Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible by C.G. Bauer

Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible
Written by C.G Bauer

Published: 2008

Synopsis: Hex signs protect every barn and outbuilding. Babies disappear at birth. When a brick wall unearthed at the site of a new restaurant collapses, and raw sewage carries hundreds of baby bones into the pit left behind, it looks like the devil's made Three Bridges his playground.


"Wump", in case you didn't know, is the noise a crowbar makes when it hits a man's head. It's also the nickname of the protagonist in C.G Bauer's fantastic novel Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible for that exact reason. Wump (or Mr Holzer if you'd prefer) had a troubled childhood which lead to a violent adulthood, ultimately landing him in jail. That's his past, and it haunts him, just as the true meaning of his nickname constantly follows him where ever he turns.

Wump isn't the only person in the town of Three Bridges (previously known as Schuetten) with a tortured or hidden past. From early in the prologue chapter, it's clear that Schuetten/Three Bridges isn't the kind of town the Brady bunch would settle in. Originally settled by fervent German Catholics, Schuetten in the early 1900s was plagued by poverty, hunger, dangerous work for minimal pay, child abuse, superstition and the death of countless infants - typically disposed of in the large river running through town. Now, (in the 1960s) development has occurred and the town generally seems to be in better spirits, even if a large portion of children are born handicapped and townspeople are dying of leukaemia left, right and centre. However, after a wall collapses and reopens a sewer that had been barricaded for nearly 50 years, a flood of baby bones sheds a bright light on Schuetten's dark past.

As Wump, motivated by a childhood encounter with one of the abandoned babies, investigates where these babies came from and why they were abandoned he is joined by the new priest and former baseball player, Father Duncan, on a secret mission of his own, and two wonderful little orphans Leo and Raymond who are more than meets the eye. While the investigation of the baby bones form the backbone (sorry, sorry!) of the narrative, there are dozens of other intricate little storylines threaded into it. Stories to do with Wump's wife and recently deceased son, stories about the Schuetten's orphanage back when he was a child there, stories about the wealthy Volkheimer family and the mysterious disappearance/death of the (only) kindly Volkheimer male, stories about the church in Schuetten and the priests who have been employed there, and stories about an intelligent but dark 14 year old named Adam. All of these stories are tied, one way or another, to Wump and they all interact with one another to not only paint a vibrant and complex picture of the town and its inhabitants, but to build the mystery of the abandoned babies and introduce countless red herrings which kept me wondering "what if" the whole way through.

The inclusion of these red herrings were fantastic. With each new chapter another possibility or perspective was added, and any preconceived ideas you may have had needed to be reworked or completely thrown out the window. Even though some of my theories were what actually eventuated, I was kept guessing to the very end, and this quest for answers kept me motivated and desiring to keep on reading long after I should really have gone back to work or off to sleep! Importantly, nothing was added to just throw the reader off. Some of the red herrings were to do with the smaller mysteries that were operating in tandem to the main story, but even these smaller threads were tied up neatly at the end and their connection to the main story made clear. Don't take this to mean that the story is merely some kind of mystery/crime novel, it's not. It's this wonderful blend of horror, fantasy, mystery and thriller. Each element adding something special to the mix, and has made it near impossible to define its genre. So let's just shelve it as reality-bending, wonderfully interesting mind candy, OK?

The final thing I want to discuss, is the role of religion in this book. Since two of the main settings in the book is the town church and church run orphanage and one of the primary characters is a priest, clearly religion is going to have a role. However, it's more than simply a setting and background for a character. Religion was central to the formation of Schuetten and a key motivator to much of the town during their days during the 1900s. It's also integral to the character of Wump. Though he was raised Catholic, the death of his son the year before shook his faith to the very core and is constantly raised as a source of frustration, anger and confusion as he progresses through the narrative. Further still, religion plays a vital role in the mystery with the babies and the finale of the book, I'll say no more because I don't want to spoil it for you, but C.G Bauer beautifully weaves some very complex religious concepts through the story, without taking focus away from the real story - the struggle of Wump, a struggle that he's been fighting ever since he was a young boy in the Schuetten orphanage.

