What the Hell Did I Just Read?

9781250040206What the Hell Did I Just Read?” (henceforth known as WTHDIJR) by David Wong is another great adventure from Dave, John and Amy! I am a huge fan of this series and love the supernatural mixed with the dark humor. The series began with “John Dies at the End” and continued with “This Book is Full of Spiders”. The books are highly popular with “John Dies at the End” being made in to a movie that has a solid cult following (myself included). “Spiders” was a New York Times Bestseller. David Wong is the pen name for cracked.com author and senior editor Jason Pargin.

SUMMARY: Dave and John receive a request to consult on a kidnapping case due to the weirdness of it. Apparently, the person who took the little girl is a shape shifting creature and hiding out at an old abandoned mine. The boys, along with Dave’s girlfriend, Amy, investigate and find some pretty weird stuff. However, they are able to get the girl back and return her to her parents. All well and good until they get reports of another child being kidnapped, this time by a flying bat and praying mantis creature – justifiably termed BATMANTIS?!?. And yes, the BATMANTIS?!? must be written that way. You’ll understand once you read the book. Shortly after, more and more kids go missing. As the guys and Amy investigate, they come to realize that some otherworldly stuff is happening and the only way to gain perspective is to indulge in the ever famous “Soy Sauce”; the special drug that gives them their preternatural abilities and gifts. Throw in some shady underground highly classified government agency that may or may not exist, a door that looks like a coffin that leads to other worlds, an ex-military special forces guy with an itch to blow crap up and an evil villain that wears nothing but little girl’s underwear and you have the overall gist of the story.

THOUGHTS: The book is very neat in that it switches back and forth between Dave, John and Amy’s perspectives. It is humorous and eye opening to see how each character views the world around them and how each perspective is needed.

John, of course, is a smart a*%, who thinks the world revolves around his genitals and their place in the world. He is very “go get ’em” in his stance. Amy is very positive and tries to see the best and do the best in every situation. And then there’s Dave. He is pessimistic, a realist and if given the chance lazy (i.e. He’s my spirit animal). 

If you’ve read the other books in the series, you know how off the wall and random these books can be. But, that is what makes them so original and fun. These are just 2 ordinary guys who end up in some extraordinary adventures and manage somehow to save the world and the universe through major bumbling and a “who cares” attitude every single time.

WTHDIJR does end with the set up for another book in the series. I did appreciate that the author put an addendum on the end urging those who hear voices or are experiencing mental distress to seek professional help. He explains that many have contacted him asking for help, assuming he really knows about this stuff. He urges them to seek professional help. Very cool! Rather than writing them off as unstable or weirdos, he tries to help.

It would help to read the series in order, but I don’t think its absolutely necessary. Also, make sure to read the book “John Dies at the End” first before seeing the movie. I think it will really help to understand what happens.

If you are looking for some laugh out loud, fun monstery type stuff than look no further, this book (and series) is just for you. (Below are the other 2 books in the series)

book-is-full-of-spiders

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

MBFEI can still remember Bon Jovi in its hey day along with some Def Leppard, REM and of course the always popular “Red, Red Wine” by UB40. My middle school years were also marked by images of Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. I spent way too many sleepless nights hoping that Freddy’s right hand of doom wouldn’t pierce me through and through in the the middle of a dream. Throw into all this puberty, zits, weird clothes, big hair, trying to find somewhere to fit in and sleepovers and you have a pretty good idea of the background for “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix.

Hendrix’s fiction has appeared in multiple magazines. He is the author of Horrorstor, which is about a haunted furniture superstore – basically an IKEA meets a graveyard – and “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”. (I’m going to shorten this to: MBFE so I do have to write the whole thing out every time.

MBFE follows the lives of 2 friends, Abby and Gretchen. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Abby Rivers. She has invited everyone to her birthday party but pathetically no one shows up, except for the weird new girl, Gretchen Lang. Gretchen and Abby become best friends and stay that way through middle school and high school. The book then fast forwards to high school where Abby and Gretchen attend a private school. The school is mainly for the elite of the Charleston area and their families. Most of the kids that attend there are rich except for one, Abby. She attends on a scholarship and gets by with her brains not her bucks.

Abby and Gretchen are typical teenagers. They love to hang out and party and it is doing this one weekend that causes all the problems. While Abby and Gretchen, along with some other friends are enjoying the lake house of one of the girls, they decide to try LSD. Not much happens and they console themselves by drinking too much. Gretchen, on a whim, suggest skinny dipping and runs off in the middle of the night. The others lose sight of her and she disappears. They frantically search for her but can’t find her until the next morning. She can’t remember anything from the night before.

