Truer words have never been spoken. To quote from my much beloved Supernatural:
Endings are hard. Any cha
...more"It's not how you start, but how you finish."
Truer words have never been spoken. To quote from my much beloved Supernatural:
Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass.
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with characters enough to follow them through many pages and various books is familiar with that aching feel of needing to get to the end but never wanting it to be over. Closure to a series, that “final” book that has to come eventually gives rise to such a vast array of contradictory emotions – even when the ending delivers more than you could possibly have ever hoped for, but especially when it doesn’t. Oh the betrayal! Oh the crushing disappointment! See? It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
I began Y: The Last Man series back in April and I was a smitten kitten from the start. Oh yes, can you spell "shameless fangirl"? The premise is just simply fantastic and oh so deliciously tantalizing with possibilities. What would happen if one day without warning ALL the men on the planet just up and died, including any Y-chromosome carrying mammals … ALL that is except for the unassuming, underachieving twenty-something Yorick and his pet male Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Yes, starting this epic story would be easy ... finishing was gonna be a bitch.
Because I was able to absorb / inhale / ingest all sixty issues in a few short months I did not have to face the long, agonizing wait between issues, or the anxiety that the creator would die before finishing (a common nightmare I had about Stephen King before he finished The Dark Tower series and one that nearly came true when he was struck by a van and almost killed while out walking one day near his home in 1999).
I loved getting this story all in one rush – the momentum never slowed, I never had a chance to forget characters, or salient plot points. I was living and breathing the adventure and like any addict, I never wanted it to end. But all good things must, and this series is no exception. I feared the ending as much as I craved it. Disappointed I did not want to be ... I couldn’t face feeling robbed or cheated. After coming along for the ride this far, and thinking about little else in-between, I expected BIG. EPIC. EXTRAORDINARY. UNFORGETTABLE. Keep my expectations reasonable? Never!
I had nothing to fear I’m so drunk with happiness and relief to report. If you choose to start this series (and I HIGHLY recommend that you do), you will not be disappointed with how it finishes. Heart-pounding, heartbreaking, white-knuckling, shocking, and bruising – this is just some of what to expect.
(view spoiler)[ Agent 355’s death ranks as one of the most shocking moments in storytelling history for me; I DID NOT see that coming and was totally devastated, screaming “NOOOOOOO!” at the page. I also sobbed my eyes out when it came time to say good-bye to Ampersand. ::sniffle:: That feces throwing little fuck really grew on me. I love that we get a look into the future, to see how Dr. Mann’s work played out, what happens to Yorick’s clones, and of course, what happens to Yorick himself. His final escape and ambiguous end was much appreciated. Alas, poor Yorick!(hide spoiler)]
I’m not a graphic novel aficionado – in fact, I’m quite the newbie. I can say this series has taught me a lot about the magic and strength of the format, how it combines images and text together in a way that isn’t film or novels but some intoxicating lovechild of both. Before reading this series I assumed graphic novels by default would be heavy on action and seriously lacking in character development. Boy, is my face red. I can’t remember the last time I came to care about people (and monkey) the way I did here. I also became addicted to the snappy dialogue that's intelligent and filled with irony, humor and pop culture references. And that action? It’s there alright and just as addictive.
I will definitely re-read this series at a later date.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously an...more Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously and definitely the strongest in the series since Eight Million Ways To Die. While we've moved along in years out of the 80's into the early 90's, New York City continues to be a seething trap of anger and violence and desperation with all those ways to die and Scudder has stumbled upon yet another one. This time, he didn't even go looking for it, not really. It sort of finds him in a weird, chilling series of coincidences.
Two words: snuff film. Yeah, like I said, dark and depraved waters.
