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Carrie (novel) Review

It’s finally happened: I found a Stephen King book that I like. It took seventeen years and about ten books to get to this book. Well, King did write like a hundred books so it was inevitable I’d find one. It’s also King’s first book and the one he hates the most.

That book is Carrie. The book about an awkward girl who is constantly picked on by other girls and is beaten by her super-religious mother. She also has psychic powers that she uses to get her revenge.

One thing that is obvious is that this is one of King’s shortest books at 290 pages. People are so used to seeing a Stephen King book being around 1,000 pages that when they see a book this short it’s a shock. Am I saying I liked this book because it was short? Not in the least.

You see, this book is not long winded at all. The amount of content in this book is just right to tell the story. Also, the writing is pretty solid which makes this book a page-turner (I read this book in three days.)

Let’s look at some of the writing styles used in this book. There’s the traditional narrative form which is well written. King also adds nonfiction writing such as news stories, memoirs, letters and medical journals. It takes a lot of talent to get all of these styles to be interesting. King does manage to do that in a way that flows nicely. Normally, when a writer changes writing styles in a book it’s like hitting a high wall and then trying to climb it to get back to solid ground. Some writers can do this right, but some can’t.

What’s not great is some of the fluff in the book. The fluff I’m talking about is some of the scenes with Chris and Billy. Billy really only has one purpose in the book: Collect the pig blood. And Chris is there just to tag along. These two are the least interesting characters in the book.

Of course, what everyone talks about is how different this book is than the movie (the 1976 version anyway.) In the movie, Carrie is super skinny while here she’s chunky. Other changes are Miss Desjardin doesn’t die in the book, Carrie just kills her mom without a big fight, Carrie destroys the entire town instead if just the school and Carrie actually ENJOYED killing people. Yes, the book describes Carrie as smiling while she kills people. That right there is a lot scarier.

In all, King may not like Carrie but I did. It has some great writing conventions that make it worth reading. It may be scary like people make it out to be, but it’s still one of King’s better books. It has made me want to go back and give his other books a second chance.

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit Review

We’re all familiar with the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, right? The story about a hardnosed detective who hates ‘toons is forced to help out a ‘toon rabbit who is wanted for murder. It’s one of Bob Hoskins’ best movies. What most people don’t know is that this movie, like a lot of movies, is based on a novel. That novel is Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. The problem with this book is that it’s super rare and hard to find a physical copy. My library has a copy of it in storage, and I was lucky enough to read it.

The first thing that’s apparent about this book is the plot. Hardnosed detective Eddy Valiant is asked by a ‘toon named Roger Rabbit to investigate why his boss, Rocco DeGreasy, refuses to give a solo contract. That is until Roger is murdered and, worst yet, Rocco was murdered before him making Roger the prime suspect. Now Eddy needs to find out who the real murderer is.

That’s a lot different than the movie. Also, the tone of the book is a lot more serious. Sadly, this book isn’t all that great. You see, having cartoon characters is a great concept. The problem is this book reads like the typical pulp mystery novel with cartoons thrown in for the hell of it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad. The book is well written enough to please people who are into this particular genre. The problem is it doesn’t live up the standards the movie had.

Now, I’m not saying the movie is high art. It does, however, have  a lot of techniques that were really hard to pull off in the 80s. This movie pulled it off so great that you really think that a real life person is interacting with a cartoon character. Not to mention music, acting and story and you have a classic.

Am I saying the movie is better? Yes, I am. In fact, Wolf rewrote the book to make it closer to the movie. This is one of those times where the movie is better than the book.

Who Censored Roger Rabbit Review may have been the basis for the movie, but the movie outdid the movie by miles. If you want to read the book just to get an idea of where it all came from go ahead. Just don’t expect anything great out of it.

 

 

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Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood Review

Yup, another comic review. This one’s a little personal. As with almost all the books I read, I found this while perusing my local library’s shelves. See, libraries are still useful. This comic is called Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood by Martin Lemelman.

The reason I picked up this book is because, like Martin, I was born in Brooklyn to foreign parents and the Brooklyn I grew up in changed drastically. This comic is Lemelman’s memoir of growing up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn with his Holocaust-surviving Jewish-Polish parents and his brother. Here he describes incidents that happened to his family, his dad’s candy store and how his neighborhood changed.