Following her disappearance, she begins to act strange and weird things start happening around her. She becomes a shell of her former self until one day when she seemingly just snaps out of it. Then, this is when the weird stuff starts happening. Those around her start getting what they want, yet what they get is twisted and evil.

Abby knows something is wrong with Gretchen and knows that Gretchen is somehow hurting those around her. After several attempts to figure out what is happening, Gretchen turns on Abby. Abby becomes ostracized at school and home. She knows though that something is seriously wrong with Gretchen, despite all appearances. She knows that deep down something evil is growing and taking over Gretchen. But what is it and how does she stop it? I won’t reveal anything more and have not done the story justice at all. I can say though that you will not be disappointed and will most likely stay up later than you should reading this.

Deep down, this is a story about what friendship really is. It speaks to never giving up on those we love no matter what they may do. The ending is a gut check and helps you see how important those you share life with really are.

All in all, I give this one a 4 out of  5. I would be surprised if this is not made into a movie, especially with the popularity of “Stranger Things” and all things 80’s/90’s. I will definitely be picking up other books by Hendrix in the future and look forward to more from this author.

 

 

The Hike by Drew Magary

 

What do you get when you take Homer’s27833803 Odyssey and blend it with Alice in Wonderland? You get a book called “The Hike” by Drew Magary. Magary is a correspondent for GQ Magazine, a columnist for Deadspin, and a Chopped Champion. He’s also the author of four books: The Hike, The Postmortal, Someone Could Get Hurt, and Men With Balls.

The novel follows the very strange journey taken by the main character, Ben. Ben is out of town on business when he decides to take a stroll before a big meeting. As he goes farther and farther on the stroll, he comes to find out that the path he has chosen only leads forward. Set on an epic quest, Ben must find his way through mystical and magical realms, battle with a giant, get directions from a crab and basically re-examine every aspect of his life.

This is really a novel about what home means to each of us. Ben, as he gets thrown into this hike, realizes the thing he wants most is to get back to his family. I believe the story shows us how our choices have consequences and each path we choose leads us on a new journey.

I think any adult that has become complacent in life would read this book and instantly relate to Ben. At many times throughout the book, I found myself literally exhausted and upset and really feeling the emotions that the character had.

For some, this may be too weird of a book. But overall, this was just a fun read full of sci-fi & fantasy and a little bit of soul searching thrown in.

The Core of the Sun

coreofThis book was on fire! (sorry I had to make the joke). This has been one of my top reads for this year. I sped through this book in a day and a half. The edition I had clocks in at 304 pages and was soft cover.

Johanna Sinisalo is a female Finnish author of multiple Fantasy and Sci-Fi works. She is the recipient of multiple awards for her writing and was awarded the “Prometheus Award for Best Novel” for this book, The Core of the Sun. Her writing is unique, expressive and has been coined “Finnish Weird”. The Core of the Sun written in 2016, is her most recent work.

The Core of the Sun takes place in Finland. It has been turned into a society where women are raised to be submissive, unquestioning eye candy who sole purpose is to fulfill the man they are with. They are given no voice and no rights other than what their husbands may give them. Beauty is prized above all and intellect is looked at as a disease to be subdued.

There are 2 castes of women in this society. One is called the Eloi. These are women that possess traits such as physical beauty, submissiveness and basically act like the crew of girls from that movie “Mean Girls”. The other group of women that don’t fit in this group are called morclocks. These are women who have brains over beauty. As young children, each girl is given an aptitude test to see where they may fall. The smarter, more dominant women tend to end up as morlocks, which basically amounts to being shunned by society. Think of it as being the brown tootsie roll pop in the bag. You may look like the others but let’s face it, they are just gross.

The main character Vanna is a blip in this system as she is highly intelligent but also extremely beautiful. Early on, she realizes that in order to stay with her sister, Manna, (who is the quintessential eloi), Vanna must pretend not to be smart in public. Therefore, she secretly reads books on every subject. These books are smuggled in to her and must be hidden under ground when she is not reading them. Through a chain of events, Vanna and Manna end up having a sort of falling out over a man that comes to stay with them. The man is attracted to Vanna because of many of the things that she is not supposed to have, like intelligence and the ability to reason. As a result, Manna blindly finds the first man she can and marries him. The relationship is rocky and she ends up disappearing without a trace. Vanna feels responsible for Manna’s blind leap into marriage and spends most of the book searching for her. Much of the interaction the reader has with Vanna revolves around letters written to the disappeared Manna and it is not until the closing chapter that we find out what has happened to her.