I found Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible to be an intelligent, thoughtful and insightful story. The writing alternated between beautifully descriptive and informative yet sparse prose depending on what the narrative required, and the characters were dynamic, spirited and wonderfully constructed. I found the story an absolute pleasure to read, and C.G Bauer has definitely earned a fan in me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Links

*I'm not about to read 50 Shades of Grey, BUT if this video of Gilbert Gottfried (comedian/voice of parrot in Aladdin) became an actual audiobook, I would definitely buy it. (Via Jest)

*Attention grammar/punctuation nerds, here is a New Yorker piece on the semicolon (Via New Yorker)

*Terry Gilliam's daughter, Holly, has started a blog called Discovering Dad, where she looks through a bunch of his old stored art and movie pieces. Good find, or BEST FIND EVER?!!! (Via Discovering Dad)

*25 things you should know about antagonists -really fantastic advice for writers (Via Terrible Minds)

*People justify why they pirate e-books (Via Galley Cat)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Author interview: Samuel Bagby, author of Lily: A Fable

Hello readers! I have another author interview for you all! This one is with Samuel Bagby, the author of the new book Lily: A Fable. Samuel was kind enough to discuss his new book, why he chose self-publishing and the dangers in taking coffee from a writer! FYI, Lily: A Fable is available to download from Amazon and Smashwords for a measley $3.50! So if this interview grabs your attention, maybe take a trip over to one of those sites and get a copy for yourself!

Lily: A Fable, a synopsis.

Stephen Flashman loves sex. As a womanizer, he’s been using women for sex all his life. But there are two women who leave an indelible mark upon Flashman’s life, two women whose memory he somehow cannot lay to rest in a sea of forgettable conquests. Diane Densher is one of those women: she is incredibly smart, savvy and ambitious, an Ivy League graduate and a successful executive with a budding career on Wall Street: when she breaks up with Flashman he treats it like just another breakup, but deep down her rejection of him conjures forth a terrible nagging feeling that he could not keep her because she recognized him as a failure and unworthy to be her mate, and he is tormented by the need to win her back.

Noelle Cummings is just the opposite of her ambitious and serious-minded predecessor: she is a free spirit from her head to her toes, carried along by an insatiable zest to live each day as if it were her last; she casts a wistful light into Flashman’s bleak inner world. After breaking up with Noelle, Flashman is torn between his affections for both women when Noelle reveals to him that she is pregnant with his child, but is anxious and fearful about raising a child on her own; she tells Flashman that she is thinking of terminating the pregnancy.

For Flashman it is the moment which sears his heart: with Diane—"the one who got away"—showing signs of renewed interest, should he continue to give chase to her, or should he devote his energies to Noelle and do all he can to ensure the birth of his child, while knowing his life will never be the same again?

About author, Samuel Bagby.

My name is Samuel Bagby: I am a bit taciturn speaking about myself in a blog like this. I was a student, a monk, a teacher, and now who the hell knows what--but none of that is really important. We are all vessels of love, of passion, of something on our own journeys towards a grand and surreal destination, and it is how we lift each other up, edify each other, and help each other along the way that matters: and I want to be that person that is lifting up, edifying, and helping other sojourners, because the road is no easy path; that much all of us know.

What will cause readers to gravitate towards Lily: A Fable?

I am hopeful that readers will laugh in reading the book: it is certainly offensive enough, I think, to at least render forth a few laughs, and if so, it will do itself the favor of rescuing itself from the rubbish pile. I say that because the character of the novel is patently unsavory—no, that's not quite getting it—he's a slimebag. That's encapsulating things in a nice, pithy word the man and more importantly the woman on the street intuitively understands. I say that because he is likely to be offensive to women; I suspect he will be simply familiar to the men. But I would be remiss not to cite also that while being slimy and having many slimy characteristics he also manages to be absurd in the midst of them, or perhaps I should say hindmost among all his traits stands his absurdity—which in some sublime way renders him in my eyes sympathetic and quite amusing—though I am certainly not every reader, it would be similar to someone remarking about his twin brother or doppelganger, "that guy is really amusing", but only to me, since I know him with an especial sort of intimacy not shared by others. The character is to me very human—he's certainly lecherous, that being the most obvious thing about him, but he is also opinionated, emotional, and sensitive—and while readers may not perhaps take a great liking to him, they may find his persona, and his journey familiar and hopefully compelling in some way because to me at least—and in this I do not think I am wrong—his journey is the journey we all share, the journey of the human condition which in its bare essence is what we all live and experience and struggle with, male and female alike.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

It astonishes me now to recall that I didn't feel particularly inspired to write a story those months ago; but I thought I would have something to share with people, as everyone has something of worth to share with me. I believe everyone is going through the same basic process of attempting to realize their humanity; that's why everyone has something to offer others through their writing if they make the attempt to be honest and genuine—except Henry James. He's a genius yes, but…the air his characters breathe is a bit too thin and rarefied for me I think; and I could say that about several other authors who are geniuses in their craft but whose narratives and their characters never quite seemed to penetrate deeply into the human spirit, at least not to me. I am given pause here however; my foot shrinks from stepping over a certain line from the knowledge that these particular writers command immense seas of devotees who waver on the cusp of being literally unhinged in their devotion—there is one in particular I am thinking of—and so I will restrain the comments about these holy ones bristling on the tip of my tongue with a sense of charity which smells more akin to self-preservation. Of course, there is one pass which can be extended to the disingenuous writer—that he or she is just so unabashedly, irresistibly entertaining that in the end, no one gives a damn that they shed not a tear or felt a movement of honest emotion in their heart, it's all just too much fun. Hopefully this little book of mine will be honest and genuine enough, but also melt in your mouth too like a sweet treat you want to last forever—something like that, anyway.

