Outcast, Vol. 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him

Outcast, Vol. 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him - Elizabeth Breitweiser, Paul Azaceta, Robert Kirkman This was recommended to me by a librarian while we were talking comics a while back, and I kind of went into it not really knowing anything about it. I might have looked it up before I bought it, but I'd totally forgotten by the time I actually started reading.

I don't think this is the kind of story I would normally be eager to read. I just feel like the possession stories have been done to death at this point, in every medium, and I'm a little bored with them to be honest. That said, I actually liked this ok. I didn't think it was amazing, but it was a somewhat interesting read, and I loved the art. I can see why some people wouldn't like it, but it worked for me.

The story itself is...not much, actually. This is the first 6 issues of Outcast, and I feel like I still know almost nothing about the characters or what's going on in this universe. This was all just a really long set up, and I'm not sure I care enough to find volume 2.

So, good art (in my opinion), ok story, not enough info on the characters, and only about a 40% chance I'll continue reading the series. But I don't feel like I wasted my time with this one, I was just hoping for more, I guess.

Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill Warning: the spoiler tags will definitely have profanity.

When I started this book, I was pretty sure it would be between a 4 & 5 star read for me. I read Horns a year or two ago and loved Joe Hill's writing, and I was really enjoying the first half or so of this one. And honestly, my docking a star (I think I would have given this 4 stars) is possibly petty. But it is what it is, and I don't really feel guilty for it.

I really liked the premise for this story, and it started off strong. Aging rock star buys a ghost off the internet and creepy things start happening? Yes, please! It sounded like something I would love, and I did love most of the basic story. I was also pleasantly surprised to find myself actually a bit scared a few times while reading this, which doesn't happen often for me.

The slowly building sense of dread was great and hooked me early on, but at some point started to lose me. I think it was after the first dog was killed, which I'll rant about more in the next spoiler tag. Killing off an animal, on the page and in great detail, is a sure way to piss me off, end the immersion, and start making me resent the story. It started to grab me again a little while later, only to lose me for most of the rest of the book. I might have the times of these two confused, but it lost me again when the abuse of Anna and Reese came out. At that point, I just wanted the book to end, but it felt like it was going to drag on forever. Then we learned that the second dog died in way that pissed me the hell off and I would have thrown the book if it hadn't been on my Kindle. I've never been in a horror novel, but in my real life, I don't think anything except be literally being physically incapable because of death or restraints, would keep me from immediately seeking medical attention for my fucking dog after it's hind legs have been crushed by another car and the fucking bone is sticking out and the dog is bleeding to death slowly and suffering. (I don't actually have dogs, I have cats, but if I had a dog...) I kind of regained a little interest in the story, minus the sense of dread, in the last few chapters. The bit about the door, then Jude waking up in the hospital and finding out Marybeth was still alive. But by then, I was just ready for the book to be over. I liked the ending, though. I really liked Marybeth and was happy she lived. I was also glad to learn that Reese's mother was locked up and Reese seemed to be free of her, and didn't know the whoel story of all the things her mother had done.

And here the rant, which gets somewhat off topic of the book, begins. I am sick, so freaking sick, of horror movies and stories and novels abusing and killing animals. For me, at least, that isn't horror. It's just there for the fucking shock value and playing with people's emotions, and I'm so tired of it. I'm tired of child abuse and sexual assault, too. I can't actually think of any horror novels I've read that didn't have one of those things. If your horror needs a woman and/or child being abused/raped/assaulted, or animals being abused or killed, you're not doing your fucking job as a horror creator. I probably wouldn't be so mad about this if it wasn't so prevalent, but it's such a disgusting trope now, and I'm tired of it.

In my opinion, those tropes are the book equivalent of horror movies relying on jump scares or gore.

I don't think I would have a problem with a character finding a dead animal, like left as a threat or something. Hell, even an animal dying in the book wouldn't be so bad (and by "bad," I don't mean "scary") if the writers weren't constantly going for in depth descriptions of how much the animal is/was suffering, and all the details of how horrific their mutilation was, etc.

