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text 2018-09-23 07:25
National epic from hell
The Poppy War - R. F Kuang

Uff da, that ended with some bleakness. I was half expecting ur usual boarding school matriculation maybe with a little national epic thrown in (and that isn't a bad description of events if you're being literal) but boy, howdy does The Poppy War fuck that shit up. It's like a trick where you're expecting one kind of narrative, but you get another one entirely. But slow burn style. 


Rin is a war orphan from a nothing province who nonetheless ends up aceing a national test in a country not dissimilar to early 19th C China, which brings her to a prestigious military academy in the capital. She thinks she's made it, but she hasn't even by half; the teachers are all arrayed against her as a podunk nothing. She falls in with Jian, the professor who teaches Lore, a subject which is basically a joke. Jian is high as fuck most of the time, but in his haphazard way, teaches Rin the ways of shamanism. Shamans are thought of as nutjobs for the most part; these are rational people after all. 


But the country falls into conflict with the Federation, which they've been cold warring with for about a generation, since the last of the poppy wars. Rin graduates from her structured school to the chaos of war, while groping through the ugly history of her country, and the arcana of the gods that people largely don't believe in. The war is horrific; the gods more so. Nothing in school prepared Rin for the depravity of war. 


Readers are trained, I think, to view a first person narrator as a hero or heroine. It's basic psychology: the "I" of the text is conflated with the personal self. One can't help but interpolate oneself into the action. And Rin is a scrappy, hardscrabble kind of person, one who deserves the sense of hard elation and respect when she overcomes some serious shit through some serious loss. Every choice she makes, makes sense. But hoo boy, are her choices ugly, in serial. She renders the inhuman, the inexcusable, into something legible and understandable. It's the absolute worst, and so much more horrible for its comprehensiveness. 


For sure there's going to be a sequel. I'm not even sure I want to see where Rin goes, even while I respect the path she's taken. Sheesh. 


*I listened to the audiobook, so I'm not sure I'm spelling names correctly. Sorry. 

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review 2018-09-21 12:45
DRAWING BLOOD by Poppy Z. Brite, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Drawing Blood: A Novel - Matt Godfrey,Crossroad Press,Poppy Z. Brite

A good old haunted house story is something I've always loved, so when the narrator of this tale offered me a chance to listen to the audio in exchange for a review, I jumped at it. Poppy Z. Brite is an author I've heard a lot about and I've been wanting to read his work for quite some time. I learned a few things while reading this book and one of them is that Poppy Z. Brite can write.


Trevor is a young man returning to the house where his mother and brother were killed 20 years ago. Shortly after his arrival in Missing Mile, his old hometown, he meets a young computer hacker on the run, named Zach. The two immediately feel a connection and together they go to face Trevor's childhood home. What will they find there? Is the house actually haunted? You will have to read this to find out. 


While the writing quality here was good, I have to admit that I was disappointed in the story itself. This is not the author's fault, nor the narrator's,  it was my sky high expectations. I expected a scary as hell story- and while there was a little darkness,  there was way too much romance for me. I don't mind explicit sex scenes, (gay or straight),  if they are integral to the story. Now I totally get the term insta-love. These two just met, one of them a virgin, and before you know it they are going at it at a breakneck pace. And going at it again. And again. The sexy times were sexy, don't get me wrong but after a while they finally led me to ask "Can we get to the horror already?"


Eventually, we did get to the horror, but after such a long build, it failed to move me much. I'm not sure if I was just bored by that point, or if all the romance had inured me to what should have been an exciting finale. 


The narration by Matt Godfrey was excellent as always, I especially loved his Jamaican accent. Yeah, mon! 


As I said, I did like the writing, and in a few spots it was nearly lyrical. From what I understand this is one of Poppy Z. Brite's, (now he goes by the name Billy Martin), earlier works. While I didn't find this novel to be a true horror story, I'm told his later works definitely are and I will be tracking those down in the future, maybe even the near future. 


Recommended, as long as you're not looking for a horror tale and you don't mind a lot of romance and sexy times! 


*Thanks to Matt Godfrey for the audio of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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text 2018-09-14 14:30
#FridayReads September 14, 2018
We Sold Our Souls - Grady Hendrix
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Christopher Golden
Drawing Blood - Poppy Z. Brite,Matt Godfrey


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review 2018-09-02 02:19
The Amulet
The Amulet - Michael McDowell,Poppy Z Brite

Jo stared at Sarah uncomprehendingly. She was not sure whether to believe her or not. It sounded like a story that Sarah was making up as she went along. “Then how come—” Sarah smiled then.


Oh, I think what we have here is a first - a pulp slasher story that I actually enjoyed!


This is not one of McDowell's best: there were large parts that I found repetitive but I know that they were necessary to show the extent to which the amulet's evil has spread throughout the small town of Pine Cone. Or has it? Has the evil always been there? Was the amulet really the source of the evil or was the source closer to home? 


Parts of this story very really boring, which is why I'm docking it a couple of stars in my rating, but I love what McDowell was trying to do with the story: we have a 70s horror novel that starts with a young man being trained for combat in Vietnam being horribly injured during a training exercise near his home town in Alabama, whose main industry is a rifle factory, producing the very same rifle that caused the injury. What follows is a series of killings that seem to start with the man who denied the young man a safe job and exemption from military service, and then the killing just doesn't stop. 


There are lots of questions in this but the main ones: are any of the inhabitants of really Pine Cone innocent? And where does evil grow from?


I liked this, but it just doesn't measure up to the other books I have read by the author.

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text 2018-09-02 01:29
Reading progress update: I've read 84%.
The Amulet - Michael McDowell,Poppy Z Brite

Ok, I'm no longer interested in what happens to the townspeople, but I am on tenterhooks to find out how this ends for Sarah and her friend Becca, who are trying to track down the amulet and stop the killings.


Also, I hope Sarah's MIL will get her comeuppance.


Body Count: 16

Maimed: 1

Body count of deaths before the story sets in: 2+


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