Why'd you decide to self-publish?

This is something I would encourage all writers to undertake, that is, if the sense of discouragement in them is becoming increasingly painful, not to say unbearable—which was true in my case, at least. Self-publishing, together with the internet, has changed the face of modern publishing, I think in a quite remarkable way that represents true progress for writers, for readers and for literature as a whole. The marketplace has opened up for a chorus of voices who all have something to offer—the public will then decide what is quality, where previously quality was a certain nebulous concept, some sort of abstruse notion floating in the ether grasped only by a small coterie of elite individuals wielding an almost absolute power without accountability. What was fair about any of this? Nothing at all—if the public didn't like the books chosen for them, they couldn't get works from unpublished writers, they had to wait for the "quality" cartel you might say to select what they saw fit for them: almost like parents choosing materials for children not mature or competent enough to do it for themselves.

What is most ironic about all of this—and most appalling to be sure—is that these agents and publishers themselves are often ruthless and cruel in their estimations of writers, they possess colossal egos with very little or any competence behind all the bluster; these people literally drip with hubris and dole out scorn to good writers while they themselves little comprehend what literature is—there is simply a formula in their heads, a kind of crude taste that one either corresponds with or falls shy of—and that either makes a writer acceptable or someone who should find something else to do with their time. But writers must never listen to these people; they must believe in their vision and persevere. Self-publishing is really the salvation of literature in my opinion: it is the true marketplace where artists can express themselves freely and receive the true judgment of the public, of the people they are really attempting to reach. Furthermore it can take years to actually get signed by an agent—meanwhile the writer is waiting and waiting for income, for the book to get turned out into the public—and it may never happen. Self-publishing and the internet, the blogs, thank God have changed all that.

What is your writing process?

I don’t know that I have a process really: I suppose I always start by sitting down and reading some literary genius for five or ten pages just to sort of quicken one's faculties for the work of writing. To learn to write well one has to read from someone who is a master of the craft; then the sentence structure, the grace and beauty with which he or she chooses and constructs phrases and sentences will be duly absorbed. I'm not saying that if one starts reading Hemingway that he or she will sit down and start writing five word sentences—though he certainly composed some rather lengthy and beautiful constructions as well—but it will have some sort of an effect on one's own composition. It’s when you get into an edit stage that I really don't read too much before I start work; you get to the point where you enter into that state of near drudgery which Flaubert complained of in his letters, when you want to be done with a work and there keeps cropping up little snags and imperfections which literally make your skin crawl when you see them—oh, and coffee. There is no writing process—and no writing period, at least in my world, without coffee. That statement on its face might sound vaguely humorous: I intend no humor in it. You take coffee away from a writer, it's like taking away the whiskey from a blues guitar player: it's not a pretty picture.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Life of Pi movie trailer

I haven't actually read Yann Martel's Life of Pi (although people are constantly telling me I should - maybe that's why?) but I'd be lying if I said this trailer didn't make me more than a little curious to finally pick up the book. The trailer doesn't seem to say much about the story (can any readers of the book verify if there is more to the narrative than a boy being shipwrecked with a tiger?), but I have a lot of respect for Ang Lee as a film maker, so I'm hoping it'll do the book justice.

It's due out in November.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road
Written by Cormac McCarthy

Published in: 2006

Synopsis: A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food--and each other.

(Jesus, how fantastic are these typography covers he has? I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I'd like to marry this cover and make beautiful typographic babies with it.)

If this book were a colour, it would be grey. If it were a word, it would be bleak. If it were a sound it'd be white noise or the persistent drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet. This isn't a cheery book. If you're even slightly bummed it will make you 1000 times worse, guaranteed. Yet it's an incredible and captivating book. I had no idea if I was going to enjoy this book, and to be honest I wasn't particularly eager to read it. Something about the crazy praise McCarthy has received from every possible critic just made me feel like he perhaps was being built up as something he could never possibly be. As much as I enjoyed The Road, until I've read a few more of his books I'm weary to jump onto the McCarthy bandwagon (I still dislike the author himself - or at least the pettiness he seems to view readers with), however he's at least partially proved those critics right with this fine, fine piece of Literature (yes, with the capital L).