The same is true for survivors of whatever form of abuse. I'm just tired of it. I'm tired of these characters with awful, abuse-filled pasts, like "Look! This character survived all these terrible things, but they get to go through even more terrible things as a reward!" As an abuse survivor, I'm not impressed, I'm not amused, I'm just pissed off. I'm lucky in the way that I can read most of this without crossing into being triggered by it. It does happen sometimes, but I'm usually ok. But I'm so tired of trying to find horror and thriller books to recommend to friends, and having to warn them to not read 99% of the ones I find because I don't want them to be triggered by the detailed descriptions of the types of abuse and assault they survived.

Do I think authors should censor themselves and not write about these things? No. I do think it's become too pervasive in the horror and thriller genres, though. It's like the slasher movies that just wouldn't stop coming. Eventually, people started to get tired of them because that's almost all that was out there. Or the YA books about vampires, or dystopians. There were big jumps in the number of those books, or in the popularity of them, for a while. Interest hasn't totally dropped off, of course, but it did seem to decline after a while because people were getting tired of reading the same things over and over.

Maybe I've just been unlucky and actually most of the horror and thriller books out there don't have these elements at all. I doubt that, though, because most of the people I've talked about this with have felt the same way, and have read more of these books than I have.

I think this was Joe Hill's first novel. I'm pretty sure that before this, he'd had short stories published, but nothing this long. As a first novel, it's very well-written. His characters are great, the scary bits are scary, he did a good job with creating a creepy atmosphere, etc. I just had issues with it which might not bother most other people. I doubt my reviews on here influence people's decisions to read/skip a book, but if they do, don't let my less-than-thrilled feelings stop you from reading it if you think you'll like it. It is, mostly, a good book, and it is scary at times.

Will I continue to read Joe Hill? Heck yeah. He is a talented writer, and I want to know what else he comes up with. Although if I keep coming across the use of abuse/assault/etc., I'll probably stop reading his books eventually, because, as I said, I'm sick of it being in basically every horror/thriller I read.</spoiler

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn Well, my original suspicion from somewhere around 25-30% was correct. I was hoping I was wrong and there would be some great twist, but it was still a well-told story.

I didn't love this book. I tried to read Gone Girl a few times and just couldn't get into it, but I decided to try this one anyway, because it fit a prompt for a read-a-thon I'm participating in this October. It's not a bad book or anything like that, I'm just not a much of a thriller-reader.

This was a tough book to get through, for me, because I found myself relating way too much to Camille. I had to put the book down a few times because of that. I liked Camille, Curry & Eileen, and John, but not really anyone else. I guess that's intentional and expected. There aren't really many likable characters in this book, which I actually liked. It's refreshing to read unlikable characters, especially women. It's a nice change from the overly-nice (whether false or natural) female characters who are basically doormats, living as they're "supposed to" because they're women. It's always interesting to me to read about women who don't fit in those boxes and actually seem like real people, flawed, rough-edged, etc.

I kept waiting for a big twist to come, but never got it. I guess Amma being the real killer of Natalie and Ann was supposed to be a surprise, but I suspected her from the first couple of chapters and was almost 100% certain it was her before I was a third of the way into the book.
I wasn't shocked at all about the Munchhausen by Proxy and Adora being responsible for Marian's death, and also poisoning Amma and Camille. I guess I was a little surprised by Adora being accused and arrested for Natalie & Ann's murders. She was my second suspect, but I thought the Amma-revealed-as-murderess "twist" was going to come out before Adora was arrested/accused for those murders. So, I guess it was a little surprising that Amma got away with it for so long.

Basically, it was pretty predictable from the very beginning, but still...saying it was a fun/enjoyable/entertaining read sounds wrong, but close enough. I don't know if I'll read any other Gillian Flynn books in the future, but this one was ok.

