Reincarnation Blues, My Thoughts

1As much as I love the PEOPLE in my book club, the selections have left something to be desired.

I’ve tried The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neil Stevenson, and I honestly wasn’t impressed.

I tried the first book in Illuminae, and the fact it was classified as young adult might as well have been the red flag to end all red flags.

I tried From a Buic 8 by Stephen King, and was honestly pretty disappointed with it.

So far, out of all the books we’ve picked as a group, the only one I can say I truly loved was Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore.

Reincarnation and spirituality fascinate me.  Having been a kid growing up in the reddest part of Red Kansas, my only choices for religions were Catholicism, and Presbyterianism.  And when I say choices, I meant that my family was Presbyterian, and I had no choice but to be Presbyterian along with them.  So in other words, my spiritual studies could be summarized as “Jesus is correct, worship him or fuck off”.  But I’ve gone on that topic a bunch already, so I won’t bore you with it here.

Moving to the city, and gaining access to the internet were the best things that ever happened to me in this regard, because I found myself researching a lot about religion and spirituality over the course of my life.  I eventually settled on Baha’i, but even after settling, I still like to read what other religions have to say on this matter.  And Reincarnation Blues has an interesting interpretation of how reincarnation works.

Whether Reincarnation Blues builds its model of reincarnation on the Hindu, or the Buddhist concept is something I’m not entirely sure of.  I’m guessing the Buddhist version, considering one of the main character’s lifetimes was during the times of The Buddha himself, but honestly, Buddhism’s concept of the afterlife seems to borrow pretty heavily from Hindu.

The story, regardless, is fascinating.  At worst, I’d say it’s a bit on the predictable side the moment you find out there’s a finite number of lifetimes you’re allowed to have, and the fact the main character only has five more to go, but predictable isn’t the same as bad.

It’s all about attaining enlightenment, and going through “the sun door”.  What awaits you on the other side of the sun door?  Milo doesn’t seem all that interested at first, due to the fact the love of his life exists in the realm between lives.  Love makes you do crazy things.  It makes you lose count of lives and spend a lot of your time between them just hanging around deserts learning how to juggle.  I guess.  And here I thought it just made you forget smelling your girlfriend’s hair is considered creepy.  Don’t ask.

The humor in this book has been likened to Douglas Addams: author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It really depends on which passage we’re talking about.  Sometimes, I can totally see it.  Other times, that seems like a stretch.  The book has its own, unique, dry sense of humor.  Life and death are clearly irrelevant, and it really needs to be that way, or else the concept of reincarnation really loses its power.

The audiobook is read by Mark Bramhall, and…  He’s okay.  Listening to him read is like listening to a bed time story read by my grandpa, honestly.  Although I don’t think my grandpa ever read me any bed time stories with this much death involved.  In any case, his performance isn’t distracting, and the story never feels like a chore at any point.

I honestly recommend this book.  I’ve even thought of giving it a second readthrough once I’m done with the monumental pile of crap I have in my Audible.com cue right now.  It’s totally worth your time.

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Charlie’s Chocolate Factory of Unspeakable Horrors Now Available!

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: My apologies for not getting this out much sooner.

 

I’ve illuded to this project in the past (though not as often as I thought I would when I started this damn blog), but now, it’s here, and it’s available for purchase on Amazon.com.

We all know the story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…  Or so we think.  Willy Wonka’s legendary chocolate factory has stood abandoned for decades, and no one is certain of the truth.  However, when an oompa-loompa escapes, proving the existence of oompa-loompas in the process, interest in the abandoned factory is reignited.  Joe Conner: liberal columnist, Ted Branson: conservative talk radio host, Marcus Frey: libertarian YouTuber, and Yasmin Potter: communist blogger, all travel to the factory in search of answers.  However, what they find there may be more horrifying than anybody could’ve ever possibly imagined.  Zombie oompa-loompas, the true and gruesome fates of the ungrateful kids, and a whole mess of other atrocities await you in this delightfully dark parody of a childhood classic.

INTERESTING FACT: this idea formed in my head in 2014.  I was looking for an excuse to take part in NaNoWriMo, and I had two ideas.  I ended up going with a different idea for the 2014 NaNoWriMo, though: a project I pet named “Upton Sinclair in Space”.  It wasn’t until I’d thoroughly given up on being for-real published, and embraced the world of self-publishing and novellas when I decided to finally pen this story.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as the movie…  Maybe even more so the movie, has been a childhood favorite of mine for as long as I can remember.  It was a lot of fun coming up with alternate horrifying endings for the children and their parents, as well as coming up with other possible ideas for horrors to inhabit the factory.  I was initially against the idea of four characters with politically charged ideologies, but after kicking the idea around a little more, I ended up liking it better than just having one guy running away in terror over and over again.  I actually like it better now that I went this route.

