Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
John Connolly
Atria (2006)
Available Now

John Connolly released only his 2nd book not related to his franchise character, Charlie Parker, with “The Book Of Lost Things”. Connolly’s story begins during World War II, where the main character, David, has moved to the childhood home of his new stepmother to escape the possibility of a German occupation in London. David’s mother had passed away a few years earlier due to a terminal disease and he had never really found a way to cope with it, shouldering most of the blame and rejecting his father’s new wife because of it.  His inability to cope have resulted in David taking frequent panic attacks and passing out for extended periods of time. His parents begin to worry when David claims that the books in his bedroom have begun to talk to him, whispering to him from time to time.

One evening, after an argument with his step mother, David wanders out to his backyard claiming he’s hearing calls for help from his mother. He crawls through a space in the fence somehow transporting him into a world similar to his favorite fairy tales.

Now, I know this sounds pretty childish but it really isn’t. “The Book Of Lost Things” can at times be extremely violent as Connolly seems to enjoy twisting and taking apart various fairy tales.  Snow White, for example, never meets her prince. Instead, she over-eats and forces the seven dwarfs into slave labor for the rest of their lives to support her. This leaves the dwarfs constantly trying to find a way to kill her in order to be free.

Connolly puts his own spin on several other classic tales coming away with something fresh and memorable. He develops a great antagonist with the book’s main villain, “The Crooked Man”. In the end, he is an extremely desperate and vengeful character who is fully realized and spiteful.  In fact, his speech to David near the book’s conclusion is something to watch for. Quite possibly one of my favorite literary villains to date.

This was the first Connolly book I’d read and after reading almost everything else he has to offer, it remains near the top of my favorites.  I’d recommend it to just about anyone.

Also posted on Every Read Thing

All roads lead to the Donnybrook

We got no jobs, no money, no power, no nothin', nothin' to live for 'cept vice and indulgence. That's how they control us. But it's falling apart. What we got is our land and our machines, our families and our ability to protect it all, to keep them alive. We got our hands. Ones who'll survive will be the ones can live from the land. Can wield a gun. Those folks'll fight for what little they've got. They'll surprise the criminals with their own savagery. ~ Donnybrook: A Novel, Frank Bill.

donnybrookDonnybrook: A Novel
Frank Bill
FSG Originals, 2013
Available Now

Reviewer: Trudi
Rating: 5 out of 5 punches to the head

I was already familiar with Frank Bill's writing after surviving a close encounter with his debut -- the short story collection Crimes In Southern Indiana. Upon finishing those stories, my only thought was: "Jesus Christ, this man is a lunatic" -- and then immediately, "I want more!" For sure the stories are raw and unpolished, and perhaps a little too overeager to tell rather than show, but there is also an urgency, a ferocity to the writing that refuses to be ignored. It's so in your face that at times it feels like an assault. I loved it!

So you can bet when I heard this guy was about to publish his first novel I became very afraid, and very, very obsessed with getting my hands on it to read it.

Usually my eyes tend to glaze over and ignore most book blurbs because they always seem so generic and at their worst, sycophantic. But at their best, book blurbs can capture in a few short phrases the very tail of the beast itself and show you its face. As much as I loathe the majority, there are some that do their job so well, they deserve to be recognized along with the book they're blurbing. I only say this now to emphasize that Bill has attracted the attention of authors I love and respect and if you're not going to listen to me when I say this guy's the real deal, then maybe you'll listen to them:
Donnybrook is vivid in its violence, grim in its grimness. It reams the English language with a broken beer bottle and lets the blood drops tell the story. -- Daniel Woodrell, (Winter's Bone)
With action like a belt across the face and vivid prose like a stroke up the neck, Frank Bill's astonishing novel...renders you punch-drunk. Here's the writer to watch: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Megan Abbott, (Dare Me)
Frank Bill (author)
I also like this one by Bonnie Jo Campbell: "Don't poke this book with a stick or you'll make it angry." And trust me -- you won't like this book when it's angry.

Goodreads friend Jacob writes in his review:
something this good should be illegal, because the act of hunting down a banned copy and hiding from the censors and morality police to read it is the only goddamn way it could get any better. Donnybrook is a relentless, no-holds-barred, total fucking mind-fuck of endless violence...
Yeah, like that. But now you're looking at me tapping your foot impatiently saying: "Yeah, but what the hell is this book about?" I could give you the plot summary lowdown -- about bare-knuckle fighting in the backwoods of Southern Indiana, about desperate family man Jarhead Johnny Earl who's going to steal a thousand dollars to cover the entry fee into the infamous annual Donnybrook tournament.