And this is where I run into some trouble, I'm finding it hard to describe what it is I loved about this book, and why I consider it a success. For all intents and purposes this kind of Capital L writing is not my thing. Usually I find it a little wanky and pretentious, and I find it pretty lazy since they usually spend more time trying to craft the "perfect" sentence rather than develop a decent story or character. Certainly The Road is full of Capital L writing, some of which made me giggle it was so over the top, but mostly it just felt right. Same with the characters. They're nameless and are only referred to as The Man and The Boy (or something similar), and there is little in the way of a past developed for them. Similarly, considering the entire story takes place as they walk along a road in a dystopian America with very little happening, there are few instances where you get a really clear idea of their personalities, motivations or idiosyncrasies. However this doesn't bother me, because in the context of this story all you need to know is that they're continuing on. They keep moving and moving because they don't know what else to do, and The Man, perhaps selfishly, keeps his young son alive and starving in this poisonous world because he loves him too much to think of a world without him.

I guess it's the simplicity of this concept at the heart of this novel that I loved. It was a father's unconditional, earth-moving love of his son (who he refers to as a god several times) that motivates every event and non-event that forms this book, and that's kinda beautiful. Or maybe their defined idea of right and wrong, even in the face of complete destruction and catastrophe, speaks to the romantic in me. They're the good guys, the ones who carry the fire, who would rather stave than kill another human for food. Perhaps in reality we'd all turn to cannibalism, but I'd like to think that's a line I'd never cross, at least if it meant killing a person (especially a child or baby). In fact, I think that pretty much sums up the two primary points why I loved this book, and why, amidst the Capital L writing, lack of punctuation and sparse, sometimes ridiculous dialogue (the conversation between The Man and an Old Man On The Road was the only thing I actively disliked in the whole book) I still love this book more than many others I've read this year. Or maybe it's something else, maybe I should stop searching for the reason and just accept that this novel effected me in a completely visceral level, and no amount of discussion will uncover any real answers.

Also, one thing before I end this terrible review. How in the hell did they get the green light to adapt this book to film?! I mean that in the best possible way. Normally a book will be twisted and abused until it better represents the ideal Hollywood blockbuster (case in point: I Am Legend )but not this one. The film is just as quiet and bleak and full of nothingness (and yet everythingness) as the book and I'm astounded that no one tried to add at least one huge action sequence or flashback to the end of the world. Regardless of if you like the book or not, all of you bibliophiles must surely recognise the amazability of this! (yes I'm full of fake, made up words in this review!)

The Road is a minimalist novel filled with bleaker than bleak imagery and events and it won't be for everyone, and I imagine you probably have to be in a rather exact mind-frame to be able to accept it, but perhaps you will find yourself loving the book as much as I do. I don't know if I'll ever re-read this one, I don't imagine it'll ever become one of my "read once a year" books, but I really, really, really loved this book. It's just...unexplainable.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Links

*Script by Neil Gaiman, art by a range of amazing comic artists (including Ben Templesmith, SQUEEE!). These are T-shirts YOU NEED! They're also for a good cause, so you know, there's that too ;) (Via Threadless)

*An awesome, amazing ink calander by artist Oscar Diaz (via Goodnet)

Repurposed spaces! Check out these amazing, unique libraries taking up residence in old buildings and structures. (Via Flavorwire)

*I'm a little sad that this went viral before I had a chance to post it, but here's the most adorable post ever! A 6 year old judges some classic books by their covers, it's FREAKING CUTE GUYS! (Via Babble)

*Photos of writers looking a less writerly and stuffy than they normally do (Via Flavorwire)

Some awesome bookish Tumblrs to check out:

~The Final Sentence
~Writers no-one reads
~This is what a librarian looks like

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mini-graphic novel reviews #6

The Cape
Written by: Jason Ciarramella, illustrated by: Zach Howard (adapted from a Joe Hill short story)

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: What if the little boy who always refused to be separated from his security blanket cum superhero cape was reunited with it a decade down the track? Turns out it isn't the happy story you'd imagine! When Eric, a troubled (very, very troubled) young guy discovers his old cape's magical and can make him fly it has some bloody consequences. This is like the film Chronicle, only about 100X darker and far better actualised. Beautifully illustrated and a great story to boot, this is my kind of super "hero" story.

