Reading Wrap-Up: May 2017

rwu

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (My Rating: 5/5) When you love a book on the level that I loved this, it’s hard to discuss. How do I impart to you that I’ve been waiting for a book like this for so long? Something suitably weird with great world-building and an incredibly strong and well-written lead character. This book covers all those needs. Butler even managed to write the exposition regarding the aliens and all their ins and outs without boring me for even a single second. I’m not sure how you do that. Info dumps are the worst, but every moment of hers are fascinating here. Then halfway through the book, it gets even better. The core of humanity’s deepest problems is explored with lots of conflict and a really surprising climax. This book is perfect. There’s no other word that will suffice. I can’t wait to get to the second one in the trilogy.

Continue reading

Reading Wrap-Up: April 2017

rwu

In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (My Rating: 4/5) The great strength of this book is how it deals with culture shock, both from the perspective of a Japanese man dealing with an American who is not on the up-and-up and how he attempts to describe his own culture to the reader. There is a lot of comparing going on between Japan and America by Kenji, our narrator. The thing I found most interesting about that is how he says the same thing about Americans that I’ve heard Americans say¬†about the Japanese, and it puts context, for me personally, into how similar we actually are deep down. Murakami entirely captures that feeling of “well, you just don’t understand because you’re not from here.” It makes the book more than a simple thriller for me, because of how well he explores this.

Continue reading

Reading Wrap-Up: March 2017

rwu

Over the Edge by Harlan Ellison (My Rating: 3.5/5) I could point new readers to specific collections that are best to start with for Ellison (Angry Candy or Slippage would both be great), but this is not one. This is for the people, like myself, who are established fans and determined to read as much of his work as possible. In part, I say that because this collection was fairly up and down. “Xenogenesis” and “Blind Lightning” are both worth owning the book for, but the rest were either featured in other collections that are better or not that impressive. This collection also didn’t have a unifying theme of any kind. There was science fiction and fantasy and non-fiction and crime thrillers, and at some point it started to feel scattered to me. There’s also the non-fiction essay “3 Faces of Fear” that was long-winded, repetitive, and full of harsher in hindsight moments that made me cringe. For hardcore fans only.

Continue reading

Reading Wrap-Up: February 2017

rwu

I read so much this month. Let’s not delay then and get right into it.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. (My Rating: 5/5) I was already a fan of Brosh from her blog. In fact, if you’re curious, I suggest having a look at that first to see if you like the style. It’s a mixed media type of storytelling, with simple images and text, like illustrated stories. And it’s hilarious. And sometimes surprisingly moving. While there are some previous blog posts of hers collected in this volume, there are also lots of new installments that can only be found here. I highly recommend this as a quick and amusing read that also packs a punch in spots, especially when she gets very honest and raw about her battle with depression.

Continue reading

Reading Wrap-Up: January 2017

rwu

Souichi’s Diary of Delights by Junji Ito (My Rating: 2/5) Junji Ito is normally a safe bet for me. I love his art and his bizarre stories that chill me to the bone. In this case, this was my first go round with Souichi, who is a fan favorite up there with Tomie. I officially don’t see it. Souichi annoyed the living hell out of me. Normally, I would see the appeal. In a way, he has that Edward Scissorhands vibe to him. That he doesn’t follow the norm and takes his own path. He draws in the outsiders who are always looking for mirror images of themselves. Except that he’s a spoiled brat. So unlike Edward, who is a great example, he’s not sweet or well-meaning. He’s godawful. And not like, another great example, the Joker, where someone could get glee out of him doing whatever he feels. Because he’s simpering and whiny and gives up as soon as opposition presents itself. He’s just not fun.

Continue reading

Reading Wrap-Up: November and December 2016

rwu

The reading slump continues, but I am getting a few things in here and there. With that in mind, here’s a current rundown of my latest reads. They’re all short and token efforts, so definitely don’t get too excited.

The Mermaid Girl by Erika Swyler (My Rating: 5/5) For transparency’s sake, I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. I entered not even realizing this short story ties into a previous book by the author. I honestly thought the synopsis sounded interesting, and it turned out it was. Though I will say it felt a little sneaky, since the summary made the story sound like a fantastical/magical-realism thing, and it’s really not. It still took me by surprise, and I loved it. It was also blessedly short, being only a small story, and it allowed me to accomplish something at a time when I felt like I wasn’t.

Continue reading

October 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

rwu

So the reading didn’t go as planned. I had a lot of hiccups in trying to get through the books I chose. I ended up watching more scary movies and not reading as many scary books. Still let’s talk about what I did read.

