Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the Werewolf Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Under the light of the full moon, a werewolf stalks the people of Tarker's Mills. Can anyone stop... The Cycle of the Werewolf?!?!?!?

I first read this in high school, younger than my dog is now. It took me a few chapters to realize that Silver Bullet was based on it. Anyway, I found it for a buck at a yard sale a couple years ago and decided I could use a reread.

Like Kemper told me while I was reading it, Cycle of the Werewolf is essentially a Stephen King calendar. Each chapter is a month out of the year the werewolf is stalking the town, accompanied by one or more of Bernie Wrightson's fantastic illustrations. Stephen King's writing is as crisp as ever. Also, he wrote this during his prime so it isn't bloated or over-written in the least.

I actually prefer the movie in this case. It has a lot more depth. Marty Coslaw doesn't show up until halfway through the book. The book and movie hit most of the same beats. I think the book might rely on Bernie Wrightson's illustrations a little too much. For the most part, it's just a collection of werewolf attacks with not a lot else going on. That being said, I did like the structure, with every chapter being a month of the werewolf's reign of terror.

While it is strictly a B-list Stephen King book, Cycle of the Werewolf is by far the best Stephen King novel ever turned into a movie starring Cory Haim and Gary Busey. Three out of five stars.

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Review: A Pretty Mouth

A Pretty Mouth A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Pretty Mouth contains the tales of multiple generations of the Calapash family.

My first exposure to Molly Tanzer was Vermilion. When I learned Colleen Danzig from I Am Providence was based on her, I figured I was due to give her another look.

A Pretty Mouth is really fucked up but in the best possible ways. I was hooked from the opening story. Speaking of which, Bertie Wooster loses a bet and Jeeves has to help one of Bertie's friends, Lord Calapash, with his bathtub-bound sister, who is addicted to the secretions of a bizarre octopus. From there, the weirdness train rolls backwards, exploring the various members of the Calapash clan throughout history, all the way back to the beginning of the line in ancient Rome.

Each story is written in a different style, from the Wodehousian language of the first story, to Bronte, on down the line. The stories all have a Lovecraftian undercurrent, with the Calapash's being known for their look, not unlike the Innsmouth look. There's sex, incest, twincest, murder, sorcery, Lovecraftian horror and lots of crazy ass shit.

The homages to various Lovecraft tales were well done and didn't feel like Lovecraft pastiches alone. Molly Tanzer put her personal touch on each tale, writing in a variety of styles, bringing a freshness to the Lovecraftian subgenre.

A Pretty Mouth hit the sweet spot for me. About the only negative thing I can say about it is that I wish it was twice as long. Four out of five stars.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: The Death of the Detective

The Death of the Detective The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

As I get older, I've discovered I have no problem not finishing a book.

I'm not even bothering with a teaser on this. It's supposed to be a detective story but I got 100 pages in before throwing in the towel. Nothing much happens in the first chunk of the book. It's one of the most over-written books I've ever tried to read.

I'm not a picky guy. In fact, I grade a lot of books easier than I should. However, when reading a detective story, I ACTUALLY WANT SHIT TO HAPPEN. I don't read to have every aspect of the environment or a character's life before the story described to me in great detail.

I originally put it back on the pile with the intention of reading it again but I've decided I'm too old for that shit. There are plenty of unread books on my stack that I actually look forward to reading.

Final verdict - DNF. The National Book Award can kiss my ass.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Alice

Alice Alice by Christina Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her disastrous encounter with the Rabbit, Alice is confined to an insane asylum in the Old City. When a fire breaks out, she escapes the asylum with Hatcher, the axe-murdering inmate next door. However, the Jabberwock is on the loose as well, and to stop him, Alice will have to cross paths with the Rabbit once again...

Confession time: While I whiled away many a day playing Dungeons and Dragons, most of today's doorstop-sized fantasy novels don't hold a lot of interest for me. Alice, however, is another animal entirely.

While it has its roots in Lewis Caroll's familiar tales, Alice has a lot more in common with works like The Magicians and The Child Thief, deconstructions of older genre works. It bites like a horror novel at times and I was happy to let the bloody juices run down my chin.

Alice is not for the squeamish. She escapes the Rabbit's warren after he rapes her and soon finds herself locked up. Many figures from the earliest iterations of Alice's adventures are present and are crime bosses, many of them trafficking in women, in addition to their other vices.

