Monday, August 29, 2011

Not Your Average Joe



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> Author Joe Hill at a book signing."]Joe Hill at a book signing.[/caption]


I have now written this review three separate times.  I started with an anecdote about how I came to possess 20th Century Ghosts and Heart-Shaped Box, but I think that what I really want to tell you about is the author himself.  To be brief, I kept running into references about Joe Hill and what a master storyteller he was, but had neglected to add anything of his to my collection.  While in Maine, Chris picked me up 20th Century Ghosts, and afterwards a copy of Heart-Shaped Box arrived in my mailbox.

20th Century Ghosts is like no other book I've ever read in my entire life.  Reading it can be likened to an out of body experience.  From the very first page I got the strangest sensation.  I kept imagining myself sitting in a dark theater, just Hill and I, only he isn't there at first.  He miraculously shows up just as the beginning of the movie comes to life on the screen.  He's slouched down in the chair with a huge box of popcorn which he crunches noisily, eyes wide like saucers.  He is wearing a black knit sweater with a white undershirt and jeans, just a regular patron at a movie theater.  He leans over and tells me how excited he is and how he can't wait to see what will happen next.  As we continue to watch the movie (living depictions of the stories) I gradually forget he's with me.  Out of nowhere, he leans forward and says reverently through a mouthful of buttery popcorn, "Can you believe it?  I never saw that coming!"  Then he leans back in his seat and we continue watching, his eyes glued to the screen with a look of ecstasy on his face.  I'm sitting there slack-jawed, unable to tear my eyes away long enough to blink for fear of missing one little exquisite detail.

The entire book gives off this feeling.  The stories are written so naturally that the reader can't help but feel more like a spectator.  Each story seems to have a life of it's own, and just when you think you know the ending, it changes into a totally different scenario.  The stories are all wildly inventive, yet somehow plausible.  I think H.P. Lovecraft would have liked Joe Hill's stories - they are all based in a very real and vivid world, with just enough of the absurd as to make them heavily unsettling.

Joe Hill is more than a writer, he is a master puppeteer.  He knows just which strings to pull to strip away his reader's defenses.  With a few words he can pierce any reader straight to the heart.  When I first started reading 20th Century Ghosts, I thought I was in for the usual: the searching ravenous dead, or the unsettled dead that won't leave the living alone.  What I found was far worse.  Ghosts come in every shape and size, and there are none more terrifying than those that inhabit every human's conscience and soul.  Somehow Joe Hill knows exactly where to find those ghosts and how to bring them to light, often without the reader noticing until the pivotal moment.  Hill can elicit an emotional response over the weirdest and most absurd things, including an inflatable boy named Art, who just wants to live a normal life ("Pop Art"), or an idiot-savant who builds forts out of boxes that tunnel to different dimensions ("Voluntary Committal"), or a boy whose magical cape gives him the power to fly ("The Cape").

Every story is wonderful and worth reading, and any story that I did not understand I attribute to my being naive.  My favorite story is "Abraham's Boys", about the famed vampire-hunter Abraham Van Helsing.  I have always taken it for granted that Van Helsing was a vampire hunter, but Hill explores a darker side.  What if Van Helsing were crazy instead?  How would his children react to his old world ideas and superstitions?  Meanwhile, Hill introduces a question that I still find troubling to this day, How is no proof somehow proof that something exists?  It's like having a worm in your brain day after day, eating away at you.

Joe Hill is a peerless author.  He keeps a very interesting and informative website which can be found by following this link.  If you aren't currently reading his stories, you are cheating yourself of an irreplaceable experience.  Personally, I have only read 20th Century Ghosts, but I can assure you that I will be following Joe Hill very closely in the coming years.  His stories and visions are classics in the making.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm a traitor.



