This is a lovely Christmas story. I didn’t know that going in and it made for an odd choice for a broiling June evening, but there it is. A story of Bill Furlong, a coal merchant in Ireland, a good man who does a good deed, right in time for Christmas.
You sort of have to be familiar with Magdalene sisters. You can read about it or watch a very good movie with that title. It’s a horrifying thing that went on Ireland for much too long and traumatized and/or ended many lives of women and children. Actually the most horrifying thing about it is that despite its heavily medieval nature, it went on until 1996. Eleven years prior to it, Furlong finds himself in a position to help a young girl and his conscience is too loud to say no. And what’s more of a Christmas miracle than kindness of strangers.
I really enjoyed this book. It was short (a quick one sitting read) and very Irish, it played it my mind with accents and all and had a very pleasing slice of life thing going for it, realism based charm. Plus it had such a likable protagonist in Furlong, a devoted family man who goes through workaday motions in a sort of quiet determination that never lowers itself into desperation no matter how close to it he may hover in all of his contemplation. Furlong is a man who knows how to hope and how to find joy in small things, small things like these. A lesson to be learned there certainly.
A lovely read. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Ékleipsis by Tamel Wino
Aha, that unicorn of a random kindle freebie that’s actually worth a read. There you are. A surprisingly decent short story collection from an unknown though amusingly named author with an excellent, albeit obscure title, referring to a vanishment, especially that of a celestial body.
To be fair, no celestial bodies were vanished in making of this book. The main theme here are men on the verge of tumbling down, where it’s a former athlete powered by self pity who can’t control his rage or a gambling addict or a war veteran with PTSD who gives in to his jealousy. All these characters are driven by desecration in one form or another and all of those rides go off the road as it were.
Genre wise I’d say something along the lines of dark psychological fiction. Each story features a twist and that’s probably my only criticism here, since I found the twists to be completely and easily predictable. But then again, I read a lot of twisted fiction and my mind is trained for this sort of thing. It might be different for different readers. Otherwise this was way above average quality wise. Good writing (dramatic and character both) featuring a very organic sort of storytelling and potently realistic dialogue. The stories were dynamic, fresh and entertaining. The author shows a lot of promise. Overall, a quick, enjoyable read. Absolutely worth checking out. Recommended.
This book had fairly underwhelming reviews, so it took me a while to check it out, but actually it turned out to be quite good.
A time travelling adventure with samurais…that sounds good, doesn’t it. The story follows a young Japanese woman from 2045 who finds herself stuck in the feudal Japan of 1864 and ends up having to navigate the turbulent politics of the time.
It’s interesting, exciting…and book one of the duology, which now makes this a waiting game…wait and see if the ever inconsistent library will deem it necessary to get book two. I’m surprised they got this book at all, it has no movie tie ins. Maybe it’s because it’s manga adjacent.
The book took the author something like a decade to properly realize, which seems like a lot, but muses be fickle. And while the novel aspect of it is perfectly good, the art does leave something to be desired. It essentially looks like line drawings. Maybe I’ve been reading too many properly colored comics, but this just had a sort of unfinished look to me, the before look. Before the colorist comes in. the sort of drawings usually featured in the supplemental materials of the book done in color. It’s fine the way it is, in black and white, but it leaves you longing for color, something the bright, positively neon cover promises, deceptively.
But all in all, this was fun. I’d definitely read book two if it ever becomes available. Love the title too, such a clever mash up of chronos and ronin.
The sexual politics, policies, preferences, peculiarities and predilections of Ancient Romans are laid bare (as it were) in this wildly amusing and informative guide to the red light districts of the antiquities (as it were).
It’s nearly impossible to do a serious review of this book, because well, you know…but the thing is it is at its base a credible work of scholarship and research, informative, educational, edifying, all that.
And Romans certainly left a lot to work with, from their bawdy poetry to their bodacious graffiti to their bold personal accounts. It’s all about as wild and naughty and male centric as you’d expect from the people who had something like 120 words in their language for a penis. Which was also their preferred and most auspicious graffiti tag.
The Ancient Roman society was strictly patriarchal as were its recorders, so what’s been passed down through generations is a culture where men ruled and women were bought, sold and traded for political power, dowries, etc. Men essentially made all the decisions and went to all the wars. Which may have had some fairness since love had none. But at least divorces were easily obtained.