Grim Leaper (issues 1 and 2)
Written by: Kurtis J. Wiebe, illustrated by: Alusio Santos

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: This new series is kinda perfect. Lou, through some bizarre and supernatural occurrence, finds himself jumping into a person's body shortly before they die, and having to do this over and over. Amazingly, he manages to come across a gal, Ella, who is cursed with the same problem.  Both have no idea who they'll wake up as (a husband, serial killer, teacher, or bus driver perhaps?) or how they'll die, but their death is imminent and makes finding one another all the more difficult. The series, so far at least, is funny and quirky and unique and I'm looking forward to seeing where the series goes. The love story brewing between Lou and Ella takes centre stage in these two issues, but I'm curious whether Wiebe will investigate the cause of their curse.

Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse (volume 1)
Written and illustrated by: Ben Templesmith

Published: 2007

My Thoughts: Ben Templesmith is the extremely talented artist behind 30 Days of Night and Fell, amongst many others. In Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse Ben takes on the role of illustrator AND author, and does a damn fine job at that. I don't know that I can adequately describe the insanity that is Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse, but suffice to say it involves a corpse possessing maggot, an immortal stripper, a robot that reminds me a little of Alan Moore and lots of things with tentacles. The writing is a little awkward at times, but the content, artwork and attitude of the story makes up for any minor dips in writing quality. Looking forward to the next few volumes!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Links

*I just bought ^that^ 25th anniversary Star Trek poster. I'm going to be eagerly awaiting the mail for WEEKS! (Via Star Trek Store)

*My birthday is coming up in September, and I'm adding a few of these beautiful handmade bookish items to my wish list. (Via House of Ismay)

*The British Film Institute (BFI) have opened up their collections online, and its quite an amazing way to spend your time so go check it out. (Via BFI)

*Amid the internet craziness over the Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy, here's a well-articulated blog post discussing why it was wrong, but why rape isn't something that shouldn't be discussed/joked about either. (Via Jezabel)

*Not at all related to books or films, but HOLY SHIT LOOK AT WHAT THIS SNAKE VENOM DOES TO BLOOD. In case you were ever considering getting bitten by a cobra (i dunno...fetishes?) this will probably cement the whole "not a good idea" thing (Via Youtube)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Written by Stephen King

Published: 1974

Synopsis: The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge, remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.


Ugh, what the hell do you write about the horror book that's probably been the centre of more reviews and discussions that any other horror book on the planet?

I'm a little late to the game, and I'm actually a little embarrassed that it took me 10 years of reading Stephen King to finally read his first published novel. I don't really know why it took me so long to pick up Carrie, I actually saw the film version as a 12 or 13 year old along with The Shining at a sleepover. I loved the movie, I mean seriously, Sissy Spacek is awesome sauce, but I kept reading different King books and forgetting about poor little Carrie. I finally bought a copy last year at Book Fest, and it took me another complete year to decide to finally read it! But man, I'm glad I finally did. This book is super good, and so different to the movie (yet also kinda the same...I'll get into that soon) and I can completely understand why it launched Stephen King's career.

So if you haven't heard the plot for Carrie before (ummmm, has anyone not?) here it is. Poor Carrie White, she's controlled by her uber-religious mother (who makes every religion nut you've ever heard about sound sane), who dictates every facet of Carrie's existence. Understandably, this makes Carrie stand out from the other kids at school, and we all know how kids are when they come across someone different... The opening scene (which is also the opening scene in the movie) has the girls (led by the nastiest girl of the lot, Chris) surrounding Carrie and pelting her with tampons when she gets her first period in the shower and chanting nasty things at her. This event is the catalyst for pretty much everything in the book, from all-around nice girl Sue's decision to arrange for her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom to assuage her feelings of guilt for being involved, to inciting Chris's rage when she's punished (unjustly in her eyes) for tampon-gate, causing a chain reaction of events that hurtles the entire town towards destruction.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the telekinesis? Much like the wizards in the Harry Potter world (was anyone expecting a HP reference in a King review?!), Carrie inadvertently caused light bulbs to blow, or things to fall off desks when she feels a spike in emotion, but as she begins to hone this skill, she remembers/realises that it's actually something she's been able to do all her life. The telekinesis provides Carrie with a sense of control over her life that was missing before, but this sort of power in the hands of a tormented teenager is never going to end somewhere good, which is definitely true of Carrie.