Scudder is moving along nicely in his life these days. He's sober and regularly attending meetings. He's got his girlfriend Elaine (who one dewy-eyed reviewer wistfully and with no irony whatsoever refers to as Matt's snuggle bunny) no matter that she's a call girl and continues to see clients. He's also forged a pretty meaningful friendship with Mick Ballou, the Irish gangster who may or may not have carried around some guy's head in a bowling ball bag, the man who proudly wears his father's blood stained butcher's apron (and which of those stains are man or animal, nobody knows).
I keep coming back to these books mostly for Scudder. He's such a great character to spend time with. But also for the sense of time and place that Block is able to conjure. I find the Scudder books act like time capsules in a way. So much of the plotting of this story relies on VHS tapes and renting them from a video store. It made me remember what that was like and how long it's been since I've actually done it.
I remember when my family got its first VCR ever and it was this huge exciting moment, like we had finally arrived at a Jetsons' version of the future. And with Block, it's so authentic, because he's not writing these books from a 21st century perspective and recreating 1991, he actually wrote this one in 1991 without the long view and hindsight that we have as readers. I love that. That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Scudder aging and getting Block's take on a 21st century New York. I can't wait actually.
I'll wrap this up with a note on the ending -- holy shit snacks. (view spoiler)[If Scudder had done this in his heavy drinking days, I would have blamed it on the booze, but to do it stone cold sober, I'm positively shocked. Yet pleased. Satisfied. There was a time early on when I was so angry at Scudder for letting a child rapist walk free (forcing him to donate money to Boys' Town). I was so disappointed with his lack of action then. Well, no one can accuse him of lack of action here. Decisive. Unequivocal. Was this justice or cold-blooded murder? I loved when Scudder tells Ballou about his mentor who told him you don't ever do something with your own hands you can get somebody else to do for you. Well I guess Scudder decided that wasn't for him. If this was going to happen, he was going to have blood on his hands to show for it. I can respect that. (hide spoiler)]
Now I think I'll go for a walk among the tombstones. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this th...more Outstanding!
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this thing for ages and ages.
So I'm late to the party, but not that late. Due to excited reader response over WOOL 1, author Hugh Howey quickly released the next four parts in the series. Then came along this Omnibus which collects Parts 1-5. There is now a 2013 edition with a great new cover that features a blurb by none other than Justin Cronin, author of The Passage.
In a few short years, Howey has given all struggling writers out there toiling away at their craft in obscurity real hope. Word of mouth among bloggers and enthusiastic readers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads has the potential to lift the curse of invisibility from self-published works so that they may find their way to audiences who will love them. Never before have the barriers between author and reader been so few, the access so direct. No longer are authors strictly dependent on big publishing houses to discover them and deem their work important enough to go to market accompanied by a sexy publicity campaign. Authors and readers are doing it for themselves, and I for one think it's a beautiful thing.
I love everything about this story -- I love the details of the world-building, I love the characters, I love the shifting points of view, I love the slow burn when you're not sure what is going on. When it became clear to me exactly what was going on I love that I wasn't disappointed. For a post-apocalyptic story trodding very familiar science fiction territory, it still feels fresh. The author definitely gives it his own spin.
I love that the stakes are so high. I love that the author is patient and in control of his narrative. That he doesn't reveal too much too soon. That he understands the relationship between tension and release. All of that to say, I love that the writing is so strong and capable (I've read too much self-published stuff where the prose is inexcusably sloppy). Howey's writing is the exact opposite of sloppy. It's polished. Its engine hums. The shoes are shiny and it's wearing a tie. It's ready to take home to mom.
Finally, I love Juliette. She's Ellen Ripley, Katniss Everdeen, and Dana Scully all rolled up into one. She's got brains and courage and heart and a will made of iron.
There's a lot of under-developed, underwhelming dystopian fiction kicking around out there these days. WOOL leaves those attempts in its dust. It's worth your time. Trust me.
I love this series!!! The dialogue is snappy, smart, and funny, the characters are multi-dimensional with their own distinct histories and motivations...moreI love this series!!! The dialogue is snappy, smart, and funny, the characters are multi-dimensional with their own distinct histories and motivations and the action is compelling and suspenseful. Not only is this an original idea, it is executed with real finesse and with a great sense of humor.
