Review of John Dies at the End by David Wong

“Son, the greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing the world there was only one of him.” 

― David WongJohn Dies at the End

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”

― David WongJohn Dies at the End

This book is not for everyone but it is certainly for me. Weird and smart and rather wonderful.

I read a lot and because I read a lot I don’t often come across things that are new and exciting. So when I do come across something that is different I get really excited. This is different. This is a cross between bizarro, science fiction, horror, and comedy. It has the best of each of these genres in a mish-mash snowball of glee. I am not even sure I can adequately describe the plot of the story. It is secondary to the dialog of the main characters. They are a pair of sarcastic semi-losers thrust into a surreal situation. It also involves parallel dimensions, hell, and an exploding dog. They sorta just roll with every scenario they fall into.

The imagery is graphic and tinged with the gross, ““Fred said, “Man, I think he’s gonna make a fuckin’ suit of human skin, using the best parts from each of us.”

“Holy crap,” said John. “He’ll be gorgeous.”

Also includes a large use of the profane. “No, no. Keep driving,” said a soft voice in my ear. “She will not bite if you keep driving.” Fuck that. Fuck that idea like the captain of the Thai Fuck Team fucking at the fucking Tour de Fuck.”  C’mon that’s funny.

It was made into a so-so movie.

Just go with it. I know I am selling the hell out of it, but It is one of my favorites!

Novel Review – “Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

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“Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

Hardcover
96 pages
Published October 28th, 2008 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
Original Title: Tales from Outer Suburbia
ISBN:0771084021 (ISBN13: 9780771084027)
Awards
  • World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Collection (2009)
  • New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award Nominee for Patricia Wrightson Prize (2009)
  • Ditmar Award for Best Artwork (2009)
  • Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Young Adult (2008)
  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers Book of the Year (2009)
  • Aurealis Award for Illustrated Book / Graphic Novel (2008)
  • Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Bilderbuch (2009)
  • Tähtifantasia Award (2016)
  • Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Children’s (2009)
  • The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky (2008)
  • Adelaide Festival Award for Children’s Literature (2010)
  • Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Illustrated Book (2009)
  • Literaturpreis der Jury der Jungen Leser for Sonderpreis (2009)
  • The Inky Awards Shortlist for Gold Inky (2008)

About

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‘water buffaloes are like that; they hate talking.’

From the publisher, “Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.”

My Thoughts

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‘He was saying the same sentence over and over, ending with “tasoo-ke-te, tasoo ke-te.”‘

This review may come off as a bit biased because I love “The Arrival.” Honestly, it isn’t so much as an “apple to oranges” kind of comparison between the two books, but maybe a comparison of two of the most glorious pieces of fruit one can eat. Each is wonderful in their own ways.

Both of these novels are excellent, but they are different in a slight, albeit essential way. There are words in “Tales From Outer Suburbia”… The experience of Shaun Tan’s illustrations is a bit more on the nose.

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‘It opened into another room altogether… an impossible room somewhere between the others.’

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of fifteen nuanced short stories. All are threaded together with an exploration of the vapidness, bewilderment, joy, sorrow, and enlightenment of living in the suburbs; specifically the suburbs of eastern Australia. Each of the stories is captivating and a hell of a lot deeper than the two or three pages devoted to each. For example “Stick Figures,” is a story about wooden stick figures that are part of a suburban landscape. They move unimaginably slow, and their purpose is not precisely known. However, if you think about suburbia and the little bits of nature that come through the manicured lawns and the shopping malls, nature could very much seem like an unknowable creature that exists, but we have no idea the purpose of. As someone who has spent much of their life living in the suburbs and had to travel to visit nature, I get what he is trying to say. Nature can become the unknowable.

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‘How great it must have been long ago, when the world was still unknown.’

Another glorious story was “No Other Country.” This story explores what it means to be a person of two ideals. The unexplored model of what a place should be as one ideal and the current situation you live in as the other.

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‘The fire burned with astonishing intensity.’

What if you could escape to the ideal place at your leisure? Would that change how you felt about your current living situation? Again this taps into a lot of what Shaun Tan writes about in “The Arrival.” The idealized world and the reality. Would you appreciate your reality if you could escape it once in a while? It is a powerful short story, and absolutely worth the read.

I feel like reading a Shaun Tan book is meditative. They are never boring, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. However, his work is saturated with a calmness and purposefulness. His words and images are impactful without being jarring. You don’t see that often in any type of literary work. It speaks to a mastery of craft that I as a reader feel privileged to partake in. As you can probably tell, I am a fan and recommend his work. However, it isn’t for everyone. It is fanciful and calm and deep. Sometimes, that is not what one needs in their books. So my suggestion is that if you are feeling self-reflective or full of ennui, give one of his novels a try. I doubt that you would regret the experience.

