Bites

Published: May 23, 2013
Publisher: Automatic Publishing
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan’s search takes an unexpected detour when he travels ‘within’ guided by a mischievous and often maddening young girl named Nekko. Nekko’s origin is a Zen mystery, but her devotion to Hatter’s quest to find the lost Princess is unwavering. After Nekko kidnaps his Hat and leads him on a fearless chase across the rooftops of 1871 San Francisco, Hatter must acknowledge her as a teacher. It is written that when you are ready the teacher will appear, but if the teacher is a 12-year-old girl and you are a High Ranking Bladesman you may discover that all you can do is laugh.

Hatter and Nekko’s adventure around the ring of fire begins when they track a stolen samurai sword with a Wonderland connection to San Francisco’s styling 19th century hiphop crime madam Missy Tong and her eager protégé, the outspoken Lil’ Dick. A stowaway trip aboard a shanghai sailing ship ends on the Hawaiian Islands where a surfboard becomes Hatter’s vehicle to illumination. And then on to Japan! Good grief it’s Chikao and the gang, schoolhouse demons, cosplay, manga, noodles and a long lost brother from another world. Duality? No. Milliners.” (goodreads.com)

This was probably my least favorite for the series so far, mainly because it made me cringe with how stereotyped everyone of non-white ethnicity was. From the very stereotypical Chinese/Japanese accent to the mystical Japanese girl functioning solely to bring the white man to enlightenment, it was all so . . . stereotypical. It really clouded the story for me to the point where I’m having a hard time remembering around the stereotypes.

The thing is I’m not even sure if this sidetrack storyline was even necessary for the story arc itself. It just seemed like a way for the author to jaunt through history to a self-serving time period to mix things up a bit. This was more about Hatter trying to find himself, but I feel like there are better ways he could have done that. Or at least ways that didn’t employ Long Duk Dong-level stereotypes coupled with Matt Damon’s The Wall/white savior elements.

ZEN OF WONDER doesn’t really add much to the whole storyline so if you’re looking for one to skip, this would be it. It’s not like there’s any Hatter growth in it at all. It’s just all rather pointless.

2

November 25, 2017

Published: March 30, 2017
Publisher: Urbane Publications (vanity)
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Ceri Edwards and two school friends lift the lid on an ancient book of recipes belonging to Betty Williams, a volunteer at the local hospital in Pontypridd, South Wales. Two Kansas City cops step off a flight at London Heathrow and one of them falls to the ground with a painful conviction that there’s something evil in the air. United in their destinies, Ceri and the police officers are drawn into a world where prophecies are pitted against invisible forces planning to raze London to the ground and bring down the Royal Family. It all rests with Dai Williams, recently knighted MI5 agent and reluctant hero, to bring some order to the improbable events and to ensure that afternoon tea at The Ritz continues for another hundred years. A great cross between Kim Newman and Ben Aaranovitch and a thrill for any fan of contemporary urban horror. (goodreads.com)

This book had no idea what it was and I had no idea what I was reading.

Just to break down the blurb, the teens and the Kansas City police officers are completely unrelated and don’t even meet until the very end of the book. Dai Williams is rather useless and has nothing resting with him. I don’t know who Kim Newman or Ben Aaranovitch are but I can tell you this is not urban horror. I don’t know what this was other than ridiculous.

The only way I can really describe the book is it’s like following a stumbling drunk home. You’ll eventually get to your destination but not before you lurch around, wander down some side streets, go backward, forward, side to side, fall face down into a puddle and get back up again. The author was way more concerned about being quippy and dropping as many “intelligent” references as possible than just telling the story. Development didn’t just happen. It happened with a reference to a show or with a snide comment or a paragraph of meandering thought. It was so all over the place it made keeping the actual story straight exceedingly difficult.

I really shut down when “the knowing” turned into a prophetic nutsack. That’s not a euphemism. A dude’s balls give him “the sight.” I don’t even know what to do with this book. It looks vaguely put-together. Nice cover. Interesting, if a little quirky, story going on. But the actual book is a mess. I’m motion sick at the end of it for all the lurching it does. I know what the author is trying to do but I think it falls flat. The exceedingly heavy-handed “humor” coupled with a lot of English-specific colloquialisms made context nearly impossible and the book feels like it wasn’t plotted. It just zigzags all over the place with very little cohesion.

THE KNOWING just didn’t work in any respect. It’s tonally off from the blurb, it can’t stick to its own story, and the author has shoved himself so deeply into the never-ending quips that it became too difficult to even see the characters anymore. The world is lost too. It doesn’t seem at all developed, but instead seemed like a good concept that just coasted on the surface without any digging. And it provided great support for telepathic testicles. So there’s that.

1

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Published: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Sarah Andersen’s hugely popular, world-famous Sarah’s Scribbles comics are for those of us who boast bookstore-ready bodies and Netflix-ready hair, who are always down for all-night reading-in-bed parties and extremely exclusive after-hour one-person music festivals. (goodreads.com)

It’s hard to review books like this because you either like the humor or you don’t. And I loved it. Took me no time to whip through the book, laughing out loud the entire time. I’ve followed Andersen on tumblr for a while now so I was familiar with her comics going into the book (it’s why I bought it). I love her simpler style of drawing that on first look may be a little too simple but as you read through the comics you see just how poignant they are.