Yorick is the perfect not-hero. He's just your regular guy, young, impulsive, mouthy, a little stunned sometimes but basically in possession of real heart and good intentions. It's not easy being the last guy on Earth, especially when your two escorts across the country are a top-notch secret agent who is secretly in love with you, and a brilliant geneticist who is secretly in love with the secret agent. Talk about a triangle worthy of the Apocalypse!
As if that weren't drama enough there are umpteen special interest groups -- political, paramilitary, rogue, cult -- that want you dead or captured to suit their specific agendas. Including your very own sister!
What I love about the writing of this series is that it stays fresh and alive and the situations -- while dramatic -- don't seem contrived. The cast of characters that come and go out of the storyline are all richly drawn no matter how brief their contribution to the story. This time around I'm particularly partial to the lovely Natalya and her broken English in America to rescue a Russian Cosmonaut.
All I can say is I can't wait to see what happens next! (less)
Pardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphic...morePardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphic novel format would ever win me over entirely, but it’s happened - I’m in love - hook, line, sinker, fully, completely. Not only is this an addictive premise taken to the extreme reaches of the most fertile imagination, it’s brimming with fully fleshed out characters who live and breathe with histories, motives, strengths and vulnerabilities. The best part? This edition only collects Issues 1-10; I still have another 50!! to look forward to.
How’s this for a premise? – last guy on Earth is not alone, literally. Yorick is a hapless, near to agoraphobic, practicing escape artist, madly in love with a young woman a hemisphere away in Australia when a sudden unexplained plague hits the planet and kills every last mammal carrying a Y chromosome. Every last mammal that is except for Yorick and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Think it would be a laff riot to be the last guy on Earth surrounded by a few billion ladies? Think again gentlemen. Welcome to your new nightmare.
Vaughan’s world-building here post-plague is incredibly detailed and believable. With all men suddenly blipped out of existence women aren’t standing around singing Kumbaya (did you really think we would?) and the world does not become a better place. Far from it. Vaughan deftly explores the harsh realities that must be faced when such a monumental, unpredictable, counter-evolutionary shift happens to humans with no warning.
The graphics are superior; each character has their own unique look and the action is propelled along not just by Vaughan’s ripping dialogue, but by Pia Guerra’s sharp interpretation of the action. I love that I get so much story delivered on such a small canvas. I could have taken days to plow through a 650 page novel and not felt as sated or panting for more, the way I felt here after indulging in a mere 250 pages of colorful, comic book cells. That’s storytelling magic. I can’t wait for more!
My deepest thanks to my graphic-novel reading friends who kept throwing this series title at me for ages – I finally get it now!!! (less)
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
If I could get the whole world to read just one book it would be A Monster Calls. I could list...moreThe monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
If I could get the whole world to read just one book it would be A Monster Calls. I could list here a whole ream of adjectives to try and describe it -- beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, lyrical -- but none do it justice. I would need to invent adjectives, and even then I would come up short.
I can tell you A Monster Calls is the warmest hug, the hug that makes you feel the most safe, when you are at your most frightened. The world can be a terrible place, Fate a cruel and capricious bitch. But we humans persevere, it's what we do even when we're certain we cannot.
This story is such an intimate experience; it holds you in its jagged grip, unrelenting in its task, merciless in its final destination. It is the human heart personified, all the love we are capable of feeling contained in its pages.
I implore you -- Read. This. Book. Don't wait a moment longer. (less)
Camille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille wa...moreCamille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille was only 13. Literally carrying her war wounds upon her flesh, Camille is a recovering "cutter" who has carved a myriad of words into her skin as a visible record of the pain and trauma she's experienced. Having escaped from the clutches of a cloying family environment, Camille is being sent back into the cauldron, this time as a reporter for a second-rate newspaper to cover the gruesome murders of two local pre-teens. The more involved she becomes in the mystery, the more she uncovers about her town, her family, and herself. The discoveries are anything but pleasant.
