, thought about checking it out, and then didn’t get around to it…so it also reminded me of me.
Starting with the essay “The Bleak Shall Inherit,” Half Empty demonstrates a lot of truths that the more pessimistic among us will recognize, sort of like a New York-centric, more amusing version of the message from the wildly popular to interlibrary loan book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (Side note, I tried to skim this because of the appealing title, it said something about being fine with being normal and I had to close it. I’m abnormal and I like it, sir, and not just in an “Oh, I’m so unusual, I drink coffee with four shots of espresso and am writing a screen play at Starbucks because I MUST express myself” kind of way, more in a “What did you just say? Why do you like talking about that?/Did you really just glare at me for saying ‘hamster’?” coupled with side glances and grimaces from other people when I talk kind of way.).
One of my favorite passages had to do with the musical RENT. I don’t like paying rent even though I’ve been doing so for what feels like thousands of years now, but that’s a digression mainly meant to set up the fact that I have never actually seen RENT and despite not seeing RENT, I have had that “525,600 minutes/How do you measure/Measure a year” line stuck in my head before (and now, so do you). Rakoff mentions that the super-creative creatives of RENT don’t really spend much time creating and then mentions the songwriter “noodling on his guitar,” which has long been one of my least favorite things. I hate guitar noodling. I don’t have all day, I’m dying here. We’re all dying. Stop noodling. Anyway, a short while later in the essay he talks about the creator of RENT dying the day before RENT opened, which is awfully sad, but also something that seems like a truism of creativity at this point (especially if you have to do something else to pay rent). You have to have a blind cocky optimism in order to be willing to create because it’s unlikely that it will become popular while you’re still alive. Sometimes you have to die to be popular. Or win a Putlizer. Posthumously. Also, you have to actually follow-through with making something in order to have created something that won’t be recognized until after you’re dead. Whee! Half empty!
Morty is the friend who gave me Half Empty’s favorite guinea pig. Here’s his cute little nose. He never paid any rent.
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.
19. The Other Side of Dark – Joan Lowery Nixon
Oh, Stacy, you’re such a narc. This novel centers around young Stacy waking up from a coma to find out it’s been four years and her mother’s dead – but she’s not going to dwell on that, there’s make up to learn about and uncomfortable drinking parties to attend. She’s trying to remember her mother’s killer/her attacker’s face and everyone is a suspect, even her “love” interest… a twenty-three year old narcotics officer posing as a high school student. Seriously, how often did that happen? And, boundaries, people, boundaries. Getting statutory with a seventeen year old who thinks like a thirteen year old is, to say the least, unprofessional.
1. Johnny Hit and Run Paulene – X
2. Teenage Disease – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
3. Bedazzled Fingernails – Mastodon
4. Sinful Nature – Bear In Heaven
5. Days Are Forgotten – Kasabian
6. Eighties – Killing Joke
7. Stop, I’m Already Dead – Deadboy & the Elephantmen
8. Patrolling Days – The Hives
9. Friend or Foe – Adam & the Ants
10. I Still Believe – Tim Cappello
11. Military Man – Evil Cowards
12. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
13. Eez-Eh – Kasabian
14. Square Life – Catalogue
15. Ambulances – Ladytron
16. Suspicious Minds – Elvis
Mortemer wants to be on the other side of the laundry basket. Escaping will not dry you off faster than the towel, Morty!
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.
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
29. The Red Tree – Caitlin R. Kiernan
Atmosphere…atmosphere…atmosphere… “Don’t walk away, in silence.” No, that’s not it. It’s atmosphere…atmosphere…atmosphere… I can’t show you what’s happening because I have to spend a lot of the text telling you that what happened is too disturbing for me to show you. Tree. Cave. Wait! I’ve got it. Cigarette…cigarette…cigarette… Coffee…coffee…coffee… Space madness? Nature madness? End. No. Fin.
Gentle reader/viewer, Mortemer is napping in this picture. I’m both telling and showing here. Ha.