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text 2018-06-03 23:57
Fantasy Flights June Meeting - Urban Fantasy
Shadowshaper - Daniel José Older
Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish
Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic) (Volume 1) - SL Huang
Drink, Slay, Love - Sarah Beth Durst
Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes

The librarian usually sends out links for each months topic. This month, her links include an article titled something like "what is urban fantasy" that only says it's a marketing category and a list of "where to start" that has more male authors than female authors. I, just, I don't know, ya'll. If I were introducing someone to UF, I'd probably talk about the use of noir tropes in contemporary fantasy settings, broken vs unbroken masquerades, and Carrie Vaughn's theory, "these books are symptomatic of an anxiety about women and power." But, sure, here's a dude saying it's meaningless marketing and a list of mostly dudes to read.


The other big UF reader in the group is going to be out of town for this one, so I'm trying to psych myself up to deal with a room full of guys all talking about Harry Fucking Dresden. 


I'm also bounding myself by recommending in-progress series or stand alone books. A few months back, one of the members asked for recommendations for completed UF series that weren't PNR, and I want to avoid repeats. Okay, he didn't say PNR, he asked for books that weren't all about vampire sex. So at least one person may have some non-Dresden. . . take a deep breathe, Saturdays, you don't want to start another fight in book club.


Whatever. I love this genre. 


Shadowshaper - Daniel José Older. So far this series has 2 novels and 3 novellas and is dynamite. The protagonist is an artist who discovers her legacy includes channeling spirits into physical forms. She makes her graffiti come alive. Yeah, that's right, I talk all that shit and then start off with a book by a man.


Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish. Action packed with an unlikable heroine, this series follows an antiquities thief and her vampire hunting cat through endless poor decisions and explosions. I adore that she isn't good with weapons and doesn't have powerful magic abilities. I just recently finished the 4th installment, and the heroine is consistently a train wreck.


Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic) (Volume 1) - SL Huang. Fast paced, plenty of violence, and her magic power is being really good at math. Do I need to go on? 


Drink, Slay, Love - Sarah Beth Durst. A teenage vampire gets stabbed by a unicorn and finds herself able to go out in daylight. Her family decides to enroll her in high school so she can lure teens back to the rest of the bloodsuckers. This is a lighthearted, almost rom-com book that is exactly as much fun as my first sentence indicates.


Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes. The protagonists are all human in this not-quite police procedural where strange murders point toward incomprehensible motives.


 And I think I'll stop there. I really want to add about 10 more books. We'll see where the night leads.

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text 2016-11-24 17:20
Update on my reading life
Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes
Dracula - Bram Stoker,Susan Duerden,Tim Curry,Graeme Malcolm,Steven Crossley,John Lee,Alan Cumming,Simon Vance,Katherine Kellgren
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie,Dan Stevens
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman - Robert K. Massie
Planetfall - Emma Newman
So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson

Hi everybody,

the last couple of weeks have been super busy for me, so I didn´t have that much time to drop in here on a regular basis. Add to this that I´m having the weirdest reading month ever, since I manage to finish up on my audiobooks while I´m dragging my way through my physical books. Apparently I´m not in the mood to read with my eyes.

I was planning to participate in the 12 tasks of christmas, but I don´t think I have the time rigth now. But I will definitely make a post about hygge. You can count on that.


These books I have finished so far this month:


Broken Monsters: Not a favorite of mine. You can find my review here


Dracula: The narration of this audiobook is amazing and Alan Cumming could narrate the phone book for all I care and I would be one happy listener. But I´m not completely satisfied by the book itself. As good as the first half of the book is, I didn´t like the second half of it that much. Mainly because I couldn´t stand Van Helsing and him constantly saying "fair madam Mina" and "My good friend Jonathan". And I´m flabbergasted by the sheer stupidity the men put on display when it comes to Mina and

count Dracula´s visits to her bedroom.

(spoiler show)


And Then There Were None: An excellent story and an excellent narrator (Dan Stevens), who gives all of the characters a distinctive voice. I´m currently watching the 2015 BBC-Adaption with Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Toby Stephens and Miranda Richardson and it´s brilliant as well.



