27. The Man in the Woods – Rosemary Wells
It’s easy to get jaded when reading YA as a cynical adult, so whenever I read a YA novel that was published in the YA version of the trade paperback format that has a really good story, I get confused. The Man in the Woods has a good story, solid characters, a thorough characterization of a town, and was written by an author whose children’s books involve guinea pigs! Sometimes!
One thing, this is the first book I will be covering this summer that involves solving a mystery of who is being threatening by finding a typewriter, which seems weird, but, also okay as I do like typewriters and have now learned that I should never type threatening letters on a distinct one. Done.
Anyway, Helen is a fun character to follow while she tries to solve the mystery behind an accident she witnesses, navigate the horrors of joining her new school’s newspaper, and make decent friends while basically ruining the town’s legacy. It’s not very easy.
There were no typewriters under the blankets. Twiglet’s search continues.
1. Almanac – Widowspeak
2. Until the Night Is Over – Timber Timbre
3. Far from Any Road – The Handsome Family
4. Wither – True Widow
5. Old Shoes (and Picture Postcards) – Tom Waits
6. The Argus – Ween
7. Woke Up This Morning – Abner Jay
8. For the Love of Ivy – The Gun Club
9. Ceremonial Secrets – Glitter Bones
10. Bedlam – Gallon Drunk
11. The Apple & the Tree – Graveyard
12. A Thousand Years – Gallon Drunk
13. Light Into Dark – Windhand
14. Rope on Fire – Morphine
27. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself – Jen Kirkman
For women of a certain age range, especially if they’re dating and hetero, there are some questions that maybe, just maybe, people should stop asking. When are you going to settle down? and When are you going to have kids? being the main two that should never be asked. They are tiresome, they are based in outdated social constructs, and they’re nobody’s business. That’s a major premise of this book, but Jen Kirkman wants to put things a little nicer way. I don’t, so I didn’t there. I’ve read some things about how independent people who don’t want to have families are scaring society and I laugh at those fears while eating more avocado toast. [Side reality note: I’ve never actually had avocado toast and I don’t care if I ever do. Take that, societal expectations.] Mostly, I think it’s a personal choice that isn’t very kind to ask about if one is going to invalidate the woman who was asked if one doesn’t like her answer. If a thirty-year-old woman says, “Kids aren’t for me,” the correct response to that is, “Okay,” NOT “You’ll change your mind.”
Anyhoo, there’s not much to this book. That premise is societally scary and that’s fine but there’s just not a large amount of new ground on this topic here or that’s particularly funny. She got a bit ranty, but was also toned down about it, that’s okay. Woo.
Twiglet says, “No. I won’t.”
55. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
More design than book, this is a story that I did not expect to be the start of a series. It’s good looking, but it wasn’t particularly emotionally engaging for me. I do like the design, the photos, the odd afflictions of the children and their caretaker’s powers; but it all just really stayed on the surface for me. It was a bit drafty, not unlike the landscape described in the book. I recently acquired the second book in the series cheaply, so, I’ll give it a shot, see if it gets better. It could always get better.
Long ago, I chose Twiglet to be the chosen pig pictured with this book. She was a peculiar and endlessly lovable pig.
Later, I acquired my own Miss Peregrine, so named for her slightly falcon-like appearance and she has acquired her own Miss Peregrine Funko figure with its own falcon. Perhaps a peculiar choice. She also has Sam the Eagle.
30. The Christmas Killer – Patricia Windsor
This one started reeeeaaallll slow. I was like, “This is a slasher film abbreviated into book form for young’uns, set the scene quickly,” but it definitely sped up eventually. Psychic twins (one is more psychic than the other), a Poinsettia on each body, a town weirdo with clues, a killer who managed to remind me of Black Christmas, young love, and foreshadowing for that time the slug slowly blorped out of Barb’s mouth- there was a lot in The Christmas Killer and it turned out pretty decent. Definitely worth reading, in July or otherwise.
Twiglet munches on the Christmas cucumber.
1. “at” – Kauan
2. “23 December 1979” – Pentagram Home Video
3. “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand” – James Elkington
4. “Twenty-Fifth Day of December” – Middle Georgia Four
5. “How to Make Gravy” – All Our Exes Live in Texas
6. “A Mother, A Father, A Baby” – Dixon Brothers
7. “Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray” – Jon Langford and His Men of Gwent
8. “The Christmas Song” – Raveonettes
9. “Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley
10. “Christmas Time Is Here” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
11. “Christmas 1995” – James Horner (Jumanji)
12. “Oh Holy Night” – Apocalyptica
13. “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” – Type O Negative
14. “khot” – Kauan
15. “Death May Be Your Christmas Gift” – Rev. A.W. Nix
Present that’s not really a present number two – Horace! As Martin from George Romero’s Martin! But herbivore style.