The Tittering, The Bitting, and The Skittering in “The Hatching” by Ezekiel Boone

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover 
  • 334 pages
  • Published July 5th, 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN1501125044 (ISBN13: 9781501125041)
  • Edition Language English
  • Series The Hatching #1

About

From the publisher, “Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.


My Thoughts

Uh. Jesus, god no. No seriously, think about taking humanities worst fears and shoving them into a post-apocalyptic skittering, jittering, tearing the kind-of book, and you have “The Hatching” by Ezekiel Boone. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about this story. Is that an itch? Or is a spider burrowing out of my skin?

The story revolves around a large cast of characters, all from different walks of life, professions, genders, age ranges, etc. Basically, a large selection of humanity that is varied, but as the story progresses increasingly interconnected. Each chapter is a small snapshot of these persons lives as the apocalyptic drama of the spiders rolls out. If you have read World War Z by Max Brooks and are familiar with the format, then you will understand the vignette style of “The Hatching.” This style of narrative excels at increasing the drama and the thrills. To me, it almost feels like you are running at full speed from moment to moment. In a book about spiders, this is very effective. It is so compelling that I had to put down the book a couple of times and take a breath. It is that tense. Plus, I am not a huge fan of creepy crawlies especially if they burrow into your skin.

The plot of the story starts out benign enough, and this book takes place of the course of 6 days. Spiders start out as scary, but generally, they are not “oh my god” humanity is about to implode scary. Boone slowly rolls out thrill and disgusting chill on these characters. First, we see eggs, then we see large-scale destruction from far away, then we see dead spiders in droves, then spiders crawl out of peoples faces… it is a slow rolling snowball of gross. I tip my proverbial hat to Boone for how he structured many of these vignettes. Sometimes we get to know a character over the course of a few pages, start to empathize with them, laugh at their jokes, and read that they are eaten by a swarm of voracious spiders. Wasn’t expecting that.

“She didn’t know how many of them there were, but they were frantic. Dozens of them at least. They’d been packed in the egg, and they came out in a swarm, their bodies unfolding, alien and beautiful. Big and fast, black apricots thundering against the glass. Skittering.

She put her palm against the glass of the insectarium, and the spiders flew to it.”

Excerpt from “The Hatching” by Ezekiel Boone

Character-wise, many of these people are not developed, and that is fine. With the frenetic pacing I do not really care about many of the characters idiosyncrasies. It just is not important this early in the series. I do expect, as the series progresses, that we will get to learn a bit more about the back story of the main protagonists.  You know, as the cast of characters is widdled, or should I say is eaten, away.

The ending of the story was spot on and a perfect segue-way into the next book. I seriously cannot wait to see what happens with the spiders next. They seem almost otherworldly at this point in their ability to reek carnage and disaster on us, weak humans. Maybe next book Boone will have them flying with tiny M16s. At this point, I put nothing past this author. Is this a perfect horror book? No. Is this a fantastic bit of fun to while away a few hours? Absolutely. Totally and completely worth the chills and thrills.


Procurement

I obtained a copy of this through scribd, the library and Amazon.


About the Author

From Goodreads, “I live in upstate New York with my wife and kids. Whenever I travel and say I’m from New York, people think I mean NYC, but we live about three hours north of New York City. Our house is five minutes outside of a university town. We’re far enough out of town that, at night, it’s dark. 
No. 
Darker than that. 
Dark enough that, if you’re not careful, you might fall off the small cliff at the edge of my property. If you’re lucky, the water will be up enough to break your fall. If you’re not lucky, please sign a waiver before you come to visit. 
I’ve got two unruly dogs who are mostly friendly. Well, that’s not true. The part about them being unruly is true, but one of them is the most friendly dog you’ve ever met, and the other dog … isn’t. They are good writing partners, though they spend a lot of their day curled up in front of the wood burning stove and ignoring me. Unless I’m making lunch. They pay attention to me then. 
The Ezekiel Boone website is 
www.ezekielboone.com, but I’ve also got a nifty website for THE HATCHING at www.TheHatchingBook.com. It has a cool map and some other bells and whistles. 
You can also 
follow me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram if you are so inclined and like the idea of occasionally seeing photos of my dogs. 
If you’ve read this far, I should mention that THE HATCHING is Ezekiel Boone’s first book, but it’s not actually *my* first book. I also write under the name Alexi Zentner. Alexi Zentner’s books are pretty different from Ezekiel Boone’s.”