There is no denying that Carrie is a sympathetic figure, as her confidence grows as she arrives at the prom (thanks to her date and her new-found control over her telekinesis) you realise that in a different world she might have been one of the "cool" or "popular" girls. She's still a little awkward and reserved, but far from being the plain and weird girl that she's originally painted as, she's funny (a real wicked sense of humour actually), beautiful, and seems to hold people's attention and affection well. But because she grew up with her mother's weird mandates shadowing her she never had a chance to make friends, they wrote her off the second she said something strange because that's what they all expected of the girl with the religious freak for a mum. The small pockets of happiness that occur make the whole thing all the more sad, because it just seems to ridiculous that this poor girl felt so trapped and tormented for so long just because of a few labels plastered on her at such an early age.

What I found amazing about the book (other than the engrossing story), is how distinct and intact Stephen King's voice is in it. I had expected the book to be quite different in style and tone from his more recent books, and while there has been definite growth and skill in King's writing over the million decades he's been writing, there are traits that exist in Carrie which are signature stylistic devices he still uses today. It blows me away that he had his voice so figured out at such an early stage, I think most writers would be pretty damn envious of this! I also really liked the format which this book was written in. It mostly followed Carrie (with a few looks into Sue, Chris and other characters) but interspersed were excerpts from books and articles that were written after the Carrie White Event and the investigation which was launched after it. Some of these excerpts were used to describe how other kids or people in town saw Carrie and to deliver the facts, while others focused on Carrie's telekinesis and the "science" behind it. I can imagine that some people wouldn't like these aspects of the story telling, but I really liked them. It removed the mystery and climax to an extent (it matter-of-factly referred to the final event very early on) but because I'd seen the film I knew what was coming anyway. If you went into this book expecting a standard horror story that builds and builds and builds until it finally explodes, then these intrusions would probably annoy the hell out of you. But I think they worked because this book isn't really about that build of horror for horror's sake. It's a book about a girl pushed to the edge, who finally can't take it anymore and loses control. Yes there are supernatural elements with the telekinesis, and it definitely fits within the horror genre, but the focus of the story is Carrie, and these little excerpts help keep the attention squarely on her. You may think differently (which is totally OK) but that's how I felt about them.

So yes, Carrie was amazing and I really loved reading it and I'm still kicking myself for taking so long to read it! If this book is sitting on your bookcase or TBR list (like it was for me) get it down and get stuck into it! It's amazing and a damn short read, so you have no excuse to leave it for later! I loved the movie, Brian De Palma is a fantastic filmmaker, but the movie is a much more contained version of the book. It focuses more of the mother/daughter relationship and lacks the full extent of the torment that Carrie encounters and then dishes out after the horrors at the prom. But anyway, watch the film, read the book, then watch the film and read the book again because they're awesome and Stephen King is awesome.

Monday Links

*John Birmingham is a fantastic author based in my current home, Brisbane. This is his blog. Read it. (Via Cheeseburger Gothic).

*A woman started a kickstarter project so that she could create a documentary about misogeny/sexism in video games. This guy basically did her job for her by creating a game where people punch her because he "wanted to get her attention". Disgusting, shocking and something everyone should read. (Via So Disarming Darling)

*How to write a best seller, by Red Shirts author John Scalzi (Via Whatever - John Scalzi's blog)

*I'm trying to decide on ONE T-shirt to buy from Out of Print Clothing. I've never bought anything from them because I simply can't choose, but I love visiting the site to see what new books have been made into shirts and read their fantastic blog. Check it out why don't you?! (Via Out of Print Clothing)

*Some fantastic stories about the celebrity guest-stars on The Simpsons (Via Warming Glow)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

7 Ways to Keep Reading While Writing a PhD Thesis (or anything, really)

Because, Nawwww! (source)
As I'm sure you've noticed, things have been a little quiet around here. I've tried my best to post at least 1 review a week, but content is definitely a lot more sparse now that I'm 6 months into my PhD. This is mostly due to a simple lack of time and motivation. When you're at the university working from 9-5.30 and come how to cook dinner and probably get some more reading (research) done before bed (earlier than ever before because you really need your 8 hours now) it's really hard to do anything, let alone read a book.

Naively, I hadn't expected my PhD to take over so much of my life. I thought I'd be able to handle it like a full-time job just like they recommend at all the orientations. However, when you've got a milestone due and 20 pages to write about the methodology you're utilising it isn't easy to just get up and walk away from your computer at 5.30pm, even if you've been working solidly for 9 hours at that point. So it's been a real learning curve, and to begin with I really struggled to pick up any books that weren't related to my study but I'm slowly getting better. Here's a list of 7 ways to fit reading into a busy schedule...because while I'm writing this from the view of a PhD student, it's a problem I can imagine people face whether they're a full time worker, undergraduate student, mummy or whatever.