Then there's meth-making brother and sister Angus (nickname Chainsaw) and Liz who put the F.U.N. in family dysfunction. They've just lost their last batch of dope and are determined to recoup their losses, no matter who gets in their way, even if it means each other. Like any great rural crime story, you've got the steely, determined deputy Sheriff following a trail of dead bodies into a trap he has no idea lays in wait for him. Last but not least, there's Chinese "collection agent" Fu, who's about as badass a dude as you're ever going to meet. He is awesome.

This mad, manic mélange of murderers, misfits and miscreants will eventually descend upon the Donnybrook -- a three day stint of brawling, booze and drugs run by a man named McGill, who makes the Governor from the Walking Dead comics look like Mr. Rogers. But it's not about the final destination folks, but the journey to get there, and (to quote one of my favorite movie taglines ever): who will survive and what will be left of them. Reading this book I couldn't help but be reminded of the lucid insanity of some of Tarantino's best work -- the ensemble characters, the multiple plot threads, and how it all comes crashing together in the end with defined, divine purpose. Hells yeah, people. This is the good shit. Heisenberg grade blue.

Frank Bill is a writer you want to watch. You can find out more about him at his blog House of Grit or follow him on Twitter @HouseofGrit. And as my mama always told me -- never trust a man with two first names.

This review is also posted on Busty Book Bimbo

The Sun Also Rises and the book is also boring.

The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway
Reviewed by Stephanie
1 out of 5 stars

I was sitting outside of a bar in Key West Florida. It was August, it was hot. The bar was on the beach where there was lots of sand and water. In the water I saw dolphins and waves. The dolphins jumped and the waves waved.

My glass was empty. The waiter walked up to my table. “More absinth miss?” He asked. “No, I better not.” I put my hand over my glass “I read somewhere that it can cause hallucinations and nightmares. Just some ice water please.” I said. He put and empty glass in front of me, tipped his picture of water over my glass until it was full, at that time he stopped pouring.

A man I did not know walked up to my table “No one in Key West is to stop drinking alcohol while they are conscious, you know the rules Manuel!” said the stranger to the waiter. “Don’t make me repeat myself; did you hear me? Don’t make me repeat myself, it’s annoying.”

“I’ll drink to that”. I said and held up my ice water, then put it to my lips and drank. It was cold. I set it back down on the table. “I just finished a book where everyone repeated themselves over and over……drove me to drink!”

“Sorry Mr. Hemingway” said Manuel “she said she wanted ice water, so that’s what I gave her”. A cat ran by, it was fast. “Meow” it said… was orange. “But you know the rules Manuel, you know the rules.” Said Mr. Hemingway “I know the rules Mr. Hemingway, how could I not? You tend to repeat yourself continually….it must be all the absinth…..” muttered Manuel.

“What did you say Manuel?” Asked Mr. Hemingway “Nothing….” said Manuel. “Bring the lady some Champagne right away!” said Mr. Hemingway. Manuel walked away towards the kitchen.

“Who are you?” I asked the man I did not know. “Hemingway… wouldn’t happen to be related to the writer, would you? His book The Sun Also Rises was the book I was just referring to; I don’t remember ever being quite so bored. On the bright side, I think it did wonders for my blood pressure.” I said.

Dressed in worn khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt with one too many colors, he stood there at my table and squinted at me, sweat rolling down the side of his face into his gray beard. It was hot. He set his drink down on the table, hard, and pulled out a chair and sat down. “May I sit?” he asked as he put his dirty bare feet up on the table as he tipped the chair back. “Sure, you’re already in the chair. Besides I don’t think it will be long before you fall on your ass.” I said, I drank some water, it was cold. “Language! I’m Ernest Hemingway the guy who wrote that boring book” he put his feet on the ground and the chair dropped down with a bang. He put his right hand out to shake mine. I stared at it for a while then took it. “Stephanie. Hey, I don’t want to come across as insensitive but aren’t you dead?” I asked “Really? I don’t feel dead….at least I don’t think I am.” Said not dead Ernest “Damn! Absinth lives up to its reputation. “I said and smacked the left side of my head with my left hand. My head was hard.