Novel Review – Night and Silence (October Daye #12) by Seanan McGuire

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Awards

None specifically for this novel, yet. However, Seanan Mcguire has won numerous Nebula, Hugo, and Pegasus awards for her novels.

About

From the publisher, “The twelfth installment of the Hugo-nominated, New York Times-bestselling Toby Daye urban fantasy series! Things are not okay. In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:

Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same. “

My Thoughts

“The world had changed. The world wasn’t changing back.” ~ Night and Silence

I know that because it is book 12, it seems like it would be hard to jump into the series. It isn’t. Mcguire does an excellent job of providing enough backstory to understand the basics of what is going on. You may not get all the subtle nuances, but you will enjoy the story.

This is my hands down favorite series next to Dresden Files. Much for the same reasons. Both worlds have fantastic characters, great plots, and a wonderfully interwoven universe of fantasy and reality. October Daye is a likable character but more than that, she is a developed character,  especially by book 12. Some writers, after twelve books, rehash the same story over and over. You know exactly how it is going to end every time and it is boring. This series is not like that at all. Twists and turns are Mcguires modus operandi. Book 12 was just as well written and entertaining as book 1, and it is a nod to how well Mcguire writes that she is able to achieve that. Also, unlike a lot of Urban Fantasy out there where romance becomes the main plot the October Daye world has romantic elements, but the stories are never about that. They are formed around a fleshed out problem that she tackles with intelligence and the help of family and friends.

This book is explicitly about family and motherhood. Toby is a mother, but she stepped away from her daughter Gillian and allowed her to remain human as it was what her daughter wished. Toby herself is dealing with the after-effects of what her mother Amandine did to her and Tybalt in the previous book. There is Miranda, Gillian’s stepmom, who is much more complicated than we have seen her in the past. There is The Luidaeg who is a mother of a long-dead race of Fae. All the mothers’ stories intertwine. Gillian is missing, and these women must come together and put aside their differences to save her. Even then, sometimes despite your best efforts things do not work out like we hope they would. It is a painful experience for Toby who just wants her life to go back to being calm.

Many of the plot threads that Mcguire has been weaving since book 1, Rosemary and Rue, are coming to fruition. It is exciting as a long time fan to see forethought that Mcguire has put into this series play out excellently. We learn about The Luidaeg’s back history, more about Tybalt, and most importantly about Miranda. (I am keeping a bit vague as to not spoil anything)

I am bummed I am going to have to wait another year for book 13. This was a seriously excellent addition to the series. Read it from book 1, or 12. Whatever, it is an awesome series and well worth the time and effort.

Review of “The Thing Beneath the Bed (The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss” #bookblogger #bookblog #kidsbooks @PatrickRothfuss

About

“This is not a book for children.

It looks like a children’s book. It has pictures. It has a saccharine-sweet title. The main characters are a little girl and her teddy bear. But all of that is just protective coloration. The truth is, this is a book for adults with a dark sense of humor and an appreciation of old-school faerie tales.

There are three separate endings to the book. Depending on where you stop, you are left with an entirely different story. One ending is sweet, another is horrible. The last one is the true ending, the one with teeth in it.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle is a dark twist on the classic children’s picture-book. I think of it as Calvin and Hobbes meets Coraline, with some Edward Gorey mixed in.

Simply said: This is not a book for children.”

My Thoughts

First and foremost, an honest disclaimer, This is not a kid’s book. It is delightfully wicked fun, but in no way shape or form should you read this to your unsuspecting child. Unless of course, you are a bit of an asshole. In that case, read on. I had the fortune of hearing a live reading of this by Mr. Rothfuss himself a few years ago.

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Image courtesy of goodreads.com

You would think by the sweet saccharine pictures that there was nothing menacing underneath it all, but oh god you will see. I don’t want to give it all away because of spoilers. But this sweet saccharine girl is not what she seems.

The fun part of this book is once you finish it, go back and reread. See what you missed. It is hilarious what we readers gloss over. Try to get your hands on a copy of this, it is out of print I’m afraid. The library has a few copies. Do it. I would give it six stars if I could.

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Rothfuss, Patrick. The Thing Beneath the Bed. Subterranean Press, 2010.

You can also find copies of this and it’s sequel on worldbuilders.com

Review of “The Turn” by Kim Harrison or “How to Eat a Tomato and Die.”

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The dress is tomato red, coincidence I think not.

Kim and me, we are/were buds.

