Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This October, on Wisdom of Bookmonkey

Hi Everyone,

It's that time of year again, where I take a topic in the Horror genre and dig deep down for an entire month worth of posts.

Next month, however, the topic is going to be a little different.

For years now I've been collecting horror comics, novels, movies, and games I've been meaning to get around to, and just haven't touched. But two weeks ago I got a really great piece of incentive - the first season of Starz's Ash vs Evil Dead, and I really REALLY want to check it out.

So here's what I'm gonna do next month - I'm going to dig up all those books, games and movies I've been meaning to get around to and check them out, earning myself one episode of the TV series per item, getting to see my new series and at the same time, doing a pretty big cleanup on a backlog of horror I've been meaning to clean up for a while now.

So get ready, because in two week's time, we begin

Bookmonkey vs. The Hoard.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts

Earlier this year Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts won the Bram Stoker award for Best Novel, a fact that added it immediately to my reading list. Having just finished it, I'm happy to say this continues the trend of excellent horror novels I've read this year, following works by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Justin Cronin and Grady Hendrix.

Like Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism, Tremblay's work deals with the possession of a young girl, but then moves into a Rashomon-like narrative, following the story of 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett, told from the point of view of her sister Meredith at age twenty-three (talking with an investigator), age eight (when the possession occurred), and from the point of view of a young blogger obsessed with Possessed, a reality show that ran for six episodes and focused on the events at the time.

The novel looks deeply at the life of a troubled family, how reality TV (and fame associated with it) is not a solution but instead something worse for the family, and how in many ways these two young girls are forced to perform to the camera, making better TV, but at an incredibly steep cost.

As horror the book worked incredibly well, comparing it to Hendrix's work, which in many ways is a love-letter to childhood friendships, A Head Full of Ghosts ends up leading you to some very dark places, places that move from a sense of investigation to one of exploitation and eventually horror. In the end I was incredibly impressed with the novel and will likely add it to my own collection.

A really good read.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Creation

Although I can see why my ninth book of historical fiction focusing on Ancient Greece was included on the list, Gore Vidal's 1980 novel Creation would better be described as a novel of the Ancient World. Our main character, Cyrus Spitama, a half-Greek grandson of Zoroaster, is a Persian diplomat who, over his lifetime, travels across Persia, India and China, and ends up a diplomat in Greece. During his life he interacts with his grandfather (the founder of Zoroastrianism), Xerxes the Great, The Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Lao Tsu, and (from the protagonists point of view) a young Socrates.

As virtually everyone on that list founded various religions or schools of thought, the book can be viewed as an introduction to religion in the ancient world, and although it does function a little closer to a travelogue than a traditional novel, it was still a pretty fascinating read. Having been raised on stories of the great Greek victories at Marathon and Salamis, the chance to see the same stories from a Persian point of view was quite interesting and a good reminder to issues of bias in our collective history.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Godmother Night

So it's no secret here that I'm a pretty big follower of various lists when it comes to reading; even at the rate I read books some sort of filter is required for selection or I'd end up trying it alphabetically.

As one of my favourite types of lists are award winners (Hugo, World Fantasy, Stoker, etc.), many of these books are available at my local library, but every once in a while I'll have a title sitting on my to read list for years while I attempt to track down a copy.

Case in point: Rachel Pollack's Godmother Night (1996), which has been on my used-bookstore list for over a decade; I've looked for this book in Alberta, Nevada, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, to no avail. Then last month I figured I'd try out my local library's Inter-Library Loan service and my book showed up a few weeks later (sorry for the anticlimactic anecdote).

Godmother Night asks the question (sorry for the mild twenty-year-old spoiler) of how well would the personification of death do as a Godparent. The story follows two young women, and later their daughter through their lives as Mother Night (their world's version of Death) becomes directly involved in a young girl's life.

The story works best as a grown-up fairy tale (and yes, there are some very grown-up scenes in the book), and works as a series of vignettes focusing on two generations of a family and their loves, lives and deaths. A really fascinating book and one I was glad to finally check out!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: Seven Wild Sisters

So this month, the book I read had one of my favourite authors (Charles de Lint) team up with one of my favourite illustrators (Charles Vess), for a modern fairytale called Seven Wild Sisters (2002).

The novel follows seven sisters and their dog, who begin a day with chores and end with a war between fairies, including a creature called The Apple Tree Man and features challenges, music, and adventure. The book was simply a delight start to finish.

I'd first come across Charles Vess (who you can see more of at his website, Welcome to Green Man Press ) in Neil Gaiman's Sandman, as well as in the superb Stardust, so when I heard he had collaborated with Charles de Lint for this title, I was really excited to check it out.

The main story focuses on a young woman named Sarah Jane, who begins a cautious friendship with a backwoods wise woman known simply known as Aunt Lillian, that begins with chores and ends with a dangerous journey into another world.

A wonderful book and well worth the read.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: The FIreman

Joe Hill's latest novel, The Fireman (2016) focuses on a pandemic of spontaneous combustion.

Just take a moment and think about how awful that would be; people, seemingly at random, simply erupting into flame and burning to death. Then imagine it on a global level.

Having been a long-time fan of dystopian future and post-apocalyptic fiction, I think I can honestly say this is one of the most terrifying concepts I've come across in horror fiction. The Superflu, vampire plagues, and nuclear or zombie strikes are all excellent ways to force regular characters into extraordinary circumstances, but the world Joe Hill has stuck his character Harper Willowes into may be one of the worst I've seen.

What surprised me so much about the book was how much hope and love was able to be exist in this terrible circumstance; as Harper travels through this new terrible world, everything has not simply gone bad, in fact, somethings may even be a little better.

The novel was compulsively readable, and as with his previous fiction had me hooked early. A great read, and definitely stick around through the credits and acknowledgements at the end, as the novel still has one more treat in store for the devoted reader.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On Turning Forty

Tomorrow I leave my thirties behind, and hit my fortieth birthday; which, as is often said, is surely better than the alternative.

As a long time reader, I thought it might be fun to see what I was reading back in 2006 as I was leaving my twenties behind, so her goes, from my "Books Read" list from August of 2006, the last five books I read in my twenties:

The Door Into Summer, by Robert A. Heinlein
A 1957 Science Fiction novel by Heinlein that to be honeset I don't entirely remember - I'll lay odds it has something to do with a man abused by his fiance, who gets revenge using time travel and eventually marries her spunky and much younger sister. (SPOILER - after looking at a synopsis on wikipedia I'm pretty much 100$ correct).

The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks
A romance novel I'm pretty certain I read for one of my bookclubs; I actually have a pretty good recollection of the story and honestly it would be a pretty great entry into romance fiction for anyone.

The Godwulf Manuscript, by Robert B. Parker
This was the first of Robert B. Parker's Spencer novels, a series that would become my personal favourite in detective fiction and an author who's books I devoured, at the rate of one a month for years.

Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat
A re-read for me at the time, but as one can never read too much Farley, Never Cry Wolf may be one of my favourite Canadian books period.  It follows the author through his government sponsored study to prove that wolves were a menace to be destroyed and his findings that pretty much the opposite was entire true.

Ring Around the Sun, by Clifford D. Simack
A recommendation from Stephen King, suggested as his introduction to alternate dimensions that would one day lead to certain story concepts in his Dark Tower series, It doesn't quite stand up for me as well as his 1963 novel Way Station, but is a fine example of great classic Science Fiction.