C.K. Kelly Martin's first adult book. There is nothing this woman can't write. I got to read it back in January and I will write more when she releases it this June, but it is one of the most raw, realistic, heartbreaking (and romantic and sexy!) books I have ever read about grief and finding your footing after a tragic and senseless loss. No holds barred on the devastation, but hopeful in the way only C.K. can do. I love it so much and it made me cry 5,000 times.(less)
Video games are wonderful things! They make me aspire to be a more dynamic storyteller and interacting with environments has helped me look more clear...moreVideo games are wonderful things! They make me aspire to be a more dynamic storyteller and interacting with environments has helped me look more clearly at my own worldbuilding and consider the way I want to approach worldbuilding in future books. Even if video games did not inspire me as a writer in any way, shape or form, they would still be wonderful things because THEY ARE FUN AND I ENJOY THEM!
I love you, video games.
Alan Wake is a good video game. I loved it; it is one of the reasons I wanted an Xbox. The gameplay is pretty fun (not super special but fun), it's amazingly atmospheric--sooo pretty and scary--but the best thing about it is the incredibly immersive story (from its Wikipedia page): "The plot follows bestselling thriller novel writer Alan Wake, as he uncovers the mystery behind his wife's disappearance while both are on vacation in the small town of Bright Falls in the U.S. state of Washington, where he experiences blackouts and visions of characters and ideas from his latest novel, which he cannot remember writing, coming to life. Darkness plays a significant role in the game, and the core combat gameplay of Alan Wake consists of "fighting with light."
It's just really great. It is psychological and tragic and the characters are fantastic. Just great great great in my eyes. ANYWAYS. I should talk about the novelization right? Once I found out it existed I wanted to read it and see how the story held up without a controller in my hand and I think writing a video game novelization would be awesome (maybe one day my new dream of writing one will come true?) and I wanted to see what they were like so I figured I might as well start by reading a novelization of a game I loved. The good news is--Alan Wake holds up on the page. This was actually a really fun novel and I think people could enjoy it if they knew nothing whatsoever about the game, but I can't imagine anyone without an interest in the game picking it up, unfortunately. I think it could appeal to people who like easy-to-read thrillers/horror stories with a fair bit of action. I don't think you would regret the time you spent with this novel. I didn't. I can actually see myself re-reading it.
Here are some observations I made while reading this:
- I wished it was written in first person! It's a third person shooter, though, so I suppose the POV choice makes sense. But Alan's voice is so distinct in the game I was hoping for more of it here. He's such a jerk in the game! I like jerks. Having his jerkiness related to me in third person didn't endear him to me as much for some reason.
- The video game has more gravitas, to be honest. I mean the ending of the game is so emotional and cinematic and the last line is incredible oh mah gawd you guys I love this game spoilers spoilers look at this beauty it was the most rewarding and bittersweet conclusion to hours of fighting in the dark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5dLME... but here I just felt one step removed from the heart of Alan's journey (his quest to find Alice) as I read. I do think Burroughs nailed the action though and what it would be like to be running through the woods all the time and being tired and scared. He was also great at relating the setting. Bright Falls felt like Bright Falls to me. And I liked the way Alan's inserted manuscript pages enhanced the story. This was more of a ride than an emotional journey and I think some people who love the game will penalize it for that but I read it fairly quickly and enjoyed myself so I can't, to be honest. I will just play the game if I need to shed tears over Alan's ultimate outcome!
- The same traits that make the secondary characters SO ENDEARING in the game do not serve them as well in the book. I am thinking of Barry, mostly. Barry is so earnest and ridiculous in the video game--true comic relief which after a certain point is really needed because you are SO TENSE as you play--but in the book, he's kind of a caricature. And it's funny because he's not exactly out of character in the book but I guess it just didn't work as well for me here. His dancing and air-guitar was less appreciated. Also I gave the scuba diver who hangs out in the light and helps Alan a side-eye when I played the video game. He does not translate so well in the book. I mean objectively he is the most necessary light swimming scuba diver ever but really that imagery was hard for me to take seriously from the beginning.