I was originally going to hold out for a cover artist, and use this current cover as a sort of place-holder cover.  However, I’ve really grown to like it a lot.  Something about that font.

Charlie’s Chocolate Factory of Unspeakable Horrors is now available for download here:

https://www.amazon.com/Charlies-Chocolate-Factory-Unspeakable-Horrors-ebook/dp/B01HQN8BVI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468213562&sr=1-1&keywords=Charlie%27s+Chocolate+Factory+of+Unspeakable+Horrors

 

 

STILETTO: My Thoughts

When I first dove head on into the glorious world of Audible.com, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley was one of my first purchases.  My actual first was basically three of the then four A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and my second was a handful of Christopher Moore books.  In fact, I only ever bothered with The Rook in the first place because Christopher Moore…  Said something.  I can’t remember if he was showing his support, or trying to convince his fans to leave Daniel O’Malley the hell alone over an assumed slight, or a third thing, but I figured I’d give it a look as long as everyone else was talking about it.

The first Rook novel, released either in 2011 or 2012 depending on which source you’re quoting, was actually pretty good.  I don’t remember going into it with especially high expectations, but that has less to do with any opinions of Daniel O’Malley himself, and more to do with my general philosophy of “keep your expectations low, and you’re never disappointed”.  It kind of reminded me of X-men if they were less of an academy for wayward superhumans, and more of a James Bond like secret organization.  I genuinely enjoyed everything about this book.  Even if it felt like Myfanwy Thomas’ powers were weapons grade bullshit.

The first audio book was read by Susan Duerden: a woman who sounds…  Not necessarily bored, but I looked forward to character dialogue when she was reading it.  It’s been a while since I listened to book 1, but I remembered finding her to be a bit dull when reading the expositional stuff.

It’s either this exact reason, or the fact four to five years happened between books that saw to it that Duerden wasn’t called in to read book 2: STILETTO.  Instead, it’s read by…  Moira Qwirk?

Whoa whoa, hold on a minute.  You’re telling me the woman who used to blow the whistle on Nickelodeon GUTS! is reading a Daniel O’Malley novel?  In the immortal words of one Phillip J. Fry: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have let my excitement get the better of me.  To her credit, Qwirk does a great job reading.  Hell, even her American accent is better than Duerden’s.  That being said, I probably should’ve started with book 1 again before bulldozing my way over to this one.  If for no other reason, then because I definitely needed a refresher course.  I’d forgotten all about Myfanwy’s estranged brother and sister, about the fact the organization is called The Checquy (which I’m assured by two different readers is pronounced CHEH-KAY), and a couple other characters from the first book.  Gestalt and Dr. Krisp were literally the only other Checquy members I could remember off the top of my head.

When I first started reading STILETTO, I was actually beginning to think we’d moved on from Myfanwy Thomas completely, and instead, we’d be focusing entirely on Felicity.  To a large extent, I wasn’t wrong, but Myfanwy ended up playing more of a roll in the story than I would’ve guessed.  I mean sure, she’s a key member in negociations and all, but I figured she’d only make a couple cameos at most.

Oh yeah, there’s probably spoilers in this review.

Honestly, the title STILETTO kind of confused me.  I figured it had to do with the grafter girl with the spikes that came out of her wrist.  I want to say tarkata style, but the tarkata race doesn’t have venom in their blades, so it’s probably not an accurate comparison.  I figured it might be the code name the villain used, or even one of the Checquy.  In the end, the only reason I can think of for the title is pure symbolism during Felicity’s ending monologue about grafter girl’s involvement in the partnership between The Chequy and the grafters.

Overall, the story was a bit of a slow start.  There was a lot of history to get through revolving around how the grafters went from superpower, to vanquished, to secret brotherhood, to terrorist organization, and finally to the fractured organization it has become as of book 2.  Not to mention Felicity’s back story, catching up the halfwhits who decided to skip book 1 entirely on who the hell Myfanwy Thomas is (I guess I kind of qualify?), etc.  Not to mention the Asian girl who could turn into smoke ends up getting killed off pretty early on, which sucks, because I kind of liked her superpower.  If I could have a superpower, turning into smoke, or mist, or something along those lines would definitely be number two on my list.  Sorry, but shapeshifter just holds too much appeal for me.

The man I came to know as “The Crystal Spike Killer” was, in all honesty, a complete and total waste of time.  At first, I thought he was going to have more involvement in the story.  Hell, at first, I thought HE was Stiletto!  He has a grand total of one encounter with Myfanwy, then you don’t hear from him ever again until the epilogue.  Then, he gets dispatched in rather anticlimactic fashion by a minor character from book 1.  I was actually kind of annoyed by that.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t going to be the final big bad, but at least make him a little more important to the plot than just some excuse to pad out the chapter count to 50.

