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review 2019-01-02 17:37
Fun Series Marred by Unrelenting Girl-Hate
Halfway to the Grave - Jeaniene Frost
One Foot in the Grave - Jeaniene Frost

CW: rape & slut-shaming

 

Though the Night Huntress series is pretty basic urban fantasy -- a half vampire lady stalks the streets at night to stake the undead threat -- there's enough little twists to keep it interesting. Our night huntress is the product of rape, and everything she knows about vampires come from her vampire-hating mother, which isn't much, or just plain trial and error. She meets up with a Master Vamp (named Bones ugh) after trying to stake him in a bar. After he disarms her with laughable ease, Bones proposes they team up to hunt vamps of his choosing, and he'll train her not to get killed. She thinks she's being real clever when she agrees to this while plotting to kill him at the end of the training period. Inevitably, they hook up. &c. 

 

I sort of let this slide in the first book, but boy does Cat shit on other girls. But I thought, she's maybe 18, and has been raised by an embittered mother who tells her she looks just like her father, who is a rapist. Mom sends her out to get killed on the regular, using her as a revenge proxy. Her mother seems to punish her daughter for her father's sin, so it made psychological sense to me that a girl raised without much affection and as the product of rape would be all "slut" this and "whore" that. By the second book, though, there's a big time jump, Cat is adulting pretty well, and seems to understand her mother's deep failings as a parent while maintaining a relationship with clear boundaries. 

 

And yet, the girl-hate only deepens, at times seeming to warp the behavior of many of the female characters. A variety of lady vamps from Cat's paramour's past show up through the novel, and they are all bombshells who spend their time crawling all over Bones or reminiscing about all the threesomes (or fivesomes!) they had with Bones back in the day. They are ridiculous misogynist caricatures, and not even relying on the more fun sexist tropes like Ice Queen or Hitchcock Blonde; they're just Slut Trash. Bones is not criticized for catting about in his youth, natch. 

 

Cat's inner and outer monologue is basically WHORE BITCH DIE, and this is passed off as "vampire possessiveness." Which, no. From all evidence, vampires screw around a lot, and without a lot of regard for gender norms. If they were sexually possessive, they would not be leaping into big fuckpiles all the time. (Indeed, the vampire penchant for fuckpiling is used at least twice as a plot point.) The concept of "vampire possessiveness" is inserted into the text so Cat (and by extension, the reader) can feel ok with how much she hates other women. It does not come up, either in word or deed, at any other point in the plot. 

 

Admittedly, Cat now has a woman friend on whom she does not shit, so not all of the female characters are treated this way. (And there's her mom, but that's obviously a whole other thing.) But it was a common enough element of the books that I began to sour on Cat. She regularly is required to dress up in "slut gear" (I think she calls it "slut gear") to lure male vamps to their deaths, so there's this weird acting out of the very thing she castigates other women for. Cat may look like all those other slutty sluts, but of course she is Not Like Other Girls™. 

 

Cat is a fun character: a hard-drinking hard case who is way more naive that she pretends. What I've read of Frost's later books don't have this girl-hating element in them, so maybe it's just Cat, like girl-hating is just part of her personality or whatever. Maybe Frost isn't in control enough of her first person (yet, these are her first novels) to delineate the thoughts of the character from the parameters of the world. (That's the standard objection when a reader criticizes the actions of a character, anyway: that I can't tell the difference between what the character thinks and what the author does.)

 

However, given the stated behavior of the slutty sluts, which are objective acts and not subjective opinion, that is not the case: the world works like Cat says it does. Which is to say, most women are oversexed and duplicitous by nature, except for Mom and Designated BFF. Put another way, women are slutty sluts whether Cat calls them that or not; this characterization of women is baked into the world, not one character's worldview. 

 

I just ... can we not? Can we not enact girl-hating and slut-shaming in girl pulp for girls? Don't we get enough of that hot garbage in real life? When I read escapism, I want to motherfucking escape. That gets hard when I keep running right into the same misogynist trash fire that is so vigorously burning in the world today. This is legitimately a fun series, but I just don't feel like pushing past the girl-hating at this point in time. Happy New Year! 

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review 2018-11-19 18:30
THE FREAK SHOW MURDERS AND OTHER STORIES by Fredric Brown
The Freak Show Murders - Fredric Brown

Despite my taking such a long time to read this relatively short collection of mysteries, I enjoyed it quite a bit!

 

These mysteries were originally published back between the early 40's and the early 50's. As such, they contain language and slang of the time. This made them even more of a hoot than they otherwise would have been.

 

Most of the stories here are light in nature, other than the title tale and one other SEE NO MURDER. I didn't have a chance at solving any of these crimes, but I still had a great time reading these mysteries, especially THE FREAK SHOW MURDERS. (This tale came with a little glossary of carney-speak that made me giggle a bit, especially the description of "cooch" and the "cooch dance".) Brown knows how to plot a good mystery while still keeping his quirky sense of humor and bits of dialogue.

 

Thank you to my friend here at Booklikes, Tigus, for the gift he sent me a while back, which included this book. (I apologize for taking so long to read it!)  I really enjoyed it and I like looking at the cover too. This book will have a prominent place on my shelf so I can gaze at it from time to time.  I appreciate your gift, good sir!

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review 2018-10-17 18:45
DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES by Joe Lansdale
Driving to Geronimo's Grave and Other Stories - Joe R. Lansdale

 

DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE: AND OTHER STORIES is a shining example of how skilled Joe Lansdale really is. Not one of these tales is like the others-they're all different, all unique and all showcasing why Mr. Lansdale has been called the Champion Mojo Storyteller.

 

The title story is the first here and it's set during the Great Depression. A young man and his sister are tasked with picking up the corpse of their dead uncle and bringing it back home so they can bury him with the proper respect. Being that this is a Lansdale story, things don't go quite as planned. I loved this tale, I loved the characters and I especially loved smart-mouthed Terri. 5*

 

IN THE MAD MOUNTAINS: Mr. Lansdale's homage to Lovecraft was better than most of the actual Lovecraft I've read. I don't even know what else to say because this story was so imaginative-I think each reader needs to have it unfold for them. It had a pulpy feel to it on top of the Lovecraftian base-a unique combination that worked well for me. 5*

 

WRESTLING JESUS: A bullied boy and a bullied man, (albeit a very different kind of bullying), both come together in this tale of wrestling, love gone wrong, and a relationship much like that of father and son. 4*

 

ROBO RAPID: This is a pulp adventure-type story set in the future with a delightful young woman, Sheann, as the protagonist. Years after an invasion here on earth, robots have killed her parents and stolen her siblings. She makes it her mission in life to get them back. Along the way, she makes a friend, sees a musical, and learns that she's braver than even she realized. 5*

 

THE PROJECTIONIST: I first read this story in Lawrence Block's collection IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW. At first this seems to be a tale about a young man lusting after a beautiful young woman. Then it turns into something else entirely. 5*

 

As an aside about THE PROJECTIONIST: it's fascinating to me that an author can gaze at a painting and come up with an entire backstory for it. In this case the painting was The Usherette by Edward Hopper and here it is:

 

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The last tale in this book EVERYTHING SPARKLES IN HELL brings us to visit Nat Love. A black cowboy featured in the novel PARADISE SKY and a few other novellas, Nat returns as a bounty hunter tracking down two no-good men. (Loosely based on the real man, yes there were black cowboys, despite their absence from most American history books.) Along the way he meets up with Chocktaw, (a tracker of some renown), and the biggest she-bear either of them has ever seen. I loved visiting with Nat again and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

What I especially loved about this collection are the tidbits from the author himself revealing how the stories came about. In the digital review copy I received, these came after the stories rather than before, and I liked that. (It seems that, in previewing the finished copy online, these are now forewords to the stories, rather than afterwords.) I enjoyed reading them after reading the tales themselves and seeing how the ideas germinated in the head of the author, sometimes sprouting out fully formed, according to him. Once again, I find myself fascinated by Mr. Lansdale's writing process and abilities.

 

I was pretty sure I was going to love this collection of stories even before I started reading it, and I was right. It's the skilled writing of Mr. Lansdale that gets to me every time. No matter what he writes about, it can be counted on to capture and hold your attention. It can be counted on to contain some humor and real life observations. It can be counted on to satisfy. Because his characters are so true to life- complicated and diverse, they make me feel connected not only to them, but to the world as well. It's a gift and Joe has it. That is all I can say.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

*Thank you to Subterranean Press and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-10-11 18:45
THE FUNGUS by Harry Adam Knight
The Fungus - Leroy Kettle,John Brosnan,Harry Adam Knight

Mushrooms: I'll probably never eat one again! THE FUNGUS is a fast paced, funny and disgusting 80's horror story that contains everything you'd ever want from a fungi-based creature feature. 

 

I recently read another book by this author, (two authors, really, using the pseudonym of Harry Adam Knight. Get it? HAK?), called SLIMER. I liked that one slightly more than this because there was no real science, just a fun, slimy, creature. In this narrative, we do have an attempt to be science-y, but not overly so, which I appreciated.

 

We follow several characters from the beginning, including the scientist who accidentally created this rapidly mutating fungi. Before we know what hit us, all of London is infected and not just people either. There are several types of fungi attacking concrete and other building materials eventually resulting in the literal crumbling of the city. Will any of the plucky characters survive? What about the doctor who created this mess? Will London itself make it through? You'll have to read THE FUNGUS to find out!

 

These two authors, John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle were actually very talented, (I say were, but one is still alive-Leroy Kettle,) and they knew how to write a creature feature without getting too bogged down in the fake science. Just enough to make it plausible to non-biologists is fine. Of course, using the old trope of science making a mistake and thereby destroying humanity is always rich with possibilities, maybe even more so these days than back in the 80's when this was written.

 

Being that this book was written back then, there are some sexist views, (a few racist ones too), and a few other things that don't fit in with today's culture and attitudes. There are also a few extraneous sex scenes thrown in there, because hey-in the 80's that's how the horror genre rolled. None of which bothered me much because this tale is just. that. much. fun.

 

Valancourt Books is dedicated to bringing back these out of print books, some of which have become nearly impossible to find. (If you are lucky enough to find one, you'd better be prepared to pay through the nose.) Over the years I've watched as they've become more and more popular and with their forthcoming PAPERBACKS FROM HELL series, I think they'll have reached the pinnacle as far as retro horror publishers are concerned. (They publish other lines as well, if you're interested, check out their website.)

 

THE FUNGUS isn't trying to masquerade as scientific or serious, it's just trying to provide imaginative, fast paced, creature feature fun. It has succeeded!

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Valancourt Books provided me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-09-30 20:07
THE DEVIL'S FINGERS (One Size Eats All #3) by Hunter Shea
The Devil's Fingers - Hunter Shea

 

A sucker for tentacles, that's what I am. (And I can't resist the old-"Get it? Sucker for tentacles?" So sue me.). Anyway, tentacles- THE DEVIL'S FINGERS has them in spades, and oh what fun it is to be with Hunter Shea again!

 

A group of 20 somethings head out into the woods to help their friend say goodbye to his recently deceased dad. They've come to spread his ashes at his favorite spot. Along the way though, they encounter a strange growth of fungi that somewhat resembles the pods in Alien. What is this gross looking fungus? It can't spread to humans can it? And if it can, will these humans survive the encounter? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

 

I'm keeping this review short because I don't want to give anything away and because I don't want this review to be longer than the book. I liked how this group of friends was written and I really liked how they had the strength to stand up when the time came. For me, with creature features, (even ones featuring a nasty fungus as the creature), the story lives in those who fight it, and in this case they fought hard. I also thought their actions were believable-even during the crazy action scenes and BOY, were there action scenes! Complete with the sounds and smells-everything you would need to create a vivid picture in your head-you are THERE.

 

In this, the third installment in the One Size Eats All series, Hunter Shea shows he is the master of bringing home dark and amusing B-style movies in Halloween fun-sized nuggets. What horror fan wouldn't love that?

 

Highly recommended!

 

 

Available everywhere October 23rd, or pre-order now: HERE

 

*Thanks to Kensington, via Net Galley, for the e-ARC of this novella in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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