A Night in Terror Tower (Goosebumps, #27)

A Night in Terror Tower (Goosebumps, #27) - R.L. Stine I only vaguely remembered this one, but I did remember really loving it the first time I read it when I was about 9, I think. I was obsessed with the middle ages, and especially the less pleasant aspects they didn't teach us much about in school, so I was even more excited than usual to get this Goosebumps book. This time around, not much has changed. I'm still generally interested in the same kinds of things I was back then, and I still really enjoyed this book.

All the Goosebumps books are short, quick reads, and this one is jammed with action almost from the very beginning. While I was reading, it took me a while to remember what happened with Eddie and Sue I remembered as soon as they got to the tower cell that they were the prince and princess, but I couldn't remember how they'd ended up so far in the future. After I remembered that, I still couldn't remember how the book ended, so it was almost like reading it for the first time again, which was kind of awesome.

Basically, even about 20 years later, I still love the Goosebumps books, and I'm glad to find one of my childhood favorites was still fun to read as an adult.

The Witches of Eastwick

The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike DNF about 50 pages in. I just can't with all this BS. Less than 5 pages in, I knew I was probably not going to like it. It is very, very obviously written by a man. Some men do ok with writing women. This is not one of those cases. I have so many problems with this book from just these 50ish pages, I don't even know where to begin.

Let's see... Honestly, if I could just C&P the entire book so far, I would, but I'll try to narrow this down to a few examples.

There's the obsession each of the women seems to have with the other two and their bodies. They're constantly being compared in great detail. At one point, Alexandra's thoughts are something about her "...wish to stroke that long flat stretch from the other woman's breasts to below her waist, the way one longs to dart out a hand and stroke the belly a cat on its back..."

Then there's the trope (or at least I think it's a trope because I'm pretty sure I've seen it a lot, but mostly from men writing women) of how liberated/empowered/feminist women all want to fuck any man who'll sit still. These women are having sex with literally any man, including the husbands of the other two.

Then there's this gem:

"Of plants, tomatoes seemed the most human, eager and fragile and prone to rot. Picking the watery orange-red orbs, Alexandra felt she was cupping a giant lover’s testicles in her hand. She recognized as she labored in her kitchen the something sadly menstrual in all this, the bloodlike sauce to be ladled upon the white spaghetti. the fat white strings would become her own white fat. This female struggle of hers against her own weight: at the age of thirty-eight she found it increasingly unnatural. In order to attract love must she deny her own body, like a neurotic saint of old?"

A bit later, there's more menstrual musing, some racism thrown in for good measure, and so much misogyny I feel like the Orange Menace could have written it. Actually, yeah, the writing in this really reminds me of things he's said either in interviews or on twitter. Only Updike seemed to be trying to show how much he "loves" and "respects" women, but ended up showcasing just how true the opposite is.

There's more, but I don't feel like getting up to retrieve the book from where it landed when I threw it a few minutes ago.

I might have enjoyed this, had I read it when I was much younger. I'm so, so glad it was never in any of the libraries I visited, though. I hate that I wasted $3 on this, instead of spending it on something better, but I'm also glad I didn't read it when I was younger and less aware. I'm finding that the older I get, the less patience I have for BS, especially from men directed at/about women.

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile - Isabel Allende, Margaret Sayers Peden I don't even know what to say about this, because I could never write a review that would do it justice. So, these are just some thoughts I have, now that I've finished the book.

I'm not familiar with Isabel Allende's fiction. I'm aware of a couple of her books, but haven't had the pleasure of reading them yet. For some reason, though, my library had this one, which I checked out partly because I was curious and recognized her name, and partly because I was looking for books to use for a couple of reading challenges.

This was the most compulsively readable memoir I have ever read. I had a bit of a rough start (I loved it, but it takes me a few pages to adjust to the voice of a writer I'm not familiar with), but after that I kept wanting to keep reading and reading and reading. I probably could have read this in one day, if life hadn't gotten in the way of that. It's been translated from Spanish, so I'm not sure what the original was like, but the translation is beautiful. The writing is sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always lyrical, and I have feelings.