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="182" caption="Cover of The Dead Zone"]Cover of "The Dead Zone"[/caption]


I vehemently refused to go to another bookstore after Borders started it's closing.  I wouldn't go - none of them appealed to me.  I complained to everyone I knew about the "loss of my favorite place on Earth"...and where was I yesterday?  Barnes and Noble.  Looking for a specific book (incidentally, they don't have it and I very well may be returning to another location of the same store in a few hours).

I fell from grace over a discussion of  a Patrick Wilson film.  Apparently, he survives an accident and upon waking, discovers he has a connection to the world of the dead.  My dad started talking about Stephen King's "The Dead Zone" which had a similar plot.  I was surprised that my father was going on about what a great book it was, because he isn't as much of a reader as my mom or myself.

So now begins my feverish hunt for "The Dead Zone".  My mom has a copy in hardcover, but I don't want to read hers because I read in all the oddest places, and if something happens to her book I'm dead meat.  Plain and simple.

This may also be the start of another Stephen King hitch.  I have read tons of his books, but there are several (including the entire Dark Tower series) that I haven't read yet.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gadzooks !



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> Yarn !  OMG !"]K├Ątzchen[/caption]


Ha ha !  Chris and I just came back from a stroll among the shops and I saw my first yarn bomb!  For those of you who don't know what a "yarn bomb" is, it's a random piece of knit or crochet that covers something.  This particular yarn bomb was a bit of crochet around a pole.  The pole was part of a gate, and the yarn bomb covered the bottom.  It made the pole look like it had a claw foot.  So cool!  If you're unfamiliar with the results of yarn bombing, then check out this link to my google.com search: yarn bomb.

We tried Moxie - the much maligned soda of Maine.  It was touted by our Duck Boat tour guide as a mix of "dirt and cough syrup".  Apparently us Buffalonians are more resillient - it tasted like thin root beer with a hint of anise.  Not bad.

I thought I would throw that out there - just saying.

P.S.  Here is a link to some other Maine Monster Foot Yarn Bombing. The pictures are from Freeport, Maine, where I was staying.  Maybe next year I will yarn bomb my own city.  :)  Thanks for the comment, Rose !  I never would have looked that up if you hadn't mentioned the holiday.

Brian Keene - part 2!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="186" caption="Cover of City Of The Dead --> This is the cover of my book as well :)"]Cover of "City Of The Dead"[/caption]


I finished "City of the Dead" on the car ride to Maine the other day, and I figured I should write about it now.  In another week or two things will get very hectic.  I will hopefully be returning to school to get my master's, and I will have other things taking up my limited time.  Therefore, while it's still fresh in my mind, I'm going to write as many reviews as I can remember (I'm fairly behind in my reviews).

"City of the Dead" is the thrilling conclusion to "The Rising", both of which are written by Brian Keene.  I'm not going to go into detail, since the last book ended so abruptly, and this book starts right away with the story.  What I will say is that we lose some good characters, and we gain a few along the way.  Character growth for those still (un)lucky enough to survive continues at a natural and realistic pace.

This book finds the demon-lord Ob continuing to amass his forces for the war against all life forms and their Creator.  He continues to have dry, morbid, and sarcastic humor.  I'm not going to lie - I really do enjoy his quips.  Some people have criticized Keene for it, but I have to admit, it really does enrich the story.  I wouldn't figure that a timeless demon-lord would always speak in an older style, especially when you figure that the bodies these demons are possessing are full of our current language and skills.  It stands to reason that they would update their language as well.

This book finds a group of survivors trapped in an impregnable New York City skyscraper.  The skyscraper was designed to withstand any kind of biological, terrorist, or natural attack/disaster that could ever happen.  The designer, Ramsey, has locked himself up inside the skyscraper, and he sends out forces to look for survivors daily.  Unfortunately for everyone else in the tower, he has a messiah complex, which I guess isn't unusual since his building is named Ramsey Towers.  He fancies him their ultimate savior, and comes to think that they adore him.  Most of the people living in the skyscraper are very diverse, with their own tales of woe and their own characteristics.  It's fun to guess who will be a main character, and who will become zombie fodder.  Keene writes so convincingly and with such back story that it's hard to decide who is a main character and who is not.