And these are the books I´m currently reading:


Catherine the Great: A memoir of Catherine the Great, empress of Russia. I´m really loving this book and Massey truly makes history come alive. I´m about halfway through and I just needed a little break from this book, because the political chapters are a bit more dense than the chapters where the personal drama is going on (and there is a LOT of personal drama in Catherines life).


Planetfall: There is some great worldbuildung in this book and I really like that the author focuses on the very troubled main character instead of focusing on the mystery surrounding the colony. I will definitely finish this book over the next couple of days,


So You´ve Been Publicly Shamed: The author Jon Ronson narrates this audiobook himself and he brings the right amount of compassion to his narration. Ronson takes a look at the lives of people, who have been publicly shamed and the psychology behind the phenomenon of public shaming. I´m fascinated by this topic and this audiobook has the "I´m just going to listen to one more chapter"- effect.


Last but not least: A happy thanksgiving to all my American Booklikes friends :).


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review 2016-11-13 18:33
Broken Monsters
Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes

A prime example how a otherwise decent three star book gets ruined by a ridiculous ending.


I was intrigued by the twisted murder mystery. A body, half boy, half deer, is found and I expected a compelling thriller. But the story turns into a weird horror-mystery-thriller-mix with a central message regarding social media that I didn´t care about and ultimately has been lost on me. The descriptions of derelict Detroit are pretty good, though.

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review 2016-05-11 22:16
Broken Monsters
Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes

Whoever wrote the jacket cover blurb for this book sure knew how to attract readers to it. A gruesome murder of a boy that is found with the upper body sewn onto a deer in a “genre-bending novel of suspense” gave me high hopes, especially factoring in aspects like the exploration of the human condition and how “broken” one is. Sadly, and even somewhat predictably, “Broken Monsters” didn’t live up to the big words in the synopsis. It wasn’t particularly suspenseful, nor was it a very good exploration of human character the way it made itself sound. It’s difficult to classify what this book IS exactly, though even with its shortcomings, there was something interesting about it that I nonetheless managed to enjoy, regardless of how sad it was at the same time due to the heap of lost potential this ended up being.


This isn’t a murder mystery – the reader knows who the killer is from the get-go, even follows along with his actions from the very beginning, as he has his own section in the narrative. I know they always say that a killer can be anyone and one shouldn’t look for obvious indicators of violence in someone, therefore it isn’t so much that which I struggled with understanding about him as much as it was trying to grasp the maniacal idea which he pursued from about a quarter into the book until the very end. It was how suddenly it appeared, as well as how abstract it was, that stumped me. As an artist and writer I understand that sudden gust of inspiration, that muse-like whisper that can strike at any moment. Yet the thought was more ideological and had some philosophical roots to it. Despite its twisted nature there was something almost valid about it, except the novel was a perfect example of the extreme negative manifestation of that idea. I wish it was explored more, rather than simply making the man a crazy psycho killer who felt that this dream was alive and speaking through him as a separate entity. This topic was skimmed entirely when, in my opinion, it should’ve made up a significant portion of the book, with a closer connection to the rest of the characters.


In terms of commenting on characters and narrative structure/pacing, saying that it felt rushed and all over the place sums it up quite nicely. There wasn’t much time to connect with some of the characters, while others that the reader is meant to sympathize with elicit a negative and annoying reaction instead, particularly Layla and Cas’ friendship. If there is one thing I hate about authors who write about young adult characters, it’s the stereotypical belief that teenagers interact the way those two girls did. Contrary to popular belief, not all girls call each other “bitch”, “slut”, “cow”, or some other derogatory term. It isn’t a term of endearment. Detective Versado somehow felt incomplete by the end, TK left a confusing feeling, and Jonno quite frankly reminded me of why I hate journalism so much and why I think humans will end up ultimately blowing themselves up in smithereens and relishing it at the same time. All of these shortcomings were due to the lack of a “grounding point”, something that would tie them all back together and help the story revolve and build around that one point. It’s why I felt so sad upon finishing it, as there was so much potential if the point I made above had been considered by the author.