No, not in real life kind of way. Entirely in the “author and rabid fan” kinda way. Her being the author and me being the rabid fan. Her writing is ordinarily fun and exciting with great characters and plot twists, and it isn’t Shakespeare. But, it doesn’t have to be, nor is it ever trying to be. Writing can be fantastic without it being serious or moral. It can just be. For me, her writing is the equivalent of a thick dark chocolate cake that happens to have zero calories and takes the trash out when it is done with you. Her stories make me happy, and we all need more of that in our lives.

However, here comes the sad second paragraph where I go on to say how her latest work has failed me. Authors get to have books that don’t quite shine as glossy as others. It’s alright. It is just a bummer for me because I look forward to her books coming out.

“The Turn” did not shine. I found the characters dull or interchangeably monstrous. AboutIt lacked a real protagonist. It lacked a real villain. The muddled gray areas of life are what everyday people deal with on a daily basis. You read a book like this to immerse yourself in a story to get away from whats real.

banner 2Firstly let us talk about pacing. It was boring. God, it was slowwww. The first 60% of the book is detailing the dreary lives of 1960 scientists working on genetics work. It is like Mad Men without the good stuff. Just men in suits and women in skirts. The last 40% of the book had slightly better pacing, but at this point, I hated the story so much that I was rushing to the finish line.

The characters. Gag me. The unfortunate and the narcissistic, both at the time and interchangeably moronic and monstrous. No one to cheer for, nor to give a shit about; the only saving grace was the pixie. I wanted to know more about her. That’s about it.

The only thing I can say that I liked, was the cameos from characters that are forthcoming. Al, and Quen. Fantastic. Al is very Al.  Quen seems much more emotional in this one. Unlike how stoic he is in the future.

My final verdict is to skip. Forget there ever was a prequel. Or, better yet read October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. Her series is still ongoing, and it is bloody and beautiful full of darkness and light. Not figuratively.

Graphic Novel Review of “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan

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Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Stats

5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover, 132 pages
Published October 12th 2007 by Lothian Books (first published 2006)
Original Title The Arrival
ISBN 0734406940 (ISBN13: 9780734406941)
Edition Language English

Awards

  • Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Book (2008)
  • Locus Award for Best Art Book (2008)
  • New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Book of the Year & Community Relations Commission Award (2007)
  • Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Overall Winner & Childrens Book (2006)
  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Picture Book of the Year (2007)
  • Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (2007)
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2009)
  • Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story & Golden Aurealis for Best Short Story (2006)
  • Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Bilderbuch (2009)
  • Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Special Citation (2008)
  • Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Older Children (2007)
  • Literaturpreis der Jury der jungen Leser for Sonderpreis (2009)
  • Plano Nacional de Leitura for (Portugal) (0)
  • The Inky Awards Shortlist for Gold Inky (2007)

About

Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Lothian Books, 2007.

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Dinner time in the new place. Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Lothian Books, 2007.

From the publisher, “In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He’s embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life- he’s leaving home to build a better future for his family.

Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant’s experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can’t communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character’s isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy.”

My Thoughts

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

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A man prepares to leave in search of a better life for his family. Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Lothian Books, 2007.

Do you think an can image speak a thousand words or maybe ten thousand words? Do you think that an image could speak for you when you don’t know the language and the only way to communicate is through hastily drawn art on scrap paper? That is what Shaun has done. He created a graphic novel that speaks to the immigrant experience. What it is like moving to a foreign land, faced with alien food, language, buildings, and pretty much everything else, but uses no language, expect the language of imagery and absolutely incredible imagery at that. Reading this book, I felt like I was sitting down to watch a silent movie, popcorn in hand. The imagery is so poignant, so much so that it seems like the pictures could move right out of the pages.

The focus of the story is about a man leaving his small family in search of a better life for them all. The book moves quickly, but he arrives at the new land and he is examined, cataloged and labeled. Everywhere he goes, there is something new for him to learn. It is exhausting and boldly exciting at the same time.

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Immigrant arrival. Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Lothian Books, 2007.

I can’t speak for other people, but I can definitely speak for myself when I say when people step outside their comfort zone and do something as scary and bold as move to another country in search of something they should be lauded. This book was a great reminder of that. A beautiful reminder. It should also be noted, that this book is not political in nature at all. It isn’t about politically what it means to be an immigrant, but more of what beauties and joys are found in the discovery.

Conclusion

If you can’t tell already, I love this book. I think it is an important work for the world right now and I highly recommend anyone to read it. Come on over, I have a copy of it sitting on my bookshelf I’ll loan it to you.