- I am pretty stupid! I really felt, getting into this, it would be a complete and total play-by-play of the video game. So much of Alan Wake is RUNNING THROUGH THE DARK and I was like maaan, how is the book going to make that interesting? Is he going to have to relate every single puzzle solving moment? Are we going to go through the ghost town? I mean it's one thing when you are playing as Alan Wake himself but I am not sure I want to read about someone running through the dark THAT much. But, duh much of the game's running and action is condensed in the interest of keeping the book moving forward and the tension up. But I seriously am stupid for thinking every single moment of the video game was going to make it into the book. Also stupid because part of me was waiting for the scuba diver to give Alan the tutorial on how to shoot and dodge in the opening pages, hah. I don't even know why I am sharing this observation because it is really just an observation of how stupid I can be. OH WELL.
- (view spoiler)[I did not like Alice and Sarah's moment at the end of the book. I wish the ending had been to-the-letter from the video game, to be honest. That ending is one of the best endings ever anywhere. (hide spoiler)]
- The book clarified some of the game's story for me! Definite plus. There are parts near the end of the game, for example, where certain histories are being related in voice overs and it turns out I was only half listening to them! And then the second time I played Alan Wake I skipped all the cut scenes, so. And it is such a whirlwind, mind-messing of a game that, well. Sometimes I need things spelled out for me. I was glad of that here because it made me love the game even more. So that was good.
I like this book. I love the game. The story holds up in both formats. Yay! You should play it and read it and to be honest, you should also buy the soundtrack because it's fantastic too. (MAYBE I AM LISTENING TO IT RIGHT NOW!)
(In related news I am not sure about Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Go back to Bright Falls, Alan! That is where you are most interesting to me.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am not a person who looks too hard for series reads these days with a few exceptions and I often inwardly lament the lost art of the stand alone nov...moreI am not a person who looks too hard for series reads these days with a few exceptions and I often inwardly lament the lost art of the stand alone novel. If I do think "I want to read a series!" I like them to be either A) done so I don't have to wait for the next installments or B) CLOSE to done so I have more than one book IN the series to read. Blood Bound, part of the Unbound series, just came out so right there, it breaks all of my rules. It is not done! It has only just begun! Do you know what this means? There are going to be some hard times of waiting ahead for Courtney. But I have decided to make my peace with this because if the sequel delivers what the opener did, any amount of waiting is going to be worth it. Okay, I am kind of lying. It's going to be worth it but I don't want to wait for it at all asdfkljsfads.
The Unbound series takes place in a universe where there are the Skilled and Non-Skilled. A Skilled person can, among other things, be a blood tracker (someone who can track a person by blood so don't get blood anywhere ever), a name tracker (someone who tracks by names--so don't hand out your full legal name to just anyone), a traveller (make sure all the lights are on or a traveller can get in your house via shadow) or a binder. All of these skills scare me but I think binders scare me the most. They can contractually bind you to anyone and then you are compelled to serve that person no matter what. So if the person you are bound to asks you to do something that you don't want to do? You have to do it anyway. If you so much as try to resist, your body will systematically and painfully shut down. Now imagine the person you are bound to is one of the most evil people ever. Yeah. That would suck, huh?
Non-Skilled people can be a Skilled person's target but it's harder out there for the Skilled. The government does not officially recognize the Skilled and two powerful rival crime syndicates in Liv Warren's city use this to their advantage. Ruben Cavazos and Jake Tower use blood and name trackers, travellers, jammers, seers etc to keep their respective empires running and if you work for either of them you don't JUST get to work for them--you will be bound to them.
Liv Warren is a particularly skilled freelance blood tracker with a complicated past and her services are very in demand by Cavazos. The two of them have a unique and disturbing arrangement that has cost Liv everything she holds dear, including the man she loves, Cam Caballero. For the last six years Liv's been alone, hardened and angry until one night Cam reenters her life accompanied by another ghost from the past and they make a request of Liv that is going to change everything.