The climax of the story is truly unforgettable.  The zombies pitch and epic battle, and humanity's last struggle is no less epic.  The stories of all the characters intertwine, and you find yourself rooting for almost everyone.  Since the situation has become more dire in this book, there are virtually no rape scenes, which makes it an easier book to read.

Again, the book is a work of pulp fiction, so please don't expect it to be a classic for the ages.  "City of the Dead" is highly entertaining and worth reading, and I suggest it to anyone who wants to read something that isn't the usual zombie book.  Take nothing for granted, and make sure you have a few hours to spare - once you pick this book up you won't want to put it down!

Since I'm on a roll...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="293" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> This is the cover of my book.  :)"]Recent paperback cover[/caption]


...I figured I'd write a review.  Before leaving for Maine, I decided to start Brian Keene's "The Rising".  It was recommended to me by a patron of the gym where I used to work.  Unfortunately it's taken me some time to not only find decent copies of the books, but to read them.  The person that recommended them to me said that they weren't a typical zombie story, and that I should have an open mind.  That was certainly the understatement of the year!

"The Rising" is the story of a man named Jim who sets out to save his son from sentient zombies.  The zombies are just human bodies inhabited by the Siqqusim, a  special type of demon with a vendetta towards God.  Apparently they were upset about being thrown out of Heaven and wanted to make God pay by wiping out all of creation.  At the outset, that seems like a really difficult undertaking.  However, the Siqqusim are led by a stylish leader named Ob, who happens to have two other brothers in the Void who are dying to get out and wreak havoc.  The destruction of the Earth is supposed to happen in three waves: Ob comes along and possesses/wipes out humans and animals, when that is done his brother Ab is free to take over plant and insect life, and after that their third brother (forgive me for forgetting his name) and his demons walk across spreading a killer fire.

It's alright that I've spoiled the demon take-over plot for you, as there is plenty of excitement to be gleaned from the characters themselves.  There's Jim and Danny - father and son, but also the main driving characters.  Danny is locked in an attic and his father is rushing to save him.  Jim meets Martin the preacher along the way, and Martin serves as his companion and spiritual guide along the way (but in a good sense - not annoying).  Baker is a scientist that was responsible for the scientific experiment that let loose the demons from the Void.  Along the way Baker becomes the guardian of a deaf man named Worm.  Frankie is a hooker trying to kick a heroin habit, and she's plagued with memories of her still-born child.  There are some rather sick military men that the characters run into, but in keeping with my usually PG-rated reviews, I will leave it at that.  There are many other interesting characters, and nobody seems superfluous.

I enjoyed the book overall, however there were a few things I could have done without.  Keene seems to go out of his way to showcase just how many bad men appear to be left after the initial zombie rising.  There are far too many rape scenes and general abuse scenes.  I understand that it was commonplace in the universe he created, and it certainly gives an added emotional aspect, but I think in some ways it wasn't necessary.  To be honest, that is my only criticism of the book.  (I read the second book, and it didn't continue into "City of the Dead").

On the good side, Keene's characters are well constructed, and show a natural growth progression.  Each character develops as the series goes on, some in good ways, and others in bad ways.  In other reviews that I have read, the dialog has been criticized as being juvenile and predictable.  I have spent the last few days listening closely to those around me and have come to the conclusion that there isn't really that much original language.  Most people seem to have communicative patterns, phrases that they repeat or words that they use often.  People who are around each other tend to pick up on that language.  My boyfriend Chris uses "Riight?!" all the time.  When we were first dating, I thought I would go mad if I heard it one more time.  Guess who also says it now?  Keene picked language and phrases that fit the characters.  For instance, there is a scene where the pimps are chasing Frankie through a zombie zoo (literally, all the animals are dead).  Of course the pimps aren't going to be yelling, "Wherefore art thou, o strumpet?"  They're going to be using regular old language from our current century, and befitting their status as pimps.