The reactions are what really get me. Just these bug-eyed, squiggly, sometimes-messes that have me cackling because they hit so close to home. And that’s another thing that makes them great. If you can relate to them they become all the better. As an introvert with social anxiety these hit incredibly close to home and make them all the more relatable.

Hilarious. What more can I say?

5

November 18, 2017

Published: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Sometimes the past is better off buried.

Senior year is finally over. After all they’ve been through, Dan, Abby, and Jordan are excited to take one last road trip together, and they’re just not going to think about what will happen when the summer ends. But on their way to visit Jordan’s uncle in New Orleans, the three friends notice that they are apparently being followed.. And Dan starts receiving phone messages from someone he didn’t expect to hear from again—someone who died last Halloween.

As the strange occurrences escalate, Dan is forced to accept that everything that has happened to him in the past year may not be a coincidence, but fate—a fate that ties Dan to a group called the Bone Artists, who have a sinister connection with a notorious killer from the past. Now, Dan’s only hope is that he will make it out of his senior trip alive. (goodreads.com)

For the most part Roux’s moved away from supernatural horror and into more of a thriller realm with a bit of a gothic twist. Which I like. Don’t get me wrong. I just wish the supernatural elements in CATACOMB weren’t added for the sake of being added. They didn’t really add to the story in any meaningful way and the one element toward the beginning didn’t actually go anywhere. It was there for the sake of being creepy and convenient but it didn’t otherwise add anything.

But the story itself was good if a little thin. The prevailing issue with the Bone Artists and their so-called debt wasn’t explained very well or fleshed out all that much. It provided what was needed to get Dan where he needed to be but even in hindsight I’m not sure I fully understand the purpose of the debt beyond a plot tool. But it still worked, at least. The concept of the debt doesn’t come in until closer to the end anyway so it wasn’t something that was constantly being brought up without purpose and pulling me out of the story at all.

The setting was excellent. Roux’s always painted a good scene and she certainly didn’t fall short when it came to New Orleans. In CATACOMB I think the pictures didn’t add a whole lot to the story, especially when it came to Dan’s parents and some of the more recent elements they were trying to capture. The pictures work for the old stuff that’s exceedingly far out of reach, in my opinion, but they were just kind of eh for me when they were just pictures of things in the kids’ lives currently. It felt like the thing (added pictures) that worked really well at the start of the series had run its course and what was added in CATACOMB just became filler.

CATACOMB definitely trended more toward thriller than horror this time around because it departed from the supernatural element. It’s still creepy in a bone deep sort of way, aided by New Orleans as a backdrop. The idea of this insidious cult controlling things from the bottom all the way to the top is kind of terrifying. But by now I think the quirk of the series has run its course. The book isn’t bad, but I think it’s exhausted and it’s time for a rest. Not sure if that makes any sense, but it did in my head.

3.5

November 14, 2017

Published: July 1, 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

It was Julian’s last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton’s boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: “If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there’s the devil to pay.”

Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee have burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They’re lost in an amusement park of nightmares, at Julian’s mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny’s only clue is a gold coin, Julian’s gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride . . . (book back blurb)

I really hate the ‘make her his bride’ part. Because it’s less about that now and I think Julian just wants to finally win a game against Jenny. Odds aren’t in his favor here since she’s got two out of three, but points for perseverance.

THE KILL is probably my favorite book out of the whole series. I thought it was the best written, had the most heart, the best character development, and it was certainly the creepiest. An amusement park of nightmares? Yes, please. You had me at amusement park.

I like THE KILL because the characters have real consequences for their actions. People aren’t unscathed as they go through all of this. There are repercussions to things. They’re not just coasting through, trying to hit certain tasks and getting out of tight spots through a series of conveniences. For how unrealistic the story it, this only works to ground it more in reality.

The setting is killer. I love me a good creepy amusement park. I think they’re sinister anyway but to have this mock up of one in the Shadow World is just perfect. I especially liked the museum arcade with all the really old arcade games with creepy clowns and dolls in them that made all these weird clanking, grinding sounds when you used them. There’s a place in San Francisco that it reminded me of, Musee Mecanique, that’s also a penny arcade that doubles as a museum with really creepy dolls that repel and fascinating at the same time.

Jenny’s morphed into total BAMF territory and is so fed up with Julian’s crap that she just barrels through this world with only thoughts of Tom and Zach driving her. She stands firmly on her own two feet and I love how it’s the woman rescuing the men. Michael is actually the only man in the rescue party and he’s effectively worthless (still). So it’s Jenny, leading a charge of angry women into Julian’s world to take back what’s theirs. And Smith’s othering of Dee has been brought back down to a minimum. It’s still there but nowhere near as pervasive and cringe-worthy as it was in the last book.

My recap will be going up on 11/23 over at The Devil’s Elbow so be sure to check that out when it posts! The Forbidden Game is an excellent series that I think with just some small tweaks would stand up in today’s market. It’s creepy and empowering and unlike many series it actually gets better as it progresses. Love that.

4.5