I'll stop there before I give more away!
This book is GRITTY. I got 23 pages in and I was as uncomfortable as hell because the set-up was just so disturbing--but in a way that was utterly necessary and made the book brutally great. If I had to describe this book in a nutshell, it would be brutally great. The whole concept of being bound just gives me nightmares. It's a form of abuse, obviously. People can be bound into the sex trade, their marriage (which might seem romantic at the time BUT DON'T DO IT), to their jobs, to their friends. Even the stuff that seems relatively innocent can have a huge price. It's a sad, tragic, devastating thing and it is a sad, tragic, devastating thing to witness it first hand through Liv's (and also Cam's, though less frequently) narrative. What it's cost her and who she has become because of it is just suffocating and also makes her incredibly empathetic. I can't hold an iota of Liv's anger against her for everything she's gone through and boy, is she angry. As we know, I love angry female protagonists--more, please!
It's an unsettling and merciless world Vincent has created here. Skilled people are so sought after, are such huge targets, they are forcibly recruited by Tower and Cavazos and that is just about as awful as you can imagine it would be (in case you were wondering why anyone would "agree" to be bound). And the measures Skilled people have to go to to protect themselves from their bosses and their bosses' enemies? Overwhelming.
Also think about this: if you are bound to a job for either Tower or Cavazos, that can limit the things you can reveal to anyone else (or else you will die a horribly painful death from the inside out) even if the entire WORLD is at stake. Also? Forget morals and ethics because being bound trumps them, too. And if someone you love reveals information that you are bound to share--even if that information could jeopardize the person you love--you have to reveal it (see: horribly painful death). Liv and Cam find themselves in some very compromising situations more than once over the course of Blood Bound and it's killer. I wish I could tell you some of the loopholes Vincent thought up so they could communicate the bare minimum with each other because they were so clever. But they were also never easy. The characters really have to work for every break they get. Something I quickly learned is that Vincent seems to refuse to take the easy route with her characters. That is one of my favourite things an author can do.
The interpersonal relationships in this book are deliciously complicated thanks to the world it's set in and I really, really appreciated that. Living a bound existence is just painful. It is emotionally and physically painful. These people have been damaged from what they're compelled to do and are in the process of being damaged and they have NO say in it and it is so heartbreaking. The way Liv negotiates her damage and tries to minimize it is, well, again: heartbreaking. She is constantly navigating situations where she is used/degraded/disrespected and redefining her own personal lines so she can hold onto SOME self worth. And the ferocity with which she and Cam protect the little good in their lives, or the lives of people that are innocent and untouched by this corrupt universe is just--seriously. That they get up each day kinda makes them my fictional heroes.
(I should note that despite the grim picture I paint of this world, Vincent uses humour as the perfect tension relief. Liv's quips were sharp and left me grinning. And the joy she did take in things when she could was also great. There was balance.)
The romance was also earned in this book. (view spoiler)[These two characters have to work so hard to have it and not because they don't know how to love each other, but because they have to figure out how to do it while bound to other people. Liv and Cam's dual narrative really brings this aspect home. (hide spoiler)] This emotional complexity fuels the world Vincent has created and drives the characters in it and it does both fantastically. I have nothing but respect for that.
Also, the plot was highstakes to the nth degree. GREAT twists and GREAT action. I couldn't turn pages fast enough but now I'm sorry that I did because you know. Cue impatiently waiting for Shadow Bound.
Finally, it's not the end of the year, but I'm going to call it: Blood Bound will definitely be on my Best of 2011 List. Which means you should read it. And then we can suffer the wait for the next installment together!