"The Rising" was very much in the pulp style.  Using the definition at TheVintage Libarary, it is "entertainment for the masses".  That's right people - it's not meant to be used in a college class.  The average reader is supposed to be able to pick up the novel and enjoy it - and that's just what I did.  If you're looking for an deep and meaningful look at human nature in a time of stress, pass this book on.  However, if you're looking for a book that's pure zombie-bashing fun, pick up Brian Keene's "The Rising" today!

P.S.  At the end of this book, I wound up yelling, "What?!  You can't end a book like that!  That's not fair!" (even though I had the sequel on the table next to me).  Just be warned.  It's one of the most gut-wrenching endings I've read so far.  It's also the reason why I wait for multiple books to come out in a series before I read them.

Hello from King-land!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> Freeport, Maine"]The Street in Freeport, Maine[/caption]


I'm writing this post from Freeport, Maine.  The Harraseeket Inn, to be exact.  I'm on a few day vacation with my boyfriend Chris and his parents.  I figured it would be blasphemous not to write a post from the state that spawned the great Stephen King.  In a totally personal side note, I have wanted to visit Maine my entire life.  When I was a kid, I dreamed that I would move to Maine, live in a house by the sea, and write.  I would also speak loads of Spanish and wear cable knit sweaters year 'round since it's always winter in Maine.  (Ha ha - it's about 78 degrees out today, and I keep hearing French - proximity to Canada has that effect.)

The first stop of the trip was Portland, Maine.  According to my internet research, Portland is the city in which King was born.  During the amphibious Duck Boat tour, they pointed out an island that King frequents, and has used as his muse for some time.  Other highlights of that particular city include the house of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and of course, the ocean.  The city is really beautiful, and unlike my hometown of Buffalo, New York, there aren't very many chain stores.  The streets are populated by independent shops, one of my favorites being Fetch - where you can find unique dog and cat items.  We had burgers at Silly's, which boasts a "Zombie Burger" - vegan burger with a boat ton of spicy sauce, pineapple, and assorted veggies.  (Sorry folks - I'm a wuss when it comes to spice, so I had the regular burger and the to-die-for sweet potato fries).

Our next stop was my current location - Freeport, Maine.  According to the maps, I am 117 miles away from Stephen King's current residence in Bangor, Maine.  The Harraseeket Inn offers an afternoon tea service, and pristine rooms.  Chris and I took advantage of the indoor pool last night - which was heated, thankfully.  This morning while walking the streets we came across a dog parade heading into the L.L. Bean's store.

Maine has been everything I wanted it to be, and even a little I wasn't expecting.  I didn't expect to find a place that was virtually untouched by chain stores.  Don't get me wrong - I do like my Tim Horton's, but it's nice to see new places and try new foods as well.  Being an avid plant-watcher, I noticed the roadside bushes are different here.  They are heartier, and look more like pine trees.  Speaking of which, this place is covered in pines!  I think I prefer it to my own state, which is populated by scruffy looking trees during the summer.

On a horror note, last night I ate the peach and raspberry crisp at the tavern in the Harraseeket Inn.  It tasted divine, but I had trouble swallowing the crisp.  I kid you not - it looked like it came straight from the special effects department that had worked on Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive".  Egads!  Also on the topic of food, there is an ice cream shop down the way that serves authentic lobster ice cream.  Worth mentioning, but I'm afraid I lack the stomach to be able to try it (for once having an allergy to milk and all milk products seems to be worthwhile).

Maine is a great place to go if you have food allergies.  They are very accomodating to those suffering from gluten issues and also from milk issues, like me.  The menus here offer a plethora of gluten-free and vegan options.  It would be nice if some of the other states would catch on to this idea.