2. Poltergeist – Kat Richardson
One of the “stories” I pretty much always enjoy is the “scientific measurement of ghosts gone awry” type. The Haunting of Hill House being the most awesome of all classic examples, The Legend of Hell House (I haven’t read the book yet, I just really love Roddy McDowall), and Alexandra Sokoloff’s The Unseen being some of my particular favorites – and now I can add Poltergeist from the Harper Blaine series to that list.
In Poltergeist, a university research group is trying to create an artificial poltergeist and of course, some of them start to die or be threatened, so who is faking the poltergeist? Anyone? Bueller? In a version of Seattle with Harper Blaine and the ever-present Grey, it is not necessary to fake such things. It is possible to be too successful with university research experiments.
As ghosts, it’s way easier for Pammy and Twiglet to hunt for additional ghosts they might not want me to live with. If somebody came in my home with a spirit box, they’d get a metric ton of wheeking.
54. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So – Mark Vonnegut
If you went to undergrad where I went to undergrad, you could be essentially excommunicated from the English department if you didn’t love Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The unwavering adoration for his literary genius seems like the kind of thing he wouldn’t have appreciated, but it was the status quo. I never got into any deadly pretentious conversations about Vonnegut, thankfully, and I do love his work, but I do not love most of the people who love his work enough to be important in the English department social scene. And I had no idea until I read this memoir by his son Mark that he couldn’t write for long periods of time (I…didn’t do the supplemental reading…sometimes…) because of depressive bouts. Woo!
One of the major things going for this memoir is that it doesn’t really offer any perfect solutions. There are a lot of mental illness-based memoirs where you read through certain situations and then suddenly the person writing is “fine” because they got married or are in a new relationship and I just can’t really stand those bits. They’re not that helpful. Mark Vonnegut’s strategy involves trying to find a balance that will help him avoid severe episodes and it’s not just “being married” or “working too much,” it’s obvious that many aspects go into recovering and trying to stay functional. He also demonstrates how easy it is for a psychotic break to happen to a successful person – see, you can be successful or creative or both or also a pediatrician or not and bad shit can still take you down, it’s not a personal failure to have mental illness. Vonnegut also makes sure to make it clear that being perfectly mentally well is not really a thing either, and I like that. It takes that whole “aspire to happiness” bullshit down; in my opinion, taking that down is half the battle for maintaining levels of functionality.
“Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a [guinea pig].” – Kurt Vonnegut, “I Love You, Madame Librarian” (inthesetimes.com/article/903)
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.
5. The Zombie Whisperer – Jesse Petersen
Sarah and Dave return to Seattle to conclude the Living with the Dead series. I really enjoyed this entire series. It means a lot to me to see other writers working with horror tropes allowed some damn humor. I see no reason to try to survive in the zombie apocalypse if I’m just supposed to talk about surviving all the time. Recently, I did admit at a Torchy’s Tacos that I do not want to live if the zombie apocalypse were to happen. I think my massive problems with allergies are enough reason to just wait to be eaten. I don’t want to be around when the air conditioning stops working or when everyone who was enjoying some nice Torchy’s Tacos suddenly starts eating each other instead. Not for me. Sarah and Dave survived, they kept their marriage together, they can make survival tacos out of canned black beans and re-populate the world in my imaginary memory if they must. They’ve certainly taken up the torch of sarcasm in the post-apocalypse and for that I salute their story and heartily give up the idea of having my own.
Anyway, as a whole, I’m keen on this series as I said. On its own, The Zombie Whisperer is a bit weak for reasons that seem unfortunate. There’s just a smidge too much crammed into a small amount of space with some scenes that seem like they’re the correct length and others that felt rushed and although it makes sense, the couple-based complications of the last one are a little too on the nose for me. I definitely know that when ending a series things get complicated and I’m glad the action returned to Seattle, a nice full circle works in its favor. There is a bit of a scattered feeling to it for me, and I’m not sure that’s not influenced by the reading it as an ebook in Courier type… I have to say I’m also disappointed in the publishers for not giving the series a proper end in print. Tangential short stories only in eformat? Fine. But the end of a print series should be in print with the same cover style, out of respect for the series and its author if nothing else.
Twiglet knows how important it is to end a series right. It is just as important as knowing how to pose on top of a pumpkin, a skill Twiglet mastered in mere minutes.
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.