1. Don't push it: When I started my research I was so overwhelmed with what I had to read for my project that I couldn't even look at another book, let alone read one. Anytime I picked up a book I would read a few lines and then put it down. I felt bad about this, especially since it meant I had nothing to contribute to my blog but I just let it go and avoided any new books for about 2 weeks. Then I was really craving a good book, and I was able to move past that exhaustion and enjoy the process of reading again.

2. Adjust your reading: I'm a pretty quick reader and I tend to devour books pretty heavily. Last year I was averaging around 2 or 3 books a week on top of studying full time and working part time. I won't lie, I was pretty disillusioned when I found myself taking two weeks to finish a book that would have taken 4 days last year. Once I realised that I simply couldn't consume books the way I did last year, I started to feel a lot better and now I happily take as long as I need to finish a book.In saying that, I really want to readAnna Karenina and Battle Royalethis year, but those books are so thick that I know they'd take me a good 2 months to read considering how little time I currently can spend reading my personal books. I can't even comprehend spending that much time on one book, so I'm going to focus on smaller, more realistic sized books to keep me motivated instead.

3. Start small: To get over my reading slump and motivate myself to get back into reading I started small. Like single issue comics small. An issue of a comic will take you about 10 minutes to get through...if you're going at a snails pace. I could read two or three in a sitting and not feel guilty of wasting time and they're text-light so it felt completely removed from my academic reading. I still try and read a comic when I'm feeling exhausted, which leads me to my next point...

4. Read everyday: I know that seems to contradict everything I said above about not feeling like I could read anything but once I got back into the rhythm of reading, I found that if I read something each day, whether that was a comic, magazine or a chapter in a book, I could keep that up longer. If I take a week off  and go back to TV shows and podcasts then I find myself right back at square one, because an episode of Parks and Recreation or an interview with Tina Fey on The Nerdist Podcast takes far less brain power and concentration than even the simplest book.

5. Buses/trains are a perfect time to read: When I finally was given my office space I started coming into the university regularly on the bus everyday. Depending on traffic, that gives me a good 40 minutes to read everyday, which is nothing to turn your nose up at! Sometimes it's a little hard if all the seats are taken and I'm stuck standing in the aisle, but I usually get lucky with seats so it's nice to sit down and ignore all the gross smells and heavy breathing while lost in a good book (OK my buses aren't usually that bad, but it sounded better!).

6. Take a lunch break: One thing I've come to realise after these first few months on study, is how important the lunch break is. My office is basically in a dungeon. It's down underground with no windows, so there have been plenty of days when I leave the office for the first time since arriving 8 hours earlier and am surprised to find myself in the dark or torrential rain. To avoid losing my sanity and to regroup before spending another 4 hours working, I like to leave the office completely to eat my lunch. This way I can leave my research behind (not that I can ever truly disconnect!), grab a little sunshine and unsquare my eyes after a morning looking at a computer screen. I know not everyone gets a chance to take this kind of lunch break, but if you have the chance, I highly recommend finding somewhere quiet outside to sit down near trees or grass and just read a few pages while you eat your lunch.

7. Embrace technology: Whether that means audiobooks or a Kindle, technology is your friend! I spend all day at my computer listening to podcasts because I need some sort of noise to concentrate properly (and surprisingly music is too distracting!) and recently I started to download audiobooks to see if they'd work as well. To be honest they're not perfect since I seem to miss entire chunks, but they make life on a busy bus easier because I don't have to juggle a book in one hand, a bag over my shoulder and a handle to hold for fast corners. Similarly, when I have a bag filled with 8 or 9 text books, having e-books on my mobile phone (thanks to the free kindle app) makes a huge difference.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Inside the Outside by Martin Lastrapes

Inside the Outside
Written by:Martin Lastrapes


Synopsis: By the time Timber Marlow is fifteen years old, she has already killed three men. Despite the bloody and violent nature of their deaths, Timber is hardly a murderer, at least not in the traditional sense. She has lived her entire life as a cannibal within a cult tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains called the Divinity of Feminine Reproach. The Divinity keeps itself isolated from the Outside, which is the mainstream society beyond its invisible borders. When the opportunity presents itself, Timber escapes into the Outside, bearing witness to some dark and unsettling truths about the world around her and the integral role she plays in it. But no matter how long she stays away, Timber finds out the past isn't as far away as she thinks it is.