Part thriller, part mystery, part Southern Gothic, Gillian Flynn's debut novel is simply outstanding. Camille Preaker is a heroine worth cheering for, as Flynn expertly delves into the female psyche and the delicate, often damaging ties between mothers and daughters. In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, the writing here is so effective and evocative, this one will stay with you long after the reading is done.(less)
He had not heard her coming. Girls were like that. Their shoes never squeaked. No boards whined under the tread. They slunk like cats on padded claws. ~The End of the Party, Graham Greene
I don't read a lot of short stories; it's not a format that appeals to me usually. However, when a story finds me that is so exceptionally good and unforgettable, so fine and filled with jagged teeth, there is no one on this green earth who will become a bigger pimp for said story.
...Graham Greene's "The End of the Party" is one of those stories.
So here I go a-pimping. First of all, I want to give a shout out to Wendy Darling and Stephen, both of who have done an awesome job pimping this story royally (without such pimpage I wouldn't even know of the story's existence).
Secondly, if I'm going to go ga-ga over a short story, there's a 99.9% chance it will have a twist ending, an ending that makes your skin crawl, or heart pound, or stomach drop down to the floor. Stories like: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Jaunt or Children of the Corn by Stephen King, or the more recent sleeper hit Ponies by Kij Johnson.
This story has a twist ending that goes right for the jugular. It's not sensational, but rather filled with creep and laced with unforgetableness (now I'm just making up words as I go along; I tend to do that when I get excited). Because this classic story is written by a literary master, you know the prose is going to snap and sing. There's a sadness in the story, about the powerlessness children often feel, and how often they can find themselves in threatening situations not of their own choosing. This is a story about fear and how unrelenting and merciless it can really be if left unchecked.
Above all, Greene accomplishes so much in so few words that your jaw will gape open in amazement (and envy). He makes Every. Word. Count.
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the si...more How do I love a book? Let me count the ways.
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a damaged and depressed city, betrayed and forgotten, seeking its redemption.
2. Heroine: Kick-ass, ruthless, complicated, haunted. Claire DeWitt is much like the city of New Orleans itself: damaged and dangerous, tragic and seeking redemption. Neither needs nor desires your pity or understanding.
3. Language: Hard-boiled dialogue that snaps and shows its teeth, married with gorgeous turns of phrase and a robust philosophy about the very nature of solving mysteries.
The client already knows the solution to his mystery. But he doesn't want to know. He doesn't hire a detective to solve his mystery. He hires a detective to prove that his mystery can't be solved.
4. Mystery: I don't read a lot of "mysteries" where there is a genuine, bona fide puzzle to be solved. I'm not a clue junkie hoarding each item the author throws down in an effort to beat him or her to the big reveal. Here, I really felt compelled to sit up straight and pay attention. It didn't take very long before I became incredibly invested in Claire's investigation and its outcome, no mere detached observer but something akin to an actual participant.
Despite the fact that Claire's methods are anything but conventional -- bordering on mystical and clairvoyant -- the investigation remains firmly grounded in reality and logic. I adore how everything comes together in a satisfying "click" "snap" "lock" way that isn't pretty and predictable, but all the more beautiful for that very reason.
Finally, I can't do this book justice on my own so I'm going to call in the big guns. Without these two reviews I don't think I ever would have found my way to Claire. Take it away Carol and Anthony. (less)
I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud...more I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud. Laini Taylor's epic narrative has swept me up in its arms and carried me away for a second time, despite knowing all of its secrets. I just lost my mind over this book when I read it last year, and I didn't think it would be possible to recapture that initial gush of adoration, but here it is. I'm completely ga-ga all over again.