The Borders Bookstore up here is well-stocked.  While Chris and I were perusing the shelves, I found a few items that I didn't know existed.  Chris picked up a few items for me - "Songs of Love and Death" (a star-crossed lover's anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois), and "20th Century Ghosts" (a Joe Hill anthology - also fitting as he is the son of Stephen King).  I miss Borders already.  At an independent bookshop in Freeport, Chris gifted me "Henry the VIII, Wolfman" (an A.E. Moorat tale).  Apparently he's aware that the way to his lady friend's heart is through the bookstore.

Maine is a city I recommend everyone visit at least once in their lifetime.  Where it feasable for myself and for Chris to move here and take up permanent residence, I would certainly pack today.  Unfortunately, I need to get a master's degree soon, and neither Chris nor I have any interest in moving so far away from our families.  It was about an 8 hour ride up here.  I'm glad to have been able to scratch the "visit Maine" article from my bucket list.  Now on to the next one - become a writer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jewelry people, I did not forget you...

Industrial Blood Stone Choker

In continuing with my creepy crafting series of posts, I would now like to offer up one for the jewelry makers.  Again, if you know of any other books, please feel free to post on the comments or message me directly !

Again, I will post more on here as I see them.  It may also be of interest to check out general crafting books, as they will no doubt offer some jewelry patterns as well.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Zombie 5K ?!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Original caption from American army: "Cam...[/caption]


As none of you are probably aware, I am on a kick trying to lose some weight.  I find it hard because there really isn't a goal other than "stop being unhealthy and big".  Pretty nebulous, isn't it?  Today my boyfriend showed me a website that has me thinking in terms of a reachable goal: survive a 5k populated with zombies, that also happens to be attached to an obstacle course.

If you're like me, those last few words most likely dropped your heart into your stomach, and your stomach somewhere in the vacinity of through the floor and out the other side of the world.  The website with all of the information is http://runforyourlives.com/.  It posts information on when the run is, and where it will be.  This year's run is October 22 in Baltimore, Maryland.  I live in New York State, so I won't be present.  However, don't give up hope!  The website states that "the infection is spreading in 2012", so maybe I will be able to drive to the nearest location.  Let me know what you think !

Those bewitched...

Harry Potter Box Side

Those of you with a flair for the witchy will find the following books intriguing.  As with all of the other craft posts, feel free to drop me a message or add another book via the comments section.  Links are added for amazon.com so that you can peruse them, although that isn't the only place to find them.

For the knitter...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Knitting needles, aka things I don't know how to use yet."]Description: Photograph of knitting needles So...[/caption]


Here are the creepy knit pattern books that I have come across.  Links to amazon.com provided so you can peruse the books.  If you know of any others, please let me know!

Sorry, again, not many suggestions here that I have found.

Scary crochet patterns...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Homemade Cthulhu, adapted from pattern in Cree...[/caption]


This post does not include the many patterns you can find for free online.  I don't want to post those just yet, because I want to make sure that I give proper credit to those brave men and women who came up with them.  Again, links to amazon.com are provided.

Not too many of these types of books out there yet, but let's hope!

For the cook...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="261" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Ghoulish Goodies: Creature Feat...[/caption]


Here is a list of cook books that cater to the macabre.  If you know of any others, please feel free to message me or use the comment option to share with everyone.

I added links to the pages on amazon.com, but as always you can find them at other stores and retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

For the Frankenstein in all of us...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia -   Aaah, the Cthulhu crochet pattern.  <3"]Homemade Cthulhu, adapted from pattern in Cree...[/caption]


Today I'm going to do a series of posts that cater to the crafting crowd.  I have noticed that the subject of the macabre has come up in various art forms and is now readily available for the artsy person to create.  This should help you with any parties you are throwing this coming October.  (Or if you're just creepy year-round like I am, you could do these crafts just for giggles).  If you know of any other books, please share them with me!

All of the following posts will be categorized by type of craft, and filed away under the "Arts and Crafts" section of this blog.  Enjoy !