I devoted many hours of my yesterday enjoying the articles at Cracked (it's like Wikipedia, dammit, one article leads to the next and then the next......moreI devoted many hours of my yesterday enjoying the articles at Cracked (it's like Wikipedia, dammit, one article leads to the next and then the next... but no shame!) and then the book came in the mail and I read it in a day. ILU for that, Cracked. Thank you for being funny enough to keep my interest. Especially since I read most of the articles of this book on your website.
The only thing that sort of made me raise an eyebrow was the censoring of the word 'fuck.' So maybe you should find a way to reissue this as a YA novel, Cracked, because in my experience, that swear is TOTALLY allowed in them.(less)
Explicit, daring, fun, shocking, sweet. Edith is my hands-down favourite (so haunting and tender), but every story in this slim novel is just fantasti...moreExplicit, daring, fun, shocking, sweet. Edith is my hands-down favourite (so haunting and tender), but every story in this slim novel is just fantastic and totally worth your time. Joey Comeau's writing is the kind of realistic and honest that never falters, which is why I will read everything he writes and why I so look forward to reading his stuff.
Also I really love the way these books are designed! This one and Bible Camp Bloodbath look nice on my bookshelf next to each other. These things matter.(less)
So I've only owned this book a day and I can't stop holding it up to the light and watching the title flash at me. SHINY!
Joey Comeau is one of my favo...moreSo I've only owned this book a day and I can't stop holding it up to the light and watching the title flash at me. SHINY!
Joey Comeau is one of my favourite living writers today and One Bloody Thing After Another is my favourite of all of his books. I didn't think anything was going to displace Lockpick Pornography but I was wrong. This is amaaaazing. Wait it doesn't feel right to type that not in capitals. This is AMAAAZING. It's got zombies! Ghosts! Death! Sexuality! And coming of age elements that made me cry! The way it all came together was so satisfying and perfect. I can't even tell you what it's about because I tried to describe it to like three different people today and there is so much going on and I just can't do the story justice but I will tell you that it is worth your time. It's dark and funny and sad and and crazy and awesome.
Anyway, one of my favourite things about Joey's writing is that it so understands, well--people! He just gets secrets and longing. He writes about the stuff you're afraid to say out loud but maybe it's not so bad to say out loud but you just can't bring yourself to say it out loud--even if it would set you free--and then he wraps it up in total want and longing and it is impossible not to connect to it in big ways and small ones. And then he sets all those secrets and longing in these fantastical, strange and unsettling, practically impossible situations and presents them in a way that makes them NOT SEEM IMPOSSIBLE! I fucking love that. I mean it is a story about zombies and ghosts and it never seems out of reach. It's like, "Aah! It's my next door neighbor! No wait, oh my God, it's ME!" That type of feeling! And that is a crazy writing magic all its own. And it is just very genuine and sincere. I believe in it! And it's clever and sharp.
What else. OH! I love the way Jackie was violent. I thought it was fantastic. Actually that is one of my favourite things about Joey's writing--the way his characters are violent and the way they internalize/process that violence, how it comes out, how they react, how they justify it. It's got all the exhileration behind it, but it's so thoughtful too and that makes it so so good. The writing style itself is just yeah. I said it before and I'll say it again--Joey Comeau does not waste a word. I can't wait for his next book. And now that I am finished with this one I just want to pick it up and read it all over again.(less)
I finished The Piper's Son earlier this year, but then got this amazing deadline that apparently prevented me from updating anything. Which. I know. I...moreI finished The Piper's Son earlier this year, but then got this amazing deadline that apparently prevented me from updating anything. Which. I know. I am terrible, but the neat thing is, it feels as though I just finished The Piper's Son yesterday! That is how much Melina Marchetta's latest novel has stuck with me. And that is because the story of Tom Mackee (those who loved Saving Francesca will remember Tom) and his Aunt Georgie and the whole family is just. So. Absolutely. Gut-wrenching. Which makes it impossible to forget.
