Quill’s Reading Wrap-Up: July 2016

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The first thing I’d like to address is that this blog has suffered thanks to real life getting a bit complicated. Due to an illness and a couple of wisdom teeth going bad (related? I can no longer tell), I have been out of sorts. This past Wednesday, I had said wisdom teeth removed surgically, and I’m still recovering. But I wanted to do this wrap-up before it became no longer relevant. Because I am still recovering, go easy on me if this wrap-up seems scattered. As is always my way, despite everything, I got lots of reading done. So let’s get started!

Jazz by Toni Morrison (My Rating: 5/5) Toni Morrison is smarter than me, and so it makes it somewhat challenging to talk about her books and feel as intelligent as they are. This is the second in a loose trilogy that begins with Beloved and ends with Paradise, each book taking on a theme from Dante’s The Divine Comedy. This one being purgatory. I am ill-equipped to go on about that, but I can say this book did feel like people caught in limbo, waiting for judgment, waiting for the moment when their lives can continue. It also, as the title implies, plays like a jazz riff. All these discordant notes are sounding together, and they seem as if they don’t gel, and then suddenly they do. This book is nothing short of genius, and I can’t praise it enough.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (My Rating: 3.5/5) Hendrix’s latest horror romp was fun but not as fun as Horrorstor, its predecessor. It takes on female friendship really well and feels very authentic, and I loved it for that. But the horror wasn’t that horrifying. It had its moments. There’s one scene in particular that will have you swearing off milkshakes for a while. But ultimately it was a very bloodless horror novel. It seemed like it wanted to appeal to the YA crowd, and in that way it pulled a lot of punches. I prefer fearlessness in my horror, so that definitely affected this book’s score. Still a worthy read if you love demon stories and the 80s.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey (My Rating: 2/5) This could become a rant. Easily. This book was so over-hyped. This was treated like the second coming of the genre, and it fell so far from that mark for me. I didn’t see the originality here that everyone else seems to. It felt like a typical zombie romp to me. The characters were kind of infuriating, especially the “well-meaning” teacher. The entire thing felt very anti-science. And the ending was enough to make me want to chuck the book across the room. What did it have going for it? Melanie was a great, memorable character. Otherwise, skip it.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan (My Rating: 4/5) A cosmic horror pastiche owing its roots to Lovecraft and his New England terrors. Count me in. It was as great as that sounds. My one cautionary word would be that it’s a very slow burn. It builds this feeling of dread until we arrive… not at answers or surety of any kind, which is where the story really taps into something primal. The whole idea of this tree feels ancient and unknowable, and the narrator is so unreliable that we can never be sure what we just read. Very effective, psychological piece.

The Well by Catherine Chanter (My Rating: 5/5) This one completely caught me off guard. I saw it at Dollar Tree (yes, for one single dollar) and remembered I’d heard someone talk about it. So I tried it. And it was amazing. Psychological thriller meets literary fiction, and it works beautifully. This was actually a good book to read right after The Red Tree, when you’re still in that sort of mood. You want more of an unhinged narrator and their odd point-of-view. You want that unnerving atmosphere just a little longer. Highly recommended.

A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick (My Rating: 5/5) This is only the book I’ve been waiting my whole life for. I love stories that deal with a group being isolated and forced to rely on one another under dire, horrific circumstances, and here we have it as written by PKD. Therefore the group is full of unstable assholes, and the horrors they’re met with challenge the idea of reality itself. Just brilliant. Every time I read one of his novels, it becomes a new favorite, and this is no exception.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud (My Rating: 2/5) Unfortunately, while this was considered the next great thing by many, it left me feeling very sour. Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Google that if you’re not familiar with the term and bask in my pain. There’s also the fact that while it had a great premise, it wasn’t used all that well. The story was nihilistic and negative and yet wanted to be a love story. And it was anti-medication for the mentally ill. Phew. There was some beautiful art to be had, but otherwise a really negative experience.

Gutshot by Amelia Gray (My Rating: 1/5) To get one star from me, a book has to be truly bereft. I have to be able to tell myself I got nothing out of this, even remotely. I don’t give that rating out lightly. So here we are, at a book that left me feeling completely empty. The stories were so short, with absolutely no meat to them, that they left no impression. The ones that attempted profundity were so obvious that it felt like a hammer to the head. Even if I could say, “well, that was sort of clever,” it really just emphasizes how pathetic a statement that is, trying to throw this poor collection a bone it really hasn’t earned.

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley (My Rating: 4/5) A really unique piece of speculative fiction. It felt like an alien invasion, which I really loved as there aren’t enough books that tackle that idea anymore. It had a dream-like quality with beautiful prose, the story taking place in a world without explanations, which made the whole experience even more indescribable. It’s short and odd and a great diversion. I wish the ending had packed more of a punch, but otherwise this was fantastic. I look forward to exploring more of this author’s work.

Lungs Full of Noise by Tessa Mellas (My Rating: 4/5) This is what Gutshot wishes it could be. An eclectic collection of work tackling all sorts of dark topics and odd behavior. And written impeccably. A couple of the stories went so far into left field that they were a bit challenging to read with their experimentation, I admit. But with gems like “Beanstalk” and “Dye Job”, it’s still very worth your time.

Done! Now I don’t know precisely when I’ll be back to blogging regularly, but the wrap-ups are not going to get neglected, I promise. As always, happy geeking!

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