To many who read this, this is just the typical story of a first generation American growing up in America. To others, this is all too familiar. I may not be Jewish (I’m Italian,) but Lemelman’s life is all too familiar for me. Immigrant parents who gave up lots to start a better life in a  foreign land in a neighborhood with people like them. Then, it all changed. Lemelman even said at the end of the comic, “I stopped. I looked. I drove away.”

This is an all too familiar feeling for many people who grew up in Brooklyn. What they remember is now long gone. It’s pretty sad. Many of these people have moved away to New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island, Upstate New York or, like Lemelman, Pennsylvania. Even many of his more private moments will ring true to a lot of people.

That’s why this comic is so powerful. Many people will see themselves in  Lemelman and maybe even shed a tear.

The artwork is black and white pencil drawings with some real life objects and photographs superimposed in them. This is one instance where flashy art is unneeded. This simple art style is effective in what it’s trying to do because this really is a simple life. It actually feels more lifelike this way.

Two Cents Plain is an astounding comic that hits home to many people, especially former Brooklynites. It’s well told and will cause many people to bring back some fond memories and even a tear or two. This one did it to me even though I never left Brooklyn.

 

 

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Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Review

If there’s one video game genre that’s about as obscure as they come it’s visual novels. For those who don’t know, visual novels are exactly what they say on the package: they are novels that have visual elements (character designs, backgrounds, voice acting, music, etc.) You need to be one crazy person to play this instead of a “real” video game or read a real book.

I am one of those crazy people.

In the visual novel circles, I’m considered a noob because the number of visual novels I’ve played can be counted on one hand. The few that I have played were quite enjoyable. That all changed when I played Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.

Before I continue, I want to make two things clear. 1. I have played 9 Persons 9 Hours 9 Doors and enjoyed it immensely and 2. Since this blog is geared towards the literary persuasion, I am only going to touch upon the story. Thus, if you want to know about the puzzles, look elsewhere.

The story is about Sigma who wakes up to find himself in a strange room. The last thing he remembers is that he was starting his car outside his college when a white smoke knocked him out. A woman named Phi is also in the same room with him. After escaping the room, they find seven other people and are told by a computer program named Zero Jr. that they are in a game where each of them has to go through various doors and get the numbers on their watches to nine or higher to escape.

This entire plot, like the first game, is pretty much the plot to Saw 2. The difference between Saw two and this series is, well, everything. Better storytelling, characters, puzzles, pacing, setting and the characters aren’t a bunch of blithering idiots. I will defend 999 to my death and say that what Saw 2 tried and failed to do 999 did so much better.

What I won’t do is defend this game. The story has some great moments, but overall it wasn’t as interesting as 999. You see, Sigma and Junpei from the first game are pretty much the same character in terms of personality. This goes down to them both having impeccable memory, math skills and are perverted to a fault. Hell, they even share some story elements together like that whole multiple timelines thing.

That right there is this game’s major fault. The jumping back and forth through time, different outcomes are what gives some sci-fi readers headaches. Time travel is a major pain in people’s brains. Back to the Future may be about time travel, but they kept the multiple timelines thing to a minimum. Here it just gets way too confusing.

The characters also aren’t as interesting as 999. They do have personalities here, but at the end f the day the 999 characters just seem more memorable. Even Clover, who makes a reappearance in this game, has had her personality nerfed to something completely different.

I’m not saying VLR is a bad story. It has its moments, but overall it’s just not as interesting as the game makers make it out to be. This is more of a rental than anything else. There is a third game announced which hopefully answers some questions this game created. Especially after that horrific ending.

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Anthem Review

Ayn Rand.

That’s all you need to say in order to spark a huge political/philosophical debate.  Go on any message board that has Ayn Rand or her books and you’ll see people argue over her political views like it’s the debate team in high school. Like many, I have heard of Rand from that one South Park episode where Officer Barbrady quits reading after reading Atlas Shrugged.

I do have Atlas Shrugged, but am iffy about reading it. I did pick up Rand’s much, much shorter work Anthem. After reading this, I’m a little worried about Atlas Shrugged.