The average marriage age started at 12. The number of kids to have for a woman to prove oneself as a valid member of society and get some government perks was three, despite the high mortality rates for children and risks for mothers. The women had virtually no rights. Although the society had a large slave base, so the women were never quite at the bottom of the social ranks.
The boys officially became men at 15. And then they partied. A lot. That is, of course, an oversimplification, but it isn’t inaccurate.
Then again there was also eunuchs and slaves and freedmen/women and all sorts of class rules governing those divisions.
And then there was the man/boy love, enough of it to put the Greeks to shame. The ever so popular preference for men to lay with boys, ideally much younger ones, in a sort of pervert/pedagogue position. There was a ton of rules for these relationships, but essentially so long as the man was the top, it was fair play and challenged his manliness not at all. In fact, the Romans barely differentiated sex by gender, opting for the sex acts themselves. To which they ascribed various degrees of shame according to their concepts of things like virtus (what a man ought to be like), etc.
It is quite telling that the lesbian relationships in the book cover all of maybe three pages, while the male homosexual ones go on, and on and on like a creepy energizer bunny.
Apparently, those were their pagan ways and until the ascent of Christianity shamed them into recognizing it as sin, they were all about it.
But whoever they did it with and however much they bragged/b*itched about it in their poetry, the ancient romans got around. And this book will help you get your mind around how they did it. It’s a very well rounded and concise account that covers great many areas and uncovers just as many and does it all hilariously. In fact, this is exactly how I like my nonfiction and who wouldn’t want to be taught and amused at the same time, occasionally to the laugh out loud levels. I absolutely loved the tone the author chose for this book, in a way it perfectly matched its contents. There’s plenty of photos too, for those who can’t quite make it to the museum to check out the stunningly racy art the Romans left behind, behinds and all. A bunch of perverts…just like the rest of us.
All in all, a great read. I enjoyed it very much. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Wytches Volume 1 by Scott Snyder
Inspired by childhood fears, infused with primal atavistic fears, twisted up in the trees of the darkest woods…there be wytches. From the most terrifying and most terrified corners of the ever talented Scott Snyder’s imagination this is a gorgeous example of how to do a literary scare. Combining childhood frights and parental fears Snyder created something really special with this comic, infusing new life into a well trodden genre standard.
This is a fresh, original and profoundly darkly written tale of a family looking for a new beginning up north and finding unimaginable terrors. Both the art and the writing are top shelf quality and complement each other perfectly. I believe this is my first experience with the artist and what an introduction, really great art, especially portraiture, terrifically nuanced faces you don’t often find in comics pls a really interesting splotch effect, very striking, gives dimensionality to the darkness, among other things.
The graphic novel edition collects comics 1 through 6 and features six excellent essays by Snyder about his inspirations, thoughts on genre, etc.
All in all, absolutely loved this. Would definitely read more. Recommended.
Aha, now I know why our library got this one. It's up for tv/movie development by Plan B for Amazon Prime. Do it right, Brad, do it right. Also, apparently this was it, there were no further books. So sad. Oh well, at least there's the tv adaptation to look forward to.
Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault Essays from the Grown up Years by Cathy Guisewite
c Do you want to be comforted when you spent an entire day shopping and nothing fits? When you put off a workout yet again? When you ate an entire bag of snacks? When your kid acts like a stranger and your parents act like kids? Do you want to know you’re not the only one? Do you want to be hugged, clothed in old comfy sweats and told it isn’t your fault and it’s ok? Well, there’s a book for that and here it is. A comfort blanket of a book for the ladies of all middle ages.
Ok, through no fault of my own (to stick with the books’ theme) I grabbed this book from the library expecting cartoons. Or maybe it was my fault…not enough research, should have read some reviews first. That right there is a fine example of taking personal responsibility that the author systematically shirks for comedic effect throughout the book.
So, no cartoons, except for the tiny squiggles between the chapters. Despite the fact the fact that author’s main claim to fame is cartoons, specifically a newspaper comic she did for the very impressive 34 years, named, after its creator, Cathy.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of it, certainly never read it, but after this book I can imagine it. Not quote for me. Much like this book. But then again I’m not the intended audience. I work out daily, don’t obsess over clothes or calories, don’t have hoarding tendencies, I don’t have to deal with a teenage daughter or elderly parents, etc. This is a book for the ladies (said with drag queen attitude), moms and daughters of a certain (middle to late middle) age, specifically I’d say the fairly traditional, cisgender heterosexual female of the species. Those are the people who’ll find these essays relatable, who’ll recognize themselves in their struggles to stay in shape or find a perfect pair of jeans or a decent bathing suit or nagging their children or being exasperated by their elderly parents and their seemingly backwards ways and so on. I bet that was the reason the comic found such success and longevity, the ladies just like her (and the comic seems to have been autobiographical to some degree) must have ate it up.