It isn’t a terrible novel, though it isn’t particularly suspenseful. The ending leaves you with the safe, stereotypical “is this real or a dream?” sort of ending. And sometimes, as the movie “Inception” proved, this kind of ending is satisfactory as it reaffirms the established doubt between reality and dreams. With “Broken Monsters” this kind of ending showed the author’s hesitation, and the only thing it emphasized was the shortcomings of plot and character. I enjoyed the implications and beginnings this book provided, but felt it was mostly a lost opportunity that could’ve truly been a memorable and moving novel if the dream sequences and the vicious dream itself had been wholly incorporated from the very beginning.

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text 2015-10-31 18:28
Happy Halloween: Scariest Books I Read in 2015
Horrorstör: A Novel - Grady Hendrix
Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes
The Orange Eats Creeps - Grace Krilanovich,Steve Erickson
Lockwood & Co. Book Three: The Hollow Boy - Jonathan Stroud
Tales from Lovecraft Middle School, Books 1-3: Professor Gargoyle, the Slither Sisters, Teacher's Pest - Charles Gilman


Halloween, my favorite holiday ever, (mostly due to pure nostalgia) is here! In order to recognize North America's macabre, spooky, and fun-loving ode to laughing at death and commemorating the end of the warm months, here are a few of the creepiest novels I read this year, for adults and children alike. 


Horrorstör: A Novel - Grady Hendrix


The best parts about Horrorstör, Grady Hendrix's cunningly designed and plotted horror-comedy set in a cursed Midwestern Ikea-knock off, are the characters and the setting. Each are so well executed, specific enough to be memorable yet open enough to be easily applicable to anyone, from the feel good business platitudes of the manager Cecil, to the quips of the bored employee Amy, to the specs of the various cheap furniture sold by the store. It is this familiarity that really draws you in once the horror, when least expected, begins to creep up out of the walls. I really love Grady's mixture of the banal, everyday, retail environment many of us suffer through at some point in our lives and the bleak, surreal horror of the Beehive and it's ghostly inmates. Maybe they are not so dissimilar after all...


Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes


Quite a riveting production, Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters was a scary yet charming occult mystery. I was impressed with her ability to draw so many distinct themes and threads together so effectively into a suspenseful, gripping story, which worked very nicely in audiobook form with several expressive voice actors bringing the characters to life. Through their viewpoints, the surreal elements of the story meshed well with a very realistic take on how people would react to the approach of the unexplainable. In what boils down to a pretty pulpy police-procedural with supernatural undertones that seem to be quite dujour these days (i.e., True Detective, the Twin Peaks resurgence, etc), there is a lot of food for thought here. As others have noted, this is a truly genre defying novel, which often are the most interesting kind. 


The Orange Eats Creeps - Grace Krilanovich,Steve Erickson


A common comment regarding this strange book, regardless of whether the reviewer liked or disliked it in general, is "difficult," "inaccessible." I cannot dispute this, I too found it hard going in spite of its relative slimness but I also found myself drawn in by its strong sense of tone and mood. "The Orange Eats Creeps" is pure, distilled punk style, dark, ragged, angry. Our narrator, who refers to herself as a "vampire hobo slut junkie," travels with a group of runaways riding the rails of the '90s Pacific Northwest, chugging Robitussin, crashing under bridges, and causing trouble in small town convenience stores, but this all makes the story sound too linear.

The description on the book jacket, while certainly weird, does not truly prepare the reader for the surreal, dreamlike, hallucinatory ambiance maintained throughout the novel; the crust punk vampire story, the grimy Twin Peaks setting, even the search for the narrator's lost foster sister are only vague overlays in the narrator's fevered narration. Nothing, except the narrator's pain and rage, is constant; this is not pleasant reading as she recounts distorted, illusory images of her tragic life; she is abused and she abuses others, as she helplessly drifts from one "scene," or "dream" to the next. There's no place for a discernible plot or even such things as a beginning or ending. Characters and themes come and go, are picked up and dropped at random; cat-rats, aprons, bones, small g-gods, the Donner Party, the "Road that Eats People."