After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones (My Rating: 3.5/5) This was a dark, strange story collection, and it felt like something I should’ve liked more. My main problem was the writing style. It didn’t really flow. Jones had a tendency to bring plot points or actions out of left field, and they didn’t read as shocking. Rather they read as confusing. I found myself having to read passages over and over because I was confused about what he was trying to say. So when I should be chilled and thrilled and fully engaged, I was frustrated.

There are some gems here though. The title story is fantastic and takes the idea of a haunting to a whole new place. “Xebico” and “The Spindly Man” both deal in some great horror meta. But my favorite was “Doc’s Story”. My understanding is it was later written into a full book, and I’m dying to get my hands on it.

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck (My Rating: 5/5) Another short story collection with a lot of odd tales. This one was a little hard to get my hands on, and I ended up jumping on it when I found a good deal, and even then I ended up paying for an advanced reader’s copy by accident. Still I’m glad to own it, because it was great. This style of prose is more my speed, tending toward magical realism. Everything from the mundane with a touch of eeriness to outright bizarre. Speaking of, the title story, which was the definition of bizarre, was my favorite of the bunch. I also really enjoyed “Rebecka” and “Reindeer Mountain”.

Last Look by Charles Burns (My Rating: 3.5/5) I feel so torn about this one. I adore Charles Burns. This book is a bind-up of a trilogy he’d been putting out over the last couple years. His artwork is second to none. His storytelling is character driven and strong. But this reminded me so much of The Sculptor, which I hated. Yet another story about a self-absorbed, artistically sensitive guy and the way he wrecks his own life and the lives of those closest to him. The difference being that I don’t think Burns is trying to make me sympathize with this selfish man. I think he’s just presenting the story.

Yet even then it’s hard to give him a pass when he has a female character whose perspective is sacrificed in favor of following the man and his many mistakes. I thought she would’ve made for a much more interesting and sympathetic point-of-view. Though in that case the male character would’ve come off as even more of an ass. Which he is. The bottom line being that, for me, I’m tired of these stories. I’m tired of these characters. I thought he had an incredibly unique way of showing the conflict via dream sequences, but I wish it had been a different conflict.

I’m hopeful next month will be better all around, both for the amount I read and the quality of those reads. If you would like to support this blog, check out my Patreon. As always, happy geeking!

September 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

rwu

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (My Rating: 4/5) I love Kelly Link, and this was no exception to that rule. She writes the strangest, most wonderful blend of genres and does so while keeping you fully engaged in the stories. A couple of the tales found here were a little too experimental for me. “The Cannon” for instance. Forgive me for not getting that story at all. But there are plenty of gems, too. Such as the title story, which I’d already read in Pretty Monsters, but it’s still fantastic. As for my new favorite, “The Hortlak” and “Stone Animals” tie for the prize.

Feed by M.T. Anderson (My Rating: 3/5) I hate when a book has me fully engaged only to take a nose-dive. It was a well-done dystopian setting, which is already hard enough to find, with lots of shades of Brave New World. Two-thirds of this book is great. Then suddenly it decides to become more involved in the romance than anything else. And the romance, to put it plainly, is awful. Our main character is far too shallow to ever really love anyone, and that’s obvious even before things really go to hell. Don’t think for a second that I don’t get the message about disappearing from pain rather than living in it and how detrimental that can actually be. That doesn’t stop the delivery from being frustrating and downright enraging. If you don’t fully hate the main character before it’s over, then you have a much higher tolerance for turd-like behavior than I do.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (My Rating: 3/5) My first problem with this book comes with the way it was sold to me. I thought this was a thriller. It’s not. It’s a family drama. Whoops. I wish someone had told me that. Haha, get it? Things I never… told you. Anyway. Even after getting into it, I found the writing would perfectly service a thriller but not a family drama. For something that’s character driven like that, I expect more from the writing. This book just didn’t have that spark. It’s also very short with a lot crammed into that small space, so that the book covers a huge range of topics without focusing on anything, giving me little to hold onto. If I can say it did something successfully, the character arcs were great. It could be read and enjoyed for that. It wasn’t awful, but it was overall lackluster.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (My Rating: 4/5) This was a very necessary novella. It’s an homage to/deconstruction of H.P. Lovecraft’s work and his prejudices. It begins with the dedication “For H.P. Lovecraft, with all my conflicted feelings”, and that echoes throughout the telling. The really fantastic thing about this is how he’s not just talking about Lovecraft’s racism. He’s using “The Horror at Red Hook”, a very racist story that also happens to include the police in a heavy way, to comment on what’s happening all around us, right now. It’s a very powerful piece of work infused with a lot of anger, and again I call it necessary.