So I picked up The Piper's Son directly AFTER reading Saving Francesca, and honestly, nothing could have prepared me for the reading experiences I was about to embark on. Saving Francesca stops at this wonderfully hopeful place in time and you almost want everyone to stay that way. In The Piper's Son, which is set five years later, loveable Tom is lost, confused, and ANGRY and SAD (really angry and sad, I must emphasize this through capitals) and trying to work out his VERY conflicted feelings toward his family, particularly his father.
But though his feelings are conflicted, the love he has for the same people who tear his heart to pieces (but also pick him up, and mend it whole) is never in doubt. I don't want to run down the plot too much because it's so intricate, personal, the way its woven between each of the characters is just such a pleasure (at times a heartbreaking pleasure) to read and discover you really should do that. But basically I think if you have a beating heart then there is a good chance something in here will resonate with you deeply. I am a family person. So that basically means I cried once a page.
After getting acquainted with Melina Marchetta's work (two more to go--can't WAIT), I have to say there are few writers who tackled the subject of family the way that she does. The frankness, the love, the hope, the despair that is shared through this group of people is so real and all encompassing, as it is in life, in families. I just so admire writers who can capture that dynamic so realistically and so honestly, and Melina Marchetta is definitely one of those writers (if not THE writer). Every time I picked up The Piper's Son, I felt completely there and IN IT. Tom's journey, and Georgie's journey, at times was so unrelentingly grim (but ultimately beautiful), I'd find myself holding my breath as I turned pages and having to put the book down just so I could breathe again!!! Before I picked it up again. You know how some people just say that? I SERIOUSLY DID THIS.
I picked this up last night and got about 50 pages in before I reluctantly put it down, so I could sleep, and then I woke up and finished it before I...moreI picked this up last night and got about 50 pages in before I reluctantly put it down, so I could sleep, and then I woke up and finished it before I physically got up to drink coffee. Reading before coffee! It's possible to do that, you know. I wouldn't have believed it before today. I am now living proof.
ANYWAY. Overqualified is a novel told in cover letters (if you're a fan of A Softer World, yer probably no stranger to Overqualified), by a dude named--oddly enough!-- Joey Comeau. BUT! It is not just a compilation of cover letters. There is a running narrative of grief and love and identity throughout. And it is presented in a grim, tongue-in-cheek, smart, sharp and whimsical, sorta nostalgic way that makes it hard to stop thinking about after you close the last page.
Mostly it is bleak and hilarious and heartbreaking.
Joey Comeau is a great writer. He does not waste a word. (less)
Words cannot describe how sad I am that I'm finished this book.
It is glorious. And violent. And gloriously violent. I am a sucker for suviva...moreWords cannot describe how sad I am that I'm finished this book.
It is glorious. And violent. And gloriously violent. I am a sucker for suvivalism & related violence (hello zombie obsession!). And sad. And thoughtful. And suspenseful. And thrilling. And when you're reading it, your mind does this: whirrrrrrrrrr. Oh my God. Maybe "PERFECT" is the word I am looking for here, to describe this book? I think it is.
I LOVE IT THIS MUCH! Now imagine me dislocating my shoulders because I just can't spread my arms wide enough to convey HOW MUCH I LOVE IT. And imagine the hands attached to the arms attached to those shoulders shaking crazily.
I caved and watched the movie before I finished the book and while the movie is fantastic and enjoyable for all of the same reasons, I definitely prefer the book more because the book IS more. I just can't get enough of this concept. It feels like there is no such thing as spending too much time with it. I wanted this book to last forever. But because it didn't and can't (whyyyyy) I am going to have to re-read it every year, like I do with a Christmas Carol.
I don't know how much I can say about the plot without giving everything away. So just read the description on GoodReads and then come back.
Okay. Isn'...moreI don't know how much I can say about the plot without giving everything away. So just read the description on GoodReads and then come back.