In a, what else, dystopian future humans are pretty much slaves to this society. Everything is controlled by different palaces down to what your name is and what your role in society is. Equality 7-2521 (yes, that’s the main lead’s name) is a street sweeper who, like everyone else, does what he’s told. One day him a fellow street sweeper find a hole that leads to a relic from the Unmentionable Times (a subway) and slowly he defies this dystopian society.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The main lead ( I am NOT going to call him by his name. Let’s call him Joe) and everyone in this world refers to each other as “we” and “they.” This goes on throughout the book up until the last two chapters. Yes, there is supposed to be a point to the “we” and “they” but after a while it just gets annoying. Not to mention after a while I was expecting Joe to blurt out “filthy hobbitses. We hates them, precious.”

No, seriously. don’t lie to yourself. You will start expecting that response if you decide to read this book.

On the whole, this really isn’t a very good book. The plot is weak as hell. He finds something from the past, rediscovers lightning (yes) and then flees. That’s the entire plot. This book is more along the lines as a political/philosophical manifesto than an actual novel. The problem is the whole “don’t trust the government. The government is evil” bit has been so much in other books. In fact, Anthem may only be 90 pages but it feels like 400.

Not to mention the whole subplot of Joe meeting the girl (let’s call her Kim.) She doesn’t serve any purpose except to be an obvious allegory to how poorly women  are treated in society. She could be completely left out of the book and nothing will change. She literally does NOTHING throughout the book.

Don’t get me started on the last chapter. In the last chapter, Joe and Kay stop calling each other “we” and instead use the proper “I.” Which is fine until Joe decides to give each other new names. He names himself Prometheus and Kay Gaea. This is so pretentious that you can see Rand patting herself on the back for “a job well done.”

In all, Anthem just isn’t all that worth reading. It has a piss poor plot, a terrible message and is a chore to read. If this is what’s to be expected from Rand, then maybe Atlas Shrugged will push me to never read again.

 

 

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The Little Prince Review

I love children and young adult books. Not because they’re easy to read, but because many books in these genres put forth themes that adults may think kids can’t handle. One such book is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. Now some people will read the previous sentence and think I’m making things up. This is a book for children.

To these people I say, you’re what Saint-Exupery is dissing in this. You only see things at face value and not what’s important.

For those who’ve never read this book, it’s about an unnamed man who, while flying solo over Africa, crash- lands in the desert. Here he meets what looks like a little boy but is actually a prince who lives alone on a tiny planet no bigger than an asteroid. The Prince tells the man his story of how he got to earth.

For a book for children, it sure has a lot of things for everyone to think about. One of the obvious ones is how adults view the world versus how children view it. Children see a much bigger picture and adults only see what they want. What Saint-Exupery is saying here is that there’s a lot more to the world than what we see. It’s just that adults refuse to see it.

There is a part of the book where the Prince goes to various planets inhabited by a single adult. It’s here where we get some societal commentary. Each adult is only interested in their own things and nothing else. There’s a king who only cares about bossing people around, a drunk who only cares about drinking and a lamp lighter who’s constantly opening a closing a lamp because “orders.” The is confused by all of these.

He should be confused by it. You see, this is exactly how a kid would react. Kids have this view of the view that everything is important and must have some reason behind it and they’ll figure out that reason dammit. The problem is adults tend to give the “just because” answer every time. What this does is it turns kids into adults that accept this “just because” mentality.

This anti-adult mentality may come across as Saint-Exuperywriting for children, but once you dig deeper he’s actually begging adults to be more open to the world and see that things are much more than what they appear.

This is the reason why this book is a classic. It doesn’t talk down to kids. Instead, it makes them see that there is more to the world than what adults tell them there is. It also tells adults to be more like kids.

The Little Prince has a lot going for it not despite it’s a kids book, but because it is a kids book. It’s like some cartoons: Just because it’s a kids book show does not mean that kids are stupid. They are a lot smarter than what us adults think they are. Give this book a read and see for yourselves.

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The Strange Library Review

Haruki Murakami. That name alone makes most people cringe because he’s one those novelists hipsters love. I’m no hipster so it goes without saying I don’t like him. I have read 1Q84 and South of the Border, West of the Sun. The former was terrible and the later was a resounding meh. Hell, I had an art class where we had to read a novel (from the list the professor gave,) bind our own book and draw the themes into our books. My book was South of the Border and, sure enough, 80% of what I drew were sex scenes. My professor told me there was so much more to SOTB and I told him, no, the book is about some guy who’s horny for some girl he met as a kid, she leaves and the guy screws any girl he gets his hands on. When he’s in his forties he reunites with the girl, screws her and he’s happy. That’s it.