Lockwood & Co. Book Three: The Hollow Boy - Jonathan Stroud


Aaah, no! The cliffhanger, why the cliffhanger! I read the first two installments of the Lockwood and Co. series with rapt attention, enjoying the delicious ghostly chills and swashbuckling storytelling offered up by Jonathan Stroud in his spooky follow up to his great fantasy series, the Bartimeaus trilogy. It was with great excitement and anticipation that I checked out the latest in the Lockwood series, the Hollow Boy, after having requested it as soon as it appeared in the library system.

Like the latter, Lockwood and Co. is a great place for fantasy craving tweens (and teens and adults) looking for something to fill that Harry Potter hole. Steeped in chills, thrills, humor, and the spooky traditions of the English ghost story genre, there should be enough here to satisfy any reader interested in something a bit macabre. In the prior books in the series, The Screaming Staircase and the Whispering Skull, the trio of young Agents, Lucy, George, and, of course, Lockwood, delve into haunted locations across London, dealing with the hostile spirits of the dead that have been threatening the living all over England ever since the beginning of "The Problem." Lucy, ever the witty narrator, guides us through this sinister world as she and her colleagues deal with ghosts of various types, improving the standing of their agency, and begin to encounter darker secrets and mysteries. There is definitely more of the same in the Hollow Boy, as Lockwood and Co. continues to use the advice of the chatty, spooky, untrustworthy Skull as Lucy sharpens her ability to not only hear, but communicate, with ghosts, much to the disapproval of Lockwood. Can't wait for the last one! Or, will it be?


Tales from Lovecraft Middle School, Books 1-3: Professor Gargoyle, the Slither Sisters, Teacher's Pest - Charles Gilman 

For a long time, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of writing a Lovecraftian series for young adults- not only for the incongruity of the idea, but also because, in my experience, this is a period in which weird, spooky, disconcerting fears and stories hold the most sway over our daily lives; the time when we would challenge each other to chant Bloody Mary in front of the bathroom mirror or play around with the Ouija board.

So, when I saw this series popping up, I was curious. Professor Gargyole, The Slither Sisters, and Tales of Lovecraft Middle School: Teacher's Pest all hinted at a typical American school with weird, strange problems, and I was compelled to check them out. Of course, the striking lenticular cover designs, depicting various Lovecraft Middle School Characters in front of a typical yearbook photo gray backdrop dramatically transforming from mundane humans to horned, or scaled, beasts, is to thank for a good deal of that. The addition of Lovecraftian elements to a Goosebump like series fascinated me and the covers were mesmerizing. So, when I saw the audio book version, I thought this autumn would be just the time to check this off my book list and see how deep the hole goes. Just how Lovecraftian could Tales from Lovecraft Middle School be, I wondered?

In the end, not terribly Lovecraftian but still an amusing and spooky horror series for middle schoolers. The “Lovecraftian” influence consists mainly of name drops and a few conceits regarding other dimensions and something indescribable threatening the normal everyday world. For the most part, the series follows fairly well worn tropes of middle grade fiction, with short, concise chapters relying on cliffhangers to keep up a quick pace, commonplace things are foreshadowed to be not what they seem, archetypal, larger than life characters, cute critters, plenty of puns, and a nice helping of comic relief. The reader reads with a gravelly, occasionally sepulchral, occasionally cheery voice that matches the mood of the stories, if not the age of the protagonists.

I must admit the series grew on me as it went on- the author writes with a witty voice that can build both atmosphere, suspense, and humor that I think a lot of kids, looking for a slightly higher end Goosebumps upgrade will appreciate (though they will probably not catch the Cthulhu Mythos references, not that it takes anything from the story). Robert Arthur is, refreshingly, a bit of a milquetoast who nonetheless steps up to defend his hapless, oblivious classmates and teachers from the supernatural threat and his friendship with his former tormentor Glenn Torkle and the ghost girl Korina Ortiz was also touching. While a deus ex machina or two do occur, a refreshing amount of the work of saving the school does actually fall to Robert and his friends. I’m looking forward to finishing up the series with Tales of Lovecraft Middle School: Substitute Creature.


*Theme music for entry: "Come Little Children" from Hocus Pocus, cover by Erutan

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