Okay. Isn't that a cool plot description? I KNOW. The Boys Are Back in Town is my second Christopher Golden book, the first being his YA zombie book, Soulless. In both books, Golden takes something I'm not crazy about (talking zombies in Soulless and magic in Boys) and then incorporates it into a story in such an awesome and entertaining and compelling way, he forces me to give him a pass. This is a big deal, especially if you know how much I hate talking zombies (Ihatethemsomuch). My ire for magic is less fiery in my heart, BUT STILL. It is enough so that my loving this book unreservedly is a feat. And I loved this book! I really enjoyed it.
It's just GOOD. I wish I had read it in October. The book is set IN October and he just nails the crunchy-dead leaves, creepy/cozy feeling so well that I wanted it to be October while I was reading. Such perfect atmosphere. I love that kind of atmosphere and seek it out in horror movies all the time, so if you are into that kinda vibe you should check out this book.
It's an adult novel but I think it has crossover appeal because it's set in two different times--an adult present and a teenage past. Golden really nails how the petty problems of high school can quickly become exacerbated to the point that people make SCARY choices that they can't take back. You just see the snowball effect happening and you totally understand it and you're like agggh nooo this is awful turn back turn back now agggh and everything gets steadily worse for the characters but it is impossible to stop reading because you have to see how it continues to unfold and is (hopefully) resolved. And the nostalgia laced throughout the novel is also something that's dead on... we all feel that wistfulness for youth as we get older. It's articulated very, very well in these pages.
The final showdown was very BIG and DRAMATIC, which I'm not sure I was expecting or at first wanted, but enjoyed nonetheless (maybe "enjoyed" is the wrong word because it was horrific but... yeah, okay, I enjoyed it). And the epilogue made me sad and the final page made me go gah (not a bad gah). Hm. I am trying so hard not to give anything away... I read ahead to see who was responsible for the terrible and fantastical going-ons (bad Courtney) but even that didn't prepare me for some of the twists and turns getting there. It was just a great ride.
Reading Christopher Golden kind of reminds me of reading some of my favourite mystery/sci-fi/thriller/suspense teen novels when I was younger, books I still love to this day. More specifically, his books remind me of the FEELING I got when I read them. Both times I've picked up a Christopher Golden novel, I just felt totally assured I was going to be entertained and the writing was going to be solid and I was going to be told an excellent story and it would be worth my time. Both times it was. He's a fantastic storyteller is all. This is definitely not going to be the last book I read by him. And given his catalogue, I am going to have fun choosing which one is next!(less)
Loved it, love it, loved it. I hated every second I wasn't reading this book. It's quickly paced, but I don't know if I'd call it a thriller, per se,...moreLoved it, love it, loved it. I hated every second I wasn't reading this book. It's quickly paced, but I don't know if I'd call it a thriller, per se, or use Silence of the Lambs as a point of comparison/reference (the Kirkus blurb on the front does both).
In the Miso Soup is tense and intelligent and sad and contemplative. I had any easier time with the gore than I thought I would. It was pretty explicit, yes, but maybe seeing it through Kenji's eyes--he's a very passive narrator--allowed for a certain distance. The characters are fascinating and I just liked hearing them talk. The writing is all I ask for in writing (no navel-gazing, yay!).
The whole book reminded me of Robert Cormier, actually. The examination of loneliness and human condition recalled the best of Cormier's work, in my opinion. It's almost like if Cormier wrote 'adult' novels, they'd be something like this (maybe not so gorey) or if Murakami wrote YA they'd be something like Cormier's. I could be WAY off, but that's the feeling I got and is probably a huge part of the reason why I love love love love love this book.
I don't know if I could freely recommend In the Miso Soup to just anyone--like I said, it's explicit and it's dark and it's gritty--but it's amazing and I'm so glad I read it and I will probably read it again. And again.(less)
I don't think I've wanted any fictional character to die more in my life than I did Daisy. And then Gatsby. And I hated Nick sometimes. But especially...moreI don't think I've wanted any fictional character to die more in my life than I did Daisy. And then Gatsby. And I hated Nick sometimes. But especially Daisy. What a great book about a bunch of sad bastards.(less)