Even if, like me, you haven't read any of her fiction, I still highly recommend this memoir.

Paper Girls Volume 2

Paper Girls Volume 2 - Brian K. Vaughan I'm pretty sure I loved this one more than volume 1. I really liked the first installment, but I was kind of confused through a lot of it. This one, though, holy crap it got good real fast. I would have read this in one sitting if I hadn't needed to stop to eat. I just didn't want to stop reading. The artwork is just as great as the first volume, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

If you read the first one and were on the fence about continuing, I say definitely pick this one up and give it a try.

Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction

Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction - John Byrne, Mike Mignola I finally, finally got my hands on some of the comics! I've seen the movies several times and loved them, but I always wondered if the comics were as good, or better. Now...I'm not sure. I very much enjoyed this first volume, but I think I like the movies just a little bit more. I was kind of surprised both by how much from this book made it into the movie, and by how much was left out of the movie. It was weird.

Anyway...I really liked this one, and I can't wait to read more, hopefully soon-ish.

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return - Marjane Satrapi, Anjali Singh Strangely, perhaps, I think I enjoyed this more than the first. This second volume picks up where the first left off: Marjane is going to be leaving Iran and going to Vienna to study, without her parents. This book follows her from age 14 through her early 20s, and covers a lot of ground. From being on her own, essentially, to trying to make friends and her place in the world (and to find herself), from bad/not so great choices to a fresh start, and a lot more. Basically, this one deals less with the Revolution, and more with Marjane herself. In this book, she goes from the child being shaped by her parents and her surroundings to a young woman taking what she already knows and believes in, then adding to it from the things she learns on her own.

I read this one a bit faster than the first, possibly because it was a little easier for me to relate to Marjane and the things she experienced that are more common to people everywhere, because I remember more clearly what it was like to be a teenager and what my early 20s were like. Obviously my experience in the US was very different from her life in general, but there were a few things I did relate to. It was also moving toward events that I don't remember happening (because I was alive, but a toddler), but do remember reading about later.

If her parents were really the way they were depicted in these two books, wow. I loved reading about both of them and the way they brought her up to be her own person, to stand up for what she believed in, to learn, to grow, and to make her own choices (good or bad). One example, as a parent, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to watch your child commit to someone when you know it most likely will not work out, but also knowing that the only way your child can discover that is by marrying that person. Her family was just so supportive of her, and it was beautiful.

This is the kind of story we need to see more of, in the West, because so many people have this idea of what people from any Middle Eastern country are like, and it's usually not very true to life. (I'm basing that entirely on what I've seen/heard from people making blanket judgments about people from the Middle East, versus what real people from those countries share.) I stand by what I said in my review for the first book: these need to be taught in school alongside Anne Frank's diary.

I loved both of these books, and I'm pretty sure I will be buying copies at some point in the somewhat near future.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - Marjane Satrapi, Blake Ferris, Mattias Ripa This has been on my TBR for years, but I kept putting off reading it until I knew I could get both volumes to read. It's also my first non-fiction graphic novel. This isn't really a review, just rambling.

Reading Persepolis was, for me, kind of like reading Anne Frank's diary. We learned way more about the Holocaust in school, though, so I didn't go into reading that knowing almost nothing. It's really disturbing how things that didn't happen in the West are glossed over in so many schools. (I don't know if that's a trend all over the US, or just in places like the ones I've lived, but it's shocking to realize how little they teach, and it makes me wonder what kids in school today are learning.)

I only started to learn about the Revolution after I was out of school because they just didn't teach us about it in school. I think it was mentioned a couple of times, but my teachers were far from unbiased, so any discussion about any part of the Middle East usually became a long-winded, politically conservative rant (I was in high school a few years after 9/11, which didn't help) about "terrorists" (meaning anyone from a Middle Eastern country) and religious extremists. In short, it was disgusting and not educational.