The fabric of this story is conjured up out of the very elements themselves -- air, fire, earth, and water. And love. For love is an element. The real love story for me here is not shared between Karou and Akiva -- star-crossed lovers of mythological proportions -- but rather Karou and Brimstone. Ah, Brimstone. You are fierce and a monster in the eyes of many, but to Karou you are protector, mentor, father. You may have the head of a ram, but you have the heart of Atticus Finch. You are righteous and wise and honorable. You carry the burden of your dark magic on your broad shoulders so that your Chimera race may survive against the onslaught of the Seraphim, but deep in your soul you carry hope, for the future, for peace. For who else but the Wishmonger can truly know the power of hope over mere wishes?
This second time around I am truly dazzled by the rich world-building Taylor gives us, all wrapped in her sensuous prose. Her imagination is boundless, her ability to show remarkably vivid. (view spoiler)[The land of Elsewhere, the Chimera life and its legends and magic. Brimstone the Resurrectionist, using stolen, ill-gotten teeth to craft new bodies to hold the souls of the dead within them to live again as revenants. The Seraphim -- warrior angels of utter perfection, as beautiful as they are cruel, blinded by arrogance and a steel determination to bend the Chimera to their will. The conquered and the conquerors, the Chimera monsters and the Seraphim angels locked in a 1000 year old battle of poisonous hatred, mistrust, exploitation, humiliation. It is slavery, colonialism, invasion, conquest. It is terrorism and freedom fighter. (hide spoiler)]
And Karou. Sweet, soul-searching Karou. With your blue hair and unanswered questions. Who are you? What are you? You ache for answers, and when they arrive they rip your world to pieces and tear away all that you have come to know and love. My heart breaks for you. But I hope. I hope that all is not lost.
***Original review -- November 2011*** Once upon a time, an angel lay dying in the mist. And a devil knelt over him and smiled. ~Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
So. Much. Love. for this book I don’t know even know where to begin. Let me start by saying how happy it made me, how much pleasure I soaked up from each and every page. A lot of this I'm sure has to do with my healthy obsession with Angel lore (and not the airy-fairy, sparkling emo-kind, but the towering, frightening, blood-soaked other-wordly soldiers, beautiful in their grace, terrifying in their mercilessness).
One of my favorite films is The Prophecy (1995) starring Christopher Walken (and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer!). This movie captures exactly what is so awe-inspiring about warrior Angels:
Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone or ... needed a killing, he sent an Angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an Angel?
Laini Taylor’s angels are not part of a familiar Christian tradition, but nevertheless are recognizable as creatures of iconic, staggering beauty, mystery and grace (and always with one wing dipped in blood). They are ruthless, unthinking, unfeeling, arrogant in their righteousness, cruel in their certainty.
In other words -- awesome.
In this epic fantasy of worlds colliding, magic, fire, a thousand year war, deep hatreds and monstrous creatures, Taylor weaves a spell on her reader that is truly irresistible. I was enchanted, enthralled, and totally swept up and away -- giddy, delirious, and greedy, never wanting the story to end.
There is so much emotion and pain contained in the pages, so much fear, and love and hope that it will squeeze your heart, make your pulse race and your fingers grip the book for dear life. Part of the magic is Laini Taylor’s GORGEOUS prose. If ever a book deserved to sit on a shelf entitled “prose that sings” it is this one. In one of my updates I compared Taylor’s words to precious stones or black velvet – you will want to drape yourself in them. I know I did. I can’t wait to listen to the audiobook version just so I can hear those words read aloud.
I’m floundering now, and rambling, so I will leave you with READ. THIS. BOOK. Read it!!!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Neil Gaiman weaves a tale in such a way that he transports me back to a state of childhood wonderment when being transfixed by a story seemed so much...moreNeil Gaiman weaves a tale in such a way that he transports me back to a state of childhood wonderment when being transfixed by a story seemed so much easier and so much more pleasurable. Gaiman reminds me of why I love to read and I love him for that.
First-line-fever: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.(less)