Recently I came across Murakami’s new book, The Strange Library and since it’s insanely short, I decided to read. You know what? This is the best Murakami (read: the only good) book I’ve ever read.

The story is about this kid who wanders into a library and asks to take out a few books. The librarian takes him to the library’s basement where he puts the kid into a dungeon and tells him to memorize the books or die. Now the kid, along with a mysterious girl and a sheep man, must escape.

This is a rather brilliant setup. You see, libraries are quiet places for people to read (or surf the web.) The idea of a library having this scary monster and a dungeon is unexpected. There’s also that one human aspect of being held against your will be something that’s supposed to be innocent and then being helped by actual innocents. That right there hits many people close to home.

The writing is decent for the most part. It does convey what’s going on and character emotion well. However, it reads like it is a YA novel instead of an adult novel. There’s nothing wrong with YA, it’s just that it doesn’t belong in this books.

This book has some artwork in it that’s hit or miss. They are very colorful interpretations of certain events in the book. The ones with the shoe, the old man and the starry night are marvelous. The others just don’t make any sense. What’s with the moon/donut image?

In all, The Strange Library is a Murakami book for people who don’t like Murakami. It has a great plot and execution with some nice pictures despite some setbacks. I might try Murakami again, but don’t bet money on it.

 

 

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The Library of Unrequited Love Review

Have you ever been stuck in a library overnight and then had a long conversation with a librarian the next day? What do you mean that’s never happened? Then how do you explain Sophie Divry’s debut book The Library of Unrequited Love? What do you mean it’s a novel? My life is a total lie.

In all seriousness, I came across this while roaming my library (people still do that, or am I getting old?) It seemed interesting, so I picked up. It’s actually quite an interesting read.

The really isn’t much of a plot here. Basically, you wake up in the stacks section of the library when a librarian tells you you’ve been sleeping there all night. Instead of just telling you to go home, she gives up a 90-page rant on what it’s like being a librarian and how bad her life is.

That’s it. No conflict, no major characters. Just a librarian talking directly to you for 90 pages.

Since I’ve never worked in a library I was only able to get about 70% of what Divry was trying to say. What I did get was something any book nerd would understand. From her rants about how people only use libraries for internet and free AC/heat, to how people today only really read comics. Not that there’s anything against comics (I have reviewed a few here,) it’s just you do need literature in your life.

What’s that? You only read what’s popular or what the airport newsstand sells? This book has an entire section on that too. It’s a wild ride to read a book nerd rant about such things in an actual book. It’s almost as if the book is talking to you.

Librarians will love this book because, hey, this is a librarian’s rant. Everything the librarian says in this book is spot on to what every librarian complains about.

Of course, since this is someone’s rant, the writing needs to be something phenomenal. This is something Divry excels at. The librarian’s voice is interesting to read, plus the content of what she says is interesting. She grabs your attention from the first word to the last. It’s a rarity that a rant can keep a reader’s attention for 90 pages.

The only downfall of this book is the librarian’s unhealthy obsession with a man she barely knows. It’s borderline creepy. Of course, there is a reason why it’s there; It’s to show another level of loneliness on the librarian’s part. It just comes off as creepy near the end, it creates a sort of cat lady vibe.

One thing that needs to be addressed here is the type of book itself. What exactly can you categorize it? This is one of those novels that are impossible to categorize. Basically, something publishers hate. Maclehose Press took a gamble bringing this book over to America and I can say this book does deserve more readers than what it has now. It is one of those experimental books that are actually interesting. And, no, there is no pretension here.

The Library of Unrequited Love is a fabulous librarian’s rant that took a chance and came out on top. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Afterward, give it to your favorite librarian. S/he will thank you in spades.

 

 

 

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Review

“Don’t panic,” “Life, the Universe and Everything” and “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” are ingrained in people’s minds because of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy  by Douglas Adams. Of course, many people only know the book from the movie (isn’t that always the case?) I’m one of those people, but I haven’t pick up any of the books until recently. I have had people say “why haven’t you read them yet?” I’m one of those people with a large pile of books that I want to read and this one was on the bottom.