Crystal Spike Killer aside, though, I enjoyed this book.  As I said before, Moira Qwirk is an excellent reader, and a refreshing departure from Susan Duerden.  It was a long hike, but aside from a couple of head-scratcher moments like “Why is this guy even in this fucking story?”, I enjoyed it.

Is STILETTO better than the first book?  I don’t think I’d go that far.  I’d say it’s maintaining the status quo of excellence more than anything else.  I’d recommend you give it a read, but I also recommend reading book 1 first.  This isn’t exactly The Dresdin Files, after all.

Dorothy Must Die: My Thoughts

As someone who finds it harder and harder to admit to others I’m a Kansan (fucking Brownback), let me be the first to say that I fucking hate The Wizard of Oz with the passion of a million burning suns.  You go to a Kansas themed store, you’re going to find three things: Royals gear, barbecue sauce, and fucking Wizard of Oz murch.

I never really saw what the big deal was with Wizard of Oz in the first place.  Yeah, it was an innovation in film, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s good.  If nothing else, it doesn’t mean I have to forfeit my right to an opinion and automatically say it’s great.  Maybe it’s because I’ve watched it to death as a kid, or maybe it’s just because I’m not much of a film buff.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I belong to a very large crowd of Kansans who are sick and tired of hearing all the tornado jokes, Toto jokes, and the popular “you ain’t in Kansas no more!” from every god damn smart-ass guido New York has to offer.  It’s all just speculation, but at the same time, I just don’t see what the big deal is.

Oh sure, I guess you can bring up the Technicolor argument, and the fact it had one of the biggest actresses at the time in the lead.  You might even point out that the books were better.  I haven’t read the books, but honestly, I just don’t have any motivation to.  Bottom line: I’m just not a fan.

In fact, when I saw the first Dorothy Must Die book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, I had to see what that was about.  Of course, I had to get it off Audible.com if I wanted to read it, but the important thing is that I read it.  a year and a half later, I just finished book 3 in the series, and now I’m impatiently waiting to see what happens next.

Honestly, I neither love nor hate the “young adult” genre.  I’m tempted to punch people who refer to it as “YA”(either sounding out the letters, or pronouncing it phoenetically), but the…  Genre?  Demographic?  Whatever you want to call it, there are good stories here.  There’s also really, really, REALLY bad ones (I’m looking at you, United States of Asgard), but that’s really just the way of the world.  I guess at absolute worst, I’m still stuck in the olden days when we used to call them teenagers, and didn’t give a rat’s ass what they had to say about anything because it was mostly unimportant bullshit that centered around the aquarium that is high school.  You don’t believe me?  Go to Livejournal, and click random over and over again.  Wait, livejournal’s still a thing, right?

Yeah, the Dorothy Must Die books are young adult.  And yeah, there’s romance between the main character and a male.  Painfully awkward, unappealing romance that borders on a possible FRIangle (FRIangle = forced romantic interest angle).  However, compared to a lot of books in the genre demographic thing Audible.com recommended to me and I ended up hating, it’s somewhere between barely unnoticeable and understandable.

If nothing else, the setting, the story, and really, the concept of Dorothy becoming a tyrannical dictator is what holds my attention the most.  Danielle Paige has taken The Wizard of Oz, and turned it into a delightful Game of Thrones esque bloodbath.  Except thankfully, nobody’s fucking their sister in this one.  She is kind of a pain with all these cliffhanger endings, though, which is definitely something she and GRRM have in common.

Out of the three books, Rise of the Wicked (book 2) is my favorite so far.  Book 1 had its tedious bits here and there, but it managed to hold my attention from start to finish.  Book 3 was almost better than book 2, but then you got to the last three or four chapters, and I couldn’t help but feel like this could’ve been a chapter or two shorter.  Book 2, however, is pretty much perfect.

It’s very clear the author is either a fan of the old Wizard of Oz books, or she’s at least familiar enough with the source material.  Hell, she probably looked it all up on Wikipedia for all I know and care.  Just when you think she’s only focusing on the old movie, and maybe OZ the Great and Powerful (don’t even get me started), references so obscure that I’m surprised I even know them pop up.  I’m talking things like The Gnoamb King, and the silver shoes being completely different from the ruby ones.

I can’t say I appreciate all the little jabs at Kansas thrown in to all the books, but like I said, Kansas is making it real hard for me to be proud of being from here anymore.  This must be what it’s like for Canadians whenever they watch South Park.  I don’t know.

All I know for sure is I really enjoy this book series, and I’m eagerly waiting to see what sort of mayhem comes next in book 4.