As for the Lovecraftian parts itself, there were things I absolutely loved and things I also didn’t. He takes the story places I’ve never seen. Lovecraft was fond of driving his characters insane with revelations, and LaValle gets much braver than that. I appreciate that part of things more than I can say. But then in a way, he also chickens out. This might be considered a spoiler, but he uses that Lovecraft monster that we all know. His most popular one. I’m really not sure he fit in this story. LaValle makes him fit, but part of me really wishes he’d gone for a lesser known Elder God. One that fits the point of the story better and doesn’t cater to the crowd that maybe hasn’t ever read Lovecraft but they’ve seen a plushie. Obviously it didn’t affect things that much, because the rating reflects how moving I thought this was.

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco (My Rating: 4/5) Like the above entry, I started my spooky reads early. When I get halfway through September, I start pining for horror. This was a thrift store find that I’d been meaning to try out. It did not let me down. I’ll say that if you want violence and splatterpunk, don’t come to this book. It’s a slow burn that’s all about characters and atmosphere and building a sense of foreboding. I love a ride that’s about suspense, but if you find that boring, steer clear. The writing in this was incredibly good. The characters felt like real people. It’s fairly short, so it can be devoured in a couple days.

The thing that lost that one, teeny star? The husband. I hated that guy. I feel like Marasco was trying to write him in a way that seemed endearing, but I found him insufferable. I’ve seen the reviews that paint Ben, said husband, as long-suffering, while the wife, Marian, is a spoiled brat who forces him into this awful situation. Let me give you a flip-side interpretation. All Marian has in her life are three things. Her husband, who mocks her and patronizes her every chance he gets. Her son, who is ungrateful and dismissive. And her house. Or rather her crummy apartment. Is it any wonder that a beautiful house could seduce her? I kind of want everyone to read the book this way, as a commentary about a poor, duped housewife. I think the story gets richer when you view it from that angle.

There you have it! Thank you for reading. If you want to support this blog, check out my Redbubble shop. As always, happy geeking!

Reading Wrap-Up: August 2016

rwu

Grendel by John Gardner (My Rating: 4/5) Grendel is the story of Beowulf but from the perspective of the monster, and it’s done very well. Grendel is sympathetic, but he’s never censored. Meaning he is a monster that kills people and sometimes eats them, but you still feel bad for this guy who has no friends, no purpose, and views the world as being very pointless. I’ll say there were a lot of philosophical nuggets in the text that I know were going over my head, so if you’re more into that than I am, you might get even more out of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it for those readers who are more interested in monsters than in buff heroes.

The Fireman by Joe Hill (My Rating: 2/5) I did a whole separate review for this, and it’s left me with nothing else to say. Trust the review was very negative and I’m disappointed. Fair warning. I hope his next project leaves a better impression on me.

The Secret Books of Paradys I and II by Tanith Lee (My Rating: 4/5) Lee was at her best when she was writing fantasy fused with horror, and this was pretty satisfying. This volume was two books collected in one, and the first was a series of three novellas all set in the city of Paradys. The three stories were all strong, but the middle story was so incredibly engaging it left the other two feeling a little pale in comparison. The second half of the book was more satisfying overall as it consisted of one, whole plot told in interconnecting short stories. So, yes, I don’t even know how to classify this book, because the storytelling is experimental, and mostly it’s short form but you should read the whole thing straight through and not cherry-pick.

Paradys is like a paranormal, alternate history version of a French city. Anyone who goes there will find both their most perfect desires laid out before them and the most intricately woven nightmares. Most of the time things don’t work out so great for people who get involved in the bizarre happenings in Paradys. There are vampires, angels, demons, ghosts, ancient curses, but none of it is derivative. Each bears Lee’s particular stamp. If you’re looking for something gothic, spooky, and different, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (My Rating: 4/5) I must’ve stayed in that sort of mood, because here we have a classic vampire tale that is the definition of gothic. A young woman makes a strange, new friend. Then she starts falling ill. A tale as old as time really, and that’s maybe where the story does lack something. For its time, it must’ve been truly shocking when you find out Carmilla is a vampire. In 2016, we know it immediately. There’s also a small scene of random racism and an ending that felt a tad rushed. Otherwise it’s a classic worth looking into. Especially with the strong nudging between these two girls that their infatuation is far more than friendship.

Chocky by John Wyndham (My Rating: 4/5) It had been far too long since I’d read one of Wyndham’s novels. This one was a little more on the friendly side than previous works I’d read. I think you could make a decent family film out of this one. That’s not to say there wasn’t conflict and it wasn’t interesting. But most of the troubles the family faced were the result of an “overly emotional” mother with some added drama at the end. In fact, I felt like I was reading an E.T. predecessor with the plot of this book. Just like with The Midwich Cuckooos, I’m not a huge fan of Wyndham hijacking the story to mutter “women” and roll his eyes, but otherwise it was a short book that entertained.

If you want to support this blog, check out my Redbubble Shop. As always, happy geeking!

Quill’s Reading Wrap-Up: July 2016

rwu

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!