The world building in Alice was exquisite, a Victorian era society where the rich live in the New City while the majority of people live in the dog eat dog world of the Old City, a world controlled by crime lords like The Walrus, Mr. Carpenter, The Caterpillar, Cheshire, and, of course, The Rabbit.

Aided by Hatcher, who may be an incarnation of The Mad Hatter, Alice goes careening through the back allies of the Old City, going up against all sorts of miscreants, discovering her birthright, and facing her darkest fears. That, and there is a shit load of violence. What more could a guy ask for?

Apart from thinking the ending was a little anti-climactic, I don't have anything bad to say about this book. It was creepy, unsettling, brutal, and a damn captivating read. It kicked a serious amount of ass and Christina Henry can come to my tea party any time. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review: The Violent Bear It Away

The Violent Bear It Away The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Francis Marion Tarwater buries his great uncle and heads to civilization to meet his uncle, the school teacher Rayber. Before his great uncle passed, he decreed that if he didn't baptize Rayber's son Bishop, Francis would. Can Rayber and the younger Tarwater fight destiny and break the elder Tarwater's hold on Francis from beyond the grave?

Flannery O'Connor sure was an upbeat person when it came to religion, wasn't she? The Violent Bear It Away is a tale of how one man's obsession took root in his entire family and ruined their lives time and time again, even after his death.

I had high hopes for the young Tarwater after the old man cashed in his chips. Unfortunately, fourteen years of living in the woods and tending a moonshine still didn't do much to prepare him for the outside world. Will he be able to shake his upbringing and find peace?

Fuck no, this is a Flannery O'Connor book, a book that tells you that clouds are lined with poison, not silver, and no matter how shitty your lot in life, things can always get a thousand times worse. I got lulled into a false sense of security a few times but should have seen the foreshadowing for what it was.

There were a couple holy shit moments near the end and while this was one bleak, powerful book, I was glad as shit that our time together was over. I wolfed it down in one sitting and I'm glad I did. I don't know that I would have felt up to finishing it otherwise.

The Violent Bear It Away is another feel good Flannery O"Connor tale of religion, revelation, and redemption. Or at least attempted redemption. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Review: A Choir of Ill Children

A Choir of Ill Children A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the town of Kingdom Come, Thomas cares for his brothers, conjoined triplets, and for the mill, the town's only source of income. Who's kicking all the dogs? What happened to Thomas' family?

A Choir of Ill Children is a modern Southern Gothic tale, a slice in Thomas' bizarre life. To be honest, I'm not precisely sure what this was supposed to be. It reads like a collaboration between Flannery O'Connor and Donald Ray Pollock. There is a bleakness to the tale and a lot of strange shit happens. Some parts feel quite dreamlike and I'm not sure which ones actually happened.

I'm not even sure how to describe the plot. Thomas wanders from one encounter to the next and very little ever gets resolved. However, the encounters themselves are well-written and captivating. Someone's kicking all the dogs. There is lots of sex and violence, and mystery mute woman who is either eleven years old or twenty. There are witches, a preacher that speaks in tongues, and the Holy Order of the Flying Wallendas. And much more. Some things are best experiences for yourself.

As I said before, I thought the writing was great and Piccirilli's depictions of the grotesque are very well done. There are some scenes that will stick with me for a long time. Hell, I enjoyed the shit out of it despite being lost in the swamp a few times as to what was actually happening.

Overall, I liked this book and I'll be tracking down more of Tom Piccirilli's work. I enjoyed it even if I'm not sure what the hell actually happened. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Cujo

Cujo Cujo by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a two hundred pound St. Bernard goes rabid, no one is safe! Who will fall to Cujo before the disease he carries finishes him off?

I'm just going to come out and say it. Most of this book feels like filler to me. I think King took what was potentially an award winning tale of terror and jammed as much padding into it as he could until it was one of his shorter novels. Basically, it's a fantastic short story wrapped in a soap opera I couldn't give two shits about.

That being said, Cujo is a really powerful book in places. While I didn't care about a lot of things on the periphery, the core of it is pretty terrifying and heart-wrenching. No one wants their beloved family pet to turn on them and a rabid dog trapping a woman and her child in a car for DAYS is damn horrifying. As opposed to most of his menaces, Cujo is all too plausible.

The writing is good and the ending packs a huge punch. I sure didn't see that coming. It was like being kicked in the balls after you're already lying on the ground after being shot in the heart.

While I found that there was a lot of fat on this bone, it was pretty good at the core. Or marrow, in this case. Three hard-earned stars.

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