The debut of author Martin Lastrapes, Inside the Outside tells the tale of Timber Marlow through three parts spanning five years. We meet Timber as a 14 year old "youngling" living in a cult. Hidden away in the Californian mountains, the Divinity as the cult is known, lives in relative peace almost completely removed from the outside world. Shaved of all bodily hair because of its relation to evil, the cult members, at least the younglings, seem to live a rather idyllic life. They live alongside the forest and a river, and seem to have a great deal of freedom. But, of course, things aren't really as pure and simple as they seem to the youthful, naive eyes of Timber. The cult members are all cannibals, and while some of their meals come willingly, a great deal more of them are sacrificed against their will. As the first section of the book progresses and Timber sees some of the darker elements of the camp, such as prostitution, murder and rape, the gloss of the cult starts to tarnish. Alongside the brutality that occurs at the hands of Daddy Marlow (the cult leader) and his three sons/henchmen, Timber witnesses some of life's misfortunes that aren't unique to living in a cult. By the end of the first part when Timber makes her escape from the Divinity, she's more than simply a year older than when we first met her, though still as naive as you'd expect a girl who'd never seen a television or even a real kitchen, she's no longer a complete stranger to the harshness of the world around her.

Martin Lastrapes excels at constructing a complete, and believable story from start to end. The first part, which takes place in the cult, was without a doubt my favourite. The cult wasn't simply some spectacular or gratuitous way to introduce a rather sickening element into the story from the start, though it definitely did serve that purpose as well. The cult was well formed with intricate little details, from the history of the "chosen one" and the development of the cult, to the reasons they lived and believed the way they did, to their peculiar relationship with cannibalism, and served as a perfect vehicle to deliver the unique character of Timber. Lastrapes also did a great job blending in the "outside" that Timber would soon become acquainted with, within this initial story. Though the cult is mostly removed from the outside world, Daddy Marlow's business relationship (dealing in bodies - both dead and female) begins to seep in slowly, and has a very important role in the growing up of Timber as well as being integral to her escape from the Divinity. In fact, this subtle intertwining of worlds or characters is probably one of the real highlights of Inside the Outside, as it is repeated several times, and always done with a level of expertise that I wouldn't expect from a debut novel. It's this success that allows the book to cover so much time and action without it ever feeling like it's taken on too much or tried to spread itself too thin. Every character and every event, for the most part at least, has a reason for being in there, though it may not immediately be evident why. In saying that though, there were a few chapters dedicated to providing the back-story to characters which felt a little too removed from the story. They were always interesting, and considering how much I enjoyed most of the characters I'm definitely not complaining, but they were definitely tangential to the actual story and could probably have been shortened or removed.

On the topic of characters, I really enjoyed the characterisation of the players in this book. Some of the smaller characters were, understandably, a little less developed, but the main characters Timber, Luna, Luscious, Ginger, Officer Kirkland and Daddy Marlow were fascinating and skilfully developed. My favourite though, hands down, had to be Luscious, who begins as the liaison between Daddy Marlow and the outside world, and eventually becomes a father figure and saviour to Timber when she takes her place in the Outside. He's a colourful and voracious character, who (considering his profession) has a gentleness that made me warm to him immediately. Timber, our teenaged protagonist was also very well developed and designed. The beauty of her character comes from her life in the Divinity. Although she's well-versed in things most people never come face to face with, such as stripping the flesh of a human and cooking it for consumption, she's incredibily naive because of her backwood education. She's at both times tough and vulnerable, adult and very, very childlike. As the book continues to recount her time Outside, these contradictions become even more defined and thrown into sharp relief as she becomes more aware of what people on the Outside think and believe, and how different her upbringing was from their status quo. It makes for a very interesting character, and a very interesting read.

While defined as horror, Inside the Outside definitely isn't a horror story filled with bogeymen jumping out from shadows. Instead it threads the horror into a coming-of-age tale quite unlike any I've read before. Because it tells the story of a cannibal cult, if you have a weak stomach and are unable to face a few graphic scenes of dismemberment or sexual abuse then this probably isn't the book for you. However, these scenes aren't frequent and never gratuitous, and the rest of the story, though marred by the stench of incest, assault and cannibalism, tends to take on these themes and issues in a more reserved and removed approach.

All in all, an engaging story and a successful debut for Martin Lastrapes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Star Wars/Gotye Parody

The best thing ever made. Serious.

(video Via Gamma Squad)

Monday Links

Via Letters of Note
*Some wonderful wisdom from some wonderful TV characters. (Via Shortlist)

*15 authors on why they write. Neil Gaiman and Truman Capote and Anne Rice are probably my favourites, actually scratch that, they're all marvellous. (Via Flavorwire)

*TOME is a proposed art book currently up on Kickstarter. They don't need your money (they blew their target out of the water) but there are some amazing 'gifts' for supporting that you'd be crazy not to take advantage of. Or, you know, just watch that inspiring advertising/marketing video they made (Via Kickstarter)


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