“Manuel!! Where’s that champagne? “I shouted in sheer panic. “So” Ernest picked up his drink and drank the whole thing in one gulp. “I am one the greatest American writers, if not the greatest, everybody says so. And you…..” he paused and pointed his finger at me using the same hand that still held the glass, the melting ice clinked “you didn’t like the Sun Also Rises?” he asked and set his glass down. “I know, I heard the same thing, that you were one of the greatest American writers, so imagine my surprise that I didn’t love it like the rest of the human race. In fact, I really didn’t like it AT ALL! Please don’t hurt me.”

Manuel walked back to the table caring the bottle of Champagne and two glasses. He sat the glasses in front of us and went about the task of opening the bottle. “Thank god your back Manuel, I think I’m hallucinating. I hope champagne helps things to normalize.” The bottle said “pop”. “It won’t help because you are not hallucinating.” He said and poured the Champagne, he turned and walked off. I picked up the glass and drank, it was bubbly….and cold.

“What else didn’t you like about my book?” Asked Ernest “I’m really not comfortable telling you to your face, but, alright” I said “I found all the characters aimless, unlikeable, drunkards that didn’t have any idea what to with their lives but travel about the world constantly drunk….which doesn’t sound all that bad on the surface, but it was so not interesting.” I said “they were so excruciatingly boring that I couldn’t even care enough about them to remember who was who.” I said “it felt like it would never end, but when it did end the only thing that I liked about it was the fact that it was over…..finally. No big payoff ending. ” I sighed and finished off my Champagne, poured myself and Ernest another glass.

“Wow. Sorry you hated it. I suppose you can’t please everyone.” He said. “I’ll by you dinner to repay you for putting you through that”.

“That’s not necessary, but I could eat. I must bathe first.” I said. “Well sure, it is hot after all.” He said “Yes, I must bathe you understand? One cannot dine without bathing first, so you will have to wait until I bathe.”

“I must bathe. I must bathe. I. must. Bathe.” I said.

“Now you’re just making fun of me.” he said.

“Yup……I will make you suffer the way you made me suffer.” I smiled

“Great. I look forward to it.” Said not dead Ernest. We rose to our feet, steadied ourselves and stumbled off into the sunset.

Also reviewed on

Do you have free will?

Free Will
by Sam Harris
Non fiction
Reviewed by Stephanie
2 out of 5 stars

I am an agnostic which means I am firm in my belief that I have no idea what to believe. I don't know what is true and what isn't and no one, no matter how strong your faith, or how strong your lack of faith don't know either. You don't know what happens to you after you die.  You pretty much have to die to find that out. You may really, really, really believe little alien souls are attached to your body and making your life miserable, and that the only way to make it all better is to blow your life savings in Clearwater Florida trying to rid yourself of these little bastards by way of a weird looking machine. It still doesn't make it true, it's purely your free will to believe it is.

Next to art, and generally making things that are pretty and/or interesting, I'm really fascinated with science. Books on the brain are something I generally gravitated towards which is why I picked up Free Will.

Sam Harris is obviously a very intelligent man he generally seems to know what he is talking about. But I can't digest what he is dishing out in Free Will. Basically, if I am following what he is saying (and it is possible I'm NOT) human beings have no free will.....excuse me?

Apparently there have been studies that prove that when we make the decision to do something our brain does the deciding first before we are even aware of our decision consciously. This is done with some fancy imaging machines that catch a blip of some sort go off before you do what you're going to do. So, of course we don't have free will.

I must be missing something.

My head hurts.

Somehow because we don't know what makes our brain decide something before we become aware of what it is that we are deciding we aren't actually deciding anything at all. Uhhh......ok? To me this strengthens the argument that we are something more than just our brains. Maybe....just maybe, what is making the brain do it's business is the energy (or soul if you like to call it that) that animates these meat suits we walk around in. Or not! I don't know but I believe someday science will figure out what that's all about. Science advances insanely fast. Right now I can probably take over a third world country with my Ipad. I can't even imagine what will be invented or discovered in the near future. So for Sam to jump to this conclusion seems premature.

It is more likely we have control over our decisions and that we are responsible for them than not. I believe we have free will to do the right thing despite our circumstances growing up.

I have the free will not to like Free Will all that much and you have the free will to disagree with me about that.....

Also reviewed on