Much of the book involves chili peppers as well. In the future, Finland has eradicated any thing that could be addictive such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs. However, in people’s desperate search for a “high” they have turned to chili peppers and the high they get through the effects of capsaicin. Capsaicin is the fiery chemical in peppers that regulates the amount of burn you feel when you eat them. In the book, Vanna becomes a capsaicin drug user and dealer. It is through this desperate search for a bigger and better pepper high that she ends up being part of a project that creates the hottest pepper ever known called you guessed it…The Core of the Sun. It is interesting to see how anything can become addictive given the chance.

This is definitely a unique and interesting take on dystopian literature. While I was reading, I thought about the small changes and tweaks that are made to society all the time to mold it one way or another. I believe this is a cautionary tale about identity and the damage that can be done when we pretend to be someone or something we are not. It is very Handsmaid Tale-ish crossed with Chili Peppers. Its hot stuff (no pun intended)!

 

Monster

monsterOn a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give this one a 3. But, don’t let that keep you from reading this book! Monster (by A. Lee Martinez) mixes humor, fantasy and fiction all together to create a reality where magic is real but going extinct. Dionysus Monster, the main character of the book, is a monster catcher. Much like a dog catcher, he is called in to catch monsters on the loose. Anything from Yeti to Hydra are his domain. Problem is, he is pretty mediocre at his job and well at his life in general. Once he meets Judy though, things begin to change. Under attack constantly from Judy’s subconscious, Monster must deal with rogue monsters bent on getting him. Judy does not know she is doing this to Monster and no one is even sure how she is doing it. I’ll let you read the rest of the book to keep from spoiling it for you…

Suffice to say, this is a book about growth. It is lame in several areas. The dialogue could use help and the plot is sketchy. But beneath all that, is the story of Monster’s growth from being mediocre and self absorbed to becoming admirable and involved in life.

The most memorable quote from the book for me was “Being a good person is more than just not being a bad person”. Simple yet good advice.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and fun read, this is your book. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

“The Fight”

UBB-TheFightbyLukeWordleyBoxing intrigues me. To me, fighting has always been something I’ve shied away from. I’m definitely not one of those guys who tries to prove himself by being tough or getting into fights. I am a trained blackbelt but even that has never made me crave fighting. In fact, it taught me just the opposite; the very harshness, danger and consequences of using our bodies as weapons.

With that being said though, boxing is a sport of focus. You must learn your opponent and anticipate his next move and yours at the same time. Split second decision making is not only required, it is imperative. In Luke Wordley’s newest book, “The Fight”, the reader sees the positive impact boxing can have on a life.

Sam Pennington is an angry kid who has lost everything. A dead father, a drunk mother and the harshness of moving into public housing has led Sam to his breaking point. It is at this breaking point that he comes to a crossroads. After a particularly brutal fight, Sam is introduced to Jerry Ambrose, a boxing trainer. Jerry takes Sam under his wing and Sam begins to discover a hidden talent and passion for boxing.

The story is redemptive in nature and deals with the core of what happens to our lives when our emotions rule us. It is also a coming of age story for Sam. This is a longer book at 380 pages but the story keeps your attention and drives home some important messages.

All of us has demons and skeletons that resurface from time to time and we all must learn how to deal with them or we will be ruled by them. We all have a “fight” we must engage in. How will yours turn out?

Other “Fight” thoughts:

http://christianbookshopsblog.org.uk/2012/02/25/a-novel-to-fight-over-introducing-luke-wordley-and-the-fight/

https://jimkane.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/my-review-of-luke-wordleys-the-fight/

Anya’s Ghost

Ever read a really weird book? The kind where you get done and go, “hmmm…that was just…strange”. I recently read a book just like this called “Anya’s Ghost”. Written by Vera Brosgol, the book is mainly intended for a younger age than mine. It is a junior literary guild book.

Brosgol was born in Russia and received a Classical Animation diploma. This book shows her talent. Anya’s Ghost is written in comic book style, which means it is animated and broken into block segments (much like a comic book).

The story follows a young girl, Anya, through a typical day. She is an outsider but wants most of all to fit in. She isn’t quite smart enough, quite athletic enough, quite popular enough and doesn’t quite have the money to fit in with the rest of the teenagers she wants to hang out with.

The adventure begins when she accidentally falls into a well and stumbles onto some bones. The bones belong to another young girl who can’t leave unless someone carries her bones out. Anya does and that is where the trouble begins. The ghost helps Anya get what she wants but at a very high price.

This is a fairly quick read and the comic book style is interesting and refreshing. If you are looking for a light read in between some heavier books, check this one out.

Some other voices on Anya’s Ghost:

Amazon – Positive Review here

Amazon – Not so Positive Review here

Read About Comics Review here