Reading about all of this from the perspective of someone who was there, and coming of age, at the time was both (kind of morbidly) fascinating and heart breaking. There's this rebellious, strong willed young girl finding her footing and trying to make sense of what's happening, and looking for ways to join in with protests and things like that. But she's also still a child, dealing with everything she's known changing very rapidly, the deaths (natural and by execution) of people she knows, and all the general "growing up" things (friends, school, music, etc.) kids experience.

The simple artwork (it's all in black and white) worked very well for this story. Color, or more intricate drawings, would have distracted from the story. But the art is like small windows, giving the reader glimpses into daily life during this tumultuous time in a way that words alone can't.

I feel like this book (or these books, since there are two, but I haven't started the second yet) should be taught in schools, like The Diary of a Young Girl is. I borrowed these from the library, but I'm considering buying them for my child to read in a year or two when we start covering 20th century history (my kid is homeschooled, and I think this would be a great addition to our literature based curriculum).

The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Secret - Hazel Gaynor Review coming soon.

Quidditch Through the Ages (Harry Potter)

Quidditch Through the Ages (Harry Potter) - Kennilworthy Whisp I vaguely remember reading this way back when it was first published, but I didn't have my own copy until fairly recently. I liked [b:Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them|41899|Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them|Newt Scamander||4195128] alright, but I loved this one. That surprises me a little because I love animals but am not a big sports fan. Apparently, where the wizarding world is concerned, it's the opposite. So, if you don't have a curiosity about Quidditch at all, I wouldn't recommend reading this one. But if you do, it's a great, fun read.

The Imp of the Perverse

The Imp of the Perverse - Edgar Allan Poe I haven't read this one since high school, or maybe even earlier, and had forgotten exactly what it was about. I remembered the running part, and the murder confession, but that was all. I actually don't particularly love the verbose introductory...essay? But, after getting to the meat of the story, you realize it's kind of necessary. At that point, the story goes from the ledge, teetering between interesting and boring, to full steam ahead so fast you barely have time to process what's going on before it abruptly ends.

The Imp of the Perverse is, I think, a story we can all see reflections of in ourselves from time to time, which is part of what makes it just a little bit frightening. Not that we're all murderers, of course, but those scary little "What if I..." self-destructive thoughts we have that seem to come from nowhere and be out of our control. It's a fantastic psychological story, and an examination of human nature.

William Wilson

William Wilson - Edgar Allan Poe I'm pretty sure I (somehow) had never even heard of this Poe story before now. (Which is weird because I have no less than 4 complete works plus at least one smaller volume of stories.) This gave me serious Fight Club vibes, but in a creepier way. I liked it. It also kept making me think of Jiminy Cricket, for some reason, and Dorian Gray's portrait a few times. I like the sort of ambiguous ending. Is "William Wilson" going mad? Is there someone out there, his twin perhaps, dogging his every move and thwarting him at all turns? It is his conscience? (I'm inclined to believe the last.)

Lumberjanes Vol. 1

Lumberjanes Vol. 1  - Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis,  Noelle Stevenson I think I went into this with my expectations too high. I expected to love it, because a lot of people I share similar tastes in books with loved and raved about it, but I wasn't wowed. It was a fun read, and I liked it, but I don't think I liked it enough to read more. Maybe, someday, but I won't be rushing to get the next installment. The artwork was great, but the story just didn't really grab and hold my attention.

Horoscopes For The Dead: Poems

Horoscopes For The Dead: Poems - Billy Collins This was, I think, my first encounter with Billy Collins's poetry. I've been aware of him for years, and sometimes remember to look for his books when I'm browsing bookstores or the library, but it took until now to actually find one.

I liked this collection, overall, but it didn't blow me away. I'm not sure if it's the way he writes or if it was just the specific poems in this collection, but I'm curious and will definitely be looking a bit harder for more of his work in the future.

Currently reading

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman
Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Progress: 153/368pages
The Trumpet of the Swan by Karen White, Fred Marcellino
The Poetic Edda by Lee M. Hollander, Anonymous
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré