Monday, February 6, 2017

     The Memory Box - Eva Lasko Natiello 2/5 stars

     There are a lot of books on my tablet. Way, way too many and the Memory Box was a book I had stumbled upon, but just never read. It seemed promising, so I began to read it, and then I began to question my judgment. Caroline is sucked into Googling herself, and finds that there are only three hits, but then she Googles her maiden name and that's where the fun begins. Things quickly unravel, and she finds out that she's forgotten some very important parts of her life. These are things no one should forget. I instantly wanted to stop reading because I didn't like Caroline all that much. As a character, she's weak, and boring. It's the way she reacts to things that annoyed the hell out of me. She volunteers at her children's school and is faced with questions, so instead of just excusing herself she trips, and pulls the fire alarm and makes her escape. It's shit like this that irritated me, and I knew that I should just stop reading, but now I was invested. Why in the hell can't this woman remember key events in her life. Was she hit in the head? Given her grace, she could have fallen and hit her head. Caroline does that a lot.

     It's a highly implausible novel that begins strong but eventually you begin to shake your head, and wonder why this woman is still hitting Google for information. There's a dark undercurrent flowing here, and we begin to wonder who Caroline really is. If Eva wants us to like Caroline, she's failed. If she wants to grab our attention by giving us a tightly paced thriller, she's kind of succeeded. The Memory Box is full of holes though, I mean a lot of holes. It's the why that kept me reading. I may not have liked Caroline, but I wanted to find out why this is happening. There are moments that pull you in, but as the story progresses Caroline's behavior becomes more erratic and she becomes a cunt. If you're an author, you want readers to sympathize with your main character, but in The Memory Box, that's not even possible.

     No one notices that Caroline is slowly losing her shit either. You would think that when someone you care about is sleeping more, chopping off her hair, and acting really odd, someone would notice. It doesn't happen, and don’t even get me started on Andy. Jesus, this guy is an idiot. So the book is a mess that makes you wonder what the fuck is going on. It has so much potential, but when you're main character is a cunt, the story begins to lose its momentum. Seeing Caroline morph is really what the novel's about, and as the books winds down we need to give this woman a cape and name her Super Cunt because the end of the book is really where Eva shines. We finally get the answers we seek, and that my friends is what you call a plot twist. If the entire novel had been like those last few pages I wouldn't have been so pissed off, but it wasn't, and I can't get any of the moments back that I spent reading this novel.

     It's not terrible, but it could have been better. It may have just been my dislike of Caroline that kept me from enjoying this. As a thriller, it's just okay but not something you want to buy. Get a copy from the library, or borrow it from a friend. If you want mindless entertainment, you’ve come to the right place. This is a book that will frustrate you to no end. I wonder if Eva will write another book, and if she does will it be better than the Memory Box? She's not a bad writer, and she had a lot of great ideas here, but they just didn't pan out. I give her at least two stars for effort. Just don't turn your main character into a cunt. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

 Let's Go Play At The Adams' - Mendel W. Johnson 4/5 stars

      This is one of those books that always end up on someone's top ten list of great horror novels, but I could never get my hands on a copy. One look at the going price for a battered uses copy is insane. Is this book really that good? I was on my library app and saw that one of the libraries my local branch partners with had one so I put a hold on it and waited for it too arrive. I would soon find out if all the hype was truly deserved.

       As soon as it arrived, I ran to the library and with shaking hands, I opened up the cover. This was the moment I had waited so long for but what if it didn't live up to its reputation? Books do that sometime, and it's always frustrating when expectations don't meet reality. It happens all the time. You meet a girl, and you think this could be the one, but she turns into a raving psycho a week into the relationship. Sometimes, books gain a reputation just because of the content or a readers experience with the subject matter. Happens all the time.

      I can tell you that Let's Go Play At The Adams' is a brutal shocking book that drags in places, but Mendal never allows you to get comfortable. It's not a book you enjoy, it's unsettling and gets under your skin. Even after you read it, you can't stop thinking about it. How did this happen? Even the why of it all is unsettling. This was a bold book for 1974. These are kids who kidnap, and torture their babysitter for three days. The planning that goes into it is mind numbingly brilliant, and shows us just how vulnerable we really are. Once you read this you won't look at children the same way again, and that's exactly the goal of this book.

      It's not a book for the squeamish, and as it went on the personalities of the children began to come out. Each child begins to unravel and that’s what the book is really about. We go through a roller coaster of emotions as the days unfold, soon the personalities of the kids emerge. It's a book that in unflinching in its development. Barbara herself begins to change as well, which isn't surprising given the circumstances. Let's Go Play At The Adams' isn't a horror novel, it's darker and deeper than that. It's about the destruction of human emotions, and the eradication of all sense of right and wrong.

     By saying I enjoyed this book what does say about me as a person? I liked that it made me think, and that it's not a novel you can simply read and walk away from. Yes, I liked it, and I wish I could own a copy so I can read it again just to pick up on things I may have missed. I did like this book, and not everyone will which is to be expected. It's not an easy book to read, and it's even harder if you have kids of your own. You may want to sleep with the doors locked after reading this one.  If you're able to get your hands on a copy by all means read it, but understand that this is a dark, disturbing novel, but also important. It takes you to places you never thought you could go mentally. A great book does that, so yes, all the hype and all the accolades this book gets are truly well deserved. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

    The Sleep - Jim Goforth 5/5 stars


     I was given a sneak peek of The Sleep and should've reviewed this already, but I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to prompt reviews. I did enjoy this one a lot, and feel that as a writer, Jim is finally hitting his stride. Each novel is better than the one before it, but you can still see who his influences are, yet it doesn't come off as a rip off at all. This is dark, classic horror, with a simple plot, and enough violence to keep fans happy. The Sleeper is the sort of novel that makes you look at thunderstorms in a different way. We know how powerful they are, but then Jim comes along and gives you something new to fear. This is the mark of a great writer. Instead of latching onto the latest trend, or retreading ideas that already exist, Jim creates something unique, and yes quite terrifying.

     The Sleep feels like a movie in book form, and it moves at a steady clip. You are pulled into the story and like the characters, you're a part of the action. It seems like a simple tale dealing with  urban legends, but it's far more devious than that. Each character has their own reasons for embarking on this trip, and of course those reasons are totally selfish. Once the Beaststorms begin, you can almost hear Jim giggling as he literally unleashes hell. If you like you're horror dark, you've come to the right place. If you're at all squeamish, well you should just read something else. What's in these storms will give you nightmares.

      Goforth layers his novel with violence, and gore, but there's a compelling story here. That's what makes The Sleep so good. It's a dark, gritty novel that reminds us that it's the things we can't see that are the most terrifying. When it comes to horror no one writes like Goforth. This is a guy that takes the genre back to it's early days of true terror, and suspense, and writes like a man possessed. This is the future of horror and each novel gets him one step closer to mainstream success.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

      Chaotic Oddities - John Ledger 5/5 stars

      If you're easily offended you should stop reading this review now. Find something else to read because there isn't anything in this book for you to enjoy. If you have an open mind and enjoy a collection of short stories that are both bizarro, and horror, then you're going to be fine. After reading Oddities I can't help but wonder if Ledger has escaped from a mental institution, or should be locked up in one. This is a writer that clearly has a couple of screws loose, and whatever fuels his imagination should be stopped immediately. Actually, on second thought they should be allowed to roam free so we get more collections like this.

     I don't like picking apart short story collections because it takes too much time to review each individual piece. As a writer, Ledger knows how to get under your skin. It's almost as if he has ADD or something because there are horror stories as well as whacked out bizarro pieces that ooze sex, and violence. He has a unique style that pulls you into each story, and you want to look away, but you can't, You have to see what he comes up with next, will he be able to top the last story? I like writers that are able to successfully write in any genre and John can do that. It's a weird talent, but it works here. The stories fit well together which is important in a collection like this. You want each story to fit together, and as a reader you want something that is going to hold your attention throughout the entire collection. There's no filler here and that's important. A lot of collections just slap a bunch of stories together to build up word a word or page count, and they begin to slowly fall apart. Chaotic Oddities starts, and ends strong.

      When people tell you that bizarro is dead, just hand them this book. Forget about being politically correct for just a second and enjoy a book that is well written and just insane. It's a book that doesn't want to be taken seriously. You have clowns, porn, strip clubs, and a variety of other topics that many will no doubt find offensive, but so what? Not everyone is going to like this book, and that's okay because there others that will. If you like weird fiction and horror this is a must read collection. Ledger is a writer that should be noticed, and read often. Chaotic Oddities is a collection that compiles pieces he wrote for various anthologies so it makes sense that there would be so many different genres that he explores. I couldn't stop reading it and can't believe I haven't read his other collection of shorts, but I will. So, now you should just find a copy of Oddities and read it for yourself. You'll thank me once you've finished.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Don't You Cry - Mary Kubica 5/5

     After reading The Good Girl I became a fan of Kubica. She knows how to tell a tale and packs enough detail suspense to keep your eyeballs glued to the page. Take Don't You Cry which is her second novel I believe, and just from the description alone you get a sense of what to expect. It seems simple enough right? One woman disappears in Chicago, and another appears, but there's something else going on, something that seems easy enough to figure out. Looks can be deceiving, not everything is what it appears to be. What makes the book so unique is that the story is told from two viewpoints. You have Quinn who wakes up to find her roommate suddenly missing, and then you have Alex a guy who sees a woman at a dinner and develops a crush on her. From these vantage points, you see the story from both sides. It's a style that James Patterson has perfected and Kubica has borrowed, and developed her own twist to the formula. Instead of keeping the action moving, it broadens the story so that you can draw your own conclusions, as to where everything is going to lead.

      Quinn and Alex are interesting characters in that they have their own issues that draw them to both Pearl and Esther. The mysterious Pearl just shows up one day and it seems as if the mystery is solved, Pearl is in fact Esther and Quinn is somehow this horrible roommate or something. There are even clues that begin to appear that show that Quinn is right. I loved how Kubica slowly unravels the tension, and then just when you think you have everything figured out, she changes everything. This is a writer that you can't trust because you never know where she's heading. I like that she doesn't play it safe, and truly takes her readers on a ride. When you see her name on a book cover you know that the book is going to be good, and you're going to lose some sleep as you try and finish it just so you can see how it ends.

      I like books that demand your attention and keep you guessing. This is one that takes popular fiction and makes it fun, and unpredictable. The story here, is not that simple, it allows you to think you have everything figured out, but then you realize you're wrong and you stare at the pages open mouthed wondering how you missed it. This is one book that I have to add as a favorite. I loved the plot twists, and the way she sets up these characters so that they're interesting and more than just a way to move the plot forward. Quinn and Alex are connected in a way that makes the story engrossing. Are Esther and Pearl the same woman, and what's the deal with that abandoned house? A solid five star read that truly restores my faith in popular fiction. I found a writer that doesn't go for an easy read, or treats her readers like they need a simple straight forward plot to keep them entertained. Don't You Cry is an amazing piece of fiction that everyone needs to check out.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

 Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher  5/5

     Celebrity biographies almost always follow the same pattern, and then you read Wishful Drinking and the rules are thrown out the window. Carrie covers a lot of ground in such a short book, but through it all is a sense of humor,, and honesty over how her life has gone. The book is downright funny and Carrie is able to poke fun at herself which you hardly ever see in a book like this. It's a book you read and can't help but laugh. When you think about a celebrity you have all of these images in your head, but Carrie isn't what you expect when you think about what it's really like. It's not easy being bi-polar, and a drug addict, and Carrie is funny and yes, even a bit manic.

      There are a lot of surreal moments here, and they're all true. The drug addiction, the dead gay guy in her bed, and yes, even an ex-husband that she turned gay. If you're going to idolize a celebrity this is one you would want to idolize, or at least use as a cautionary tale. The fact that she tells her story in such a way is what makes Wishful Drinking so damn good. You almost feel as if the book was therapy in a way because it's so insane. It couldn't really happen could it? This isn't your typical bio, and I wish that more people approached these in such an honest, funny, and engaging way. You're taken for a ride that will no doubt make you laugh out loud, and that rarely happens in the world of celebrity bios. Most are bleak and depressing, but this one is a light that we didn't even know we needed or wanted to see.


Monday, January 9, 2017

 Postcards From The Edge - Carrie Fisher 2/5

      You ever see reviews for a book and then decide to read it just to see what all the fuss is about? That was my experience with Postcards From The Edge. I vaguely remember hearing about it, but I was fourteen and wasn't really into books about drug addicts and recovery, or the experiences after said person tries to live a normal life. I've never even seen the movie. I finally tracked the book down after Carrie passed and was ready to be blown away by her literary debut, but was left feeling guilty that I didn't enjoy the book, or even find it as good as all the critics said it was. Then as I prepared to write this review I shoved aside the guilt because not everyone is going to feel the same way about everything. It's just a sad part of life.

     I'm glad I borrowed this one from the library and not bought it like I planned. I found Post Cards rather boring, and oddly disjointed. There's parts of the book that seem to make zero sense and you're left trying to figure out why this is even part of the story. The main problem was that Suzanne really isn't  all that likeable. When I read a book I want to connect with a character, or at the very least have a reason for reading, but here, there's nothing. At times it's quite amusing and then my mind began to wander and I forgot half of what I read. The best parts for me were in the drug clinic. There was a linear pattern to the story and it made sense. After that it just fell apart and I couldn't even finish it. I understand what Fisher was trying to say, or at least convey, but I just lost interest and threw in the towel.

     While most of the reviews reflect the passing of Fisher, this one is about my experience with the book, and how I had hoped that it would live up to the hype. It didn't and I don't feel bad about not liking it. I wanted too, but after almost nearing the end I had to quit. I couldn't take anymore. While most books like this try and keep a serious tone throughout, Fisher takes a different route and we see just how difficult life can be when your life spirals out of control and you're trying to find some sort of balance. For Carrie's debut there's not much balance here, just a story that some people adore, but me? I just didn't like it all that much.