With that I can say I was thoroughly surprised.

The story is about Arthur Dent, a normal earthling living a normal life and he likes it that way. That, until one day his house is getting bulldozed. His buddy, Ford Prefect, takes him away from his house to have a few drinks at the pub. That’s when an intergalactic wrecking crew comes to Earth and destroys it in one fell swoop. Now Arthur and Ford go on a little misadventure with the  two headed  President of the Universe, an old flame and a super paranoid android.

I have no idea why I have never bothered to read this series years ago. This book is awesome! People have told that if I liked Terry Pratchett I’d like this. They were right.

First, the plot of this book is something else. It’s about as out there as yo can get. And I like out there. Thing is, out there has be done right. Here,it is done right. Everything about it from the universe, to the characters, to the plot has that right amount to keep you entertained.  I in fact, this is the first book in  along while that I couldn’t put down.

The characters are well written too. Terry Pratchett said there’s a difference between funny characters and well written characters that are funny. These guys are the later. They have unique personalities that define who they are with the added bonus of them saying funny things. It’s these types of characters that you want instead of one note, one joke characters that so many people have come up with. The best character has to be Zaphod Beeblebrox. This guy is the typical dick who gets thing done by screwing people over. And he’s the President of the Universe. That right there is funny.

Speaking of funny, the humor is this dry English Monty Python type humor. Some people will not get most of it, but if you think about what was said you’ll be laughing for a while. My favorite joke is the answer to life, universe and everything is 42. It doesn’t seem funny on its own, but the line that says they didn’t ask the right question makes it funnier.

This book’s historical significance cannot be ignored. You see, a lot of scifi/fantasy before this was pretty straightforward. There was very little comic scifi/fantasy. Adams and Pratchett created a genre that though not many people have tried their hand at, it still has people reading these stories.

In all, I’m glad I read this book. So much so that I bought The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This book has great characters, plot, world building and humor. Highly recommended to everyone.

 

 

 

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Another (Novel) Review

From Japan comes one of the strangest titles for anything ever. Our subject for today is a novel by Yukito Ayatsuji called Another. “Another what?” people may say when seeing the title. When you actually read the book you’ll understand why the title actually makes sense. You’ll also experience one of the the more interesting Japanese YA horror novels to ever be written.

15 year old Yoichi Sakakibara has moved to the small town of Yomiyama to live with his grandparents for a year due to his dad needing to work in India. While staying in a hospital getting a collapsed lung treated he comes across a mysterious girl, Mei Misaki, in the hospital with an eyepatch. When he starts school at North Yomi Middle he notices that everyone in his class completely ignores Meil so he decides to be the only nice person. Little does he know that by doing so he starts a string of gruesome accidental deaths associated with a curse in his class.

This book is pretty much a YA horror novel. Unlike a lot of YA horror novels this is pretty gory and disturbing. The gory parts are some of the deaths (a girl falling down a flight of steps and landing on the pointy bit of her umbrella.) They’re not there just to be shocking or gory; they actually fit with the person’s situation. They are pretty clever, come to think of it except for one (a heart attack.)

As for the story itself, it’s a lot more mystery than horror. The mystery is that the book keeps you guessing why everyone ignores Mei and if she is alive or even real. It’s doe pretty well; nothing’s forced, the build up is there and it will keep you turning the pages.

One of the things that make a good book is the characters. Ayatsuji makes it easy to like both Yoichi and Mei. Their interactions together are absolutely spot on. The things they say to each other, the way they interact, is about as close as literary chemistry as you can get. One good thing is that this relationship is more like solving a big mystery than a romance. Of course, of this was written in America there would be some kind of unneeded romantic subplot between the, The story works just fine without one.

There are a few problems though. The ending is kind of a letdown and will leave you scratching your head. Also, you have to admit that all of this bad stuff would’ve been easily avoided if the characters actually told Yoichi about the curse and not make him socialize with Mei. It may sound like a minor nitpick and there wouldn’t be a story if they did that, but it’s one of those things that kinda bothers some people.

Another may have an odd name, but the story, characters and excellent execution make this a must read. Just don’t expect a great ending.

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