To anyone who doesn’t fit into that category, the book doesn’t have much to offer outside of some interesting thoughts on generational differences and the psychological effects of feminism through time. The author is funny enough, entertaining enough in her own right to make these essays readable and at times mildly amusing, but in the end it seems that the enjoinment of reading this book is going to be directly proportionate to its relatability.
This book seems like a logical next step for the author who seems to have given up the comic for no good reason outside of a desire to suddenly be more present as a mother and daughter, it’s essentially a continuation of a long lasting confessional, albeit more properly biographical. Bet it would have been more fun if done in cartoons, though. Then again this book basically comes with a built in audience who are sure to adore this literary equivalent of mom jeans. To each their own.
The Secrets of Us by Lucinda Berry
like all berries. Blueberry, strawberry, Flynn Berry. It stood to reason this one would be tasty too and sure enough…it actually was. Not mind blowingly, amazingly, this berry above all berries so, but pretty good all the same.
The author used her background as a psychologist to craft an intriguing, dark, very dark, psychological thriller about two closer than blood sisters whose past reaches out and grabs them into a stranglehold years later.
Krystal and Nichole as their names so amply scream, came up from a white trash past and went through foster care together, inseparable, to emerge as well to do, well adjusted adults. Or so it was to all outward appearances, until Nichole went seemingly out of nowhere wildly and dangerously insane, burned down her place with her beloved Aiden in it and danced on the ashes.
Now Aiden is charred and bewildered, Nichole is in a straitjacket heavily sedated and Krystal, the sane, calm, reasonable Krystal, is left to figure out what the pluck is going on.
In a parallel narrative done by Nichole, the readers are taken back to the girls’ last years in foster care, a Cinderella like situation with a mean spirited strict woman who essentially uses them as farm labor and her equally mean spirited daughter. Tragedy occurs and the girls do their best to put it behind. But the thing with psyches (as the author has such a profound professional understanding of) is that they are wildly ununiform, especially when it comes to trauma processing, and what works for one person may kill another.
The very thing Krystal and Nichole find out all those years later, in the present day narrative.
Not quite Crime and Punishment, but a very credible take on the crippling effects of guilty conscience in this dynamic suspense thriller. Very decent plot twists for genre lovers. Fans of dark psychological (with the emphasis on psychological) fiction ought to be pleased. And, of course, entertained. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Pearl by Josh Malerman
I’m a fan of Josh Malerman. The man knows how to produce original literary scares. But it hasn’t been an immediate and easy road, no grand first impressions. It was more along the lines of underwhelming firsts, followed by (interest rekindled by a thoroughly excellent Netflix adaptation of his most famous work) several good to great other works.
And then there was the recent Goblin, which was somewhere in the middle. Thing is, Goblin was a major publisher’s reprint, so technically, chronologically you can still say Malerman is progressing nicely, instead of, say, meandering, quality wise.
And so this book, much like Goblin, is a reprint of a limited Cemetery Dance edition book by a major nongenre publisher. But the thing is, it reads very much like a limited genre edition book, which is to say it’s good for a selected genre fan base, but not necessarily the general public.
Me, I’m a genre fan. Unreservedly so. And whatever uneven love for Malerman’s work I might have, he’s the author whose books I’d download on name only. Which I did. Although in this instance a thoroughly plot summary read might have been advisable.
And so here you have it…Malerman at his most Orwellian with an animal farm you’re not likely to forget anytime soon, even as you walk away, think WTF was that. If this book doesn’t make you a vegetarian or at least Kosher, nothing will. In a comparison based advertisement style this is…Planet of the Apes Oink edition meets Charlotte’s Web with Babe thrown in for good measure. But really it’s just about the dire consequences of a farm animal gaining sentience on a level recognizable by and comparable to intelligence as the bipeds understand it.
It’s a surreal number with over the top violence and thoroughly disturbing themes and imagery, so in that way it’s definitely good for genre fans. But it also has a sort of trippy quality to it. Of all Malerman’s books so far, this is by far the most acid trip like. It also kind of seems like maybe it should have been a longer short story or a novella, but it got stretched out into a novel.
Not quite a creature feature, this book certainly offers the readers a different and memorable and strangely sympathetic monster. And it is well written, Malerman does that reliable enough. But it’s just so strange and weird (both of which are generally positive descriptors), but it’s strange and weird like a nightmare you wake up bewildered from, not a book you read.
Anyway, though were just some of my personal thoughts on this. It may work differently for different readers. Actually, I’m certain it will. And Malerman certainly continues to be the author to watch, if only based on the sheer originality and darkness of imagination. So read if you dare. Thanks Netgalley.
Come With Me by Ronald Malfi
I’m a huge fan of Ronald Malfi. I’ve read (just counted) 15 of his books, which may not be all of them but is certainly an overwhelming majority, from his earliest amateurish stabs at fiction to the awesome scary epics he’s matured into. So when Malfi says Come With Me I do. No map, no questions asked.
Which is to say that having found his latest novel on Netgalley, I requested it immediately and read it as soon as approved, no plot summary, no page count, pure trust. And sure enough, it paid off. Mostly.
For how prevalent literary fights have featured in Malfi’s latest work, with this book he decided to revisit his thriller writing days, flex those muscles, test those waters. So genre wise the book is basically a serial killer thriller with supernatural undertones thrown in. The plot goes something like this…
Aaron Decker is a haunted man. Aaron’s comfortable life was brutally changed one day when his wife Allison was randomly gunned down by a crazed shooter at a mall (the most American of scenarios and most tragically inspired by a real life story death of the author’s friend). Now he’s become unmoored, unanchored and in his grief he goes over some of his late wife’s things and finds a side of her he didn’t know existed. Sure, she was always reticent to talk about her past, but he figured that was due to all the tragedies she left behind, a death of her father, a death of her sister. But turns out there was more, so much more. Turns out his late wife’s sister was actually murdered and Allison has spent years investigating that and other similar deaths. Evidence suggests a serial killer. And now Aaron finds himself compelled to take over where Allison left off, to follow the thread no matter what darkness it’ll lead to. It begins as the only way to understand Allison, to be close to her once again…but soon enough it turns terrifyingly real.
So there you go. An excellent dark psychological suspense thriller from a genre hopping master of literary scares. The ghostly ambiance throughout blends in smoothly with the very credible murder investigation straight down to the prerequisite (and unexpected) final plot twist. A combination sure to delight fans of both supernatural and murderously natural genres.
I said mostly earlier and that’s because at time (and really just that, only at times) the book seemed lightly overwritten and it used the title excessively in some many ways. But these are really very minor things, comparing to the most excellent sum total. Malfi’s writing is excellent in the way that it plays out (for me, anyway) cinematically, I find his words projecting a movie onto the screen of my mind. Such as his vivid imagery, the atmospheric darkness pervading this story, the eerie small towns shrouded in sadness, desperation and nightmares. Really, really good, completely immersive, profoundly engaging reading experience. Read in the dark if possible, but either way…read this book. It’s exciting, disturbing and hugely entertaining. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
If you’re at all interested in the universe around you and all the important questions you can ask and have answered about it and would like this to be done by a renown physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist…this is a book for you. If not…well, that’s just sad.
This was an excellent primer on all things pertaining to our cosmos. The author essentially brings you up to speed on all the things that matters including dark matter, so that you can be well versed in the science of cosmos as it is known now. Is it likely to change in the future? Probably. The more you learn about science the more you learn about how it only takes one genius to revolutionize our perception of it. Once there was a world before Euclidian geometry., Newtonian physics, Einsteinian theory of relativity. We now know more than we have at any previous time, but technically that is true of most times.
I’m fascinated by all of this, not just the epistemology aspect. The universe and we do and don’t know it boggles my mind. So I’ve read and studied this quite a lot over the years and thus this book hasn’t really told be a lot of new things, but it did an excellent job of covering and refreshing previously acquired knowledge, so it was like a finetuning. A fine fineturning indeed.
And whether you’re looking for that or just expanding your knowledge (which should be limitless whether the universe around us is or isn’t) this smart, accessibly written, edifying book should make it on your reading list. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.