Monday, January 4, 2016

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

The Great and Secret Show (Book of the Art #1)The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can I best describe The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker, well if you imagine the start being at one end of a swimming pool, and the swimming pool is filled with jelly (or jello to some) made from a cocktail of your favourite alcoholic spirits and liqueurs.

And to reach the end you've got to wade through this Olympic sized jelly filled swimming pool, right, so chances are you're going to enjoy a fair portion of it before you get full anyway. There's going to be some enjoyment, mixed in with some fucking hard work, there's going to be intense appreciation of the idea but it's not something you can possibly do in one go, it might take you weeks and you may even decide to eat your way through it, taking even longer. You’ll grow tired, weak even, your arms will ache but you’ll soldier on even though you think it’s just not bloody worth it.

There'll be all kinds of feelings going through your mind, a myriad of emotions, like why the Fuck did I start this massive fucking job now. Jesus fucking wept you will swear several times and hover over diving in again until you desperately need to just get it over with, as if your life depends on it.

So to recap it's going to be hard going, you'll love some of it, you'll get pissed at some of it, you'll feel like taking a break at regular intervals and you might even question your will to finish the job, even your sanity but if you do finish, it will certainly hold some sort of reward and a sense of achievement will prevail.

Anyway apologies for that rubbish but that's how I felt at times, I started this book in November and it’s taken me six weeks to read and I'm fucking glad it's over with. It's unquestionably genius, the writing is imaginative with wonderful prose, it's a great story but it labours horrifically, I loved it while at the same time I hated it and I'll never, ever think to pick it up again, in fact I'm going to cremate this fucker. Now I have a few other Barker tomes awaiting Imajica, Coldheart Canyon and Weaveworld, will I read them anytime soon? Only when I want to wade through jelly again. Nuff said.

A 3.5* rating

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With a Voice That Is Often Still Confused But Is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer by J.R. Hamantaschen

With a Voice That Is Often Still Confused But Is Becoming Ever Louder and ClearerWith a Voice That Is Often Still Confused But Is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer by J.R. Hamantaschen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a Voice that is Often Still Confused But is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer by J.R. Hamantaschen is a bit of a mouthful of a title and I was expecting big things from this book which is probably an unfair way of approaching it. I've seen lots of positive things about With A Voice from friends and also from his first short story anthology You Shall Never Know Security.

My favourite story with a quite apt title was Soon Enough This Will Essentially Be a True Story about a goodreads reviewer who receives a free book from a local author, the author starts hounding for a review and things are turning nasty but I wasn't prepared for this nasty. A bestseller beckons but in bloody unlikely and brutal circumstances, after reading this you'll think twice before leaving a negative review, I guarantee it.

Another favourite was I’m A Good Person, I Mean Well and I Deserve Better , starting off with a pretty normal date between Robin and Bryce at the good old Deer and Fox, rudely interrupted by Bryce overcome with desperation for a trip to the white house to drop some visitors in. Embarrassment doesn't cover it and the clocks ticking, how long will she wait, gotta get off, help. No need to worry though, well, tell a lie, there's every need to worry at what's going down in the dining area. It's all gone mental, there's a strange bloke who's controlling all kinds of monsters and ripping people to shreds, monsters are referred to as minions but these ain't little yellow funny fuckers. These are demons but before and after the carnage is some consuming emotional shenanigans and a little toilet humour. I did enjoy this with the violently weirdish interlude that certainly changes tact.

'He wanted an adjustment to his face, something to scare the shit out of people right before he killed them — wanted his mouth to spread out like the wings of a manta ray, little suckers and teeth embedded into his checks. But he couldn’t will that, for some reason.'

I found With A Voice to be a bit of a mixed bag, for the most part the stories started off walking down Normal Avenue with intriguing characterisation, well written and sometimes delightful prose that deserves to be fully appreciated and absorbed. You're just getting used to what's occurring and thinking where it's going because there's considerable time spent on the setup when quite suddenly we turn off Normal Avenue and abruptly head down Weirdfuckingville Alley. Which is not a negative slant it's just something different to wrap your head around.

Now it's a good job there's an easy to use dictionary on kindle because I'd swear J.R. Hamantaschen is making sweet, sweet love to and then battering his thesaurus with his third leg because at times it was like showing off with I know some big words that you'll never understand kinda writing. Call me thick if you like but if you immediately know without looking what this lot means then congratulations you need a fucking life platitudinous, meretricious, Cognitive dissonance, solipsistic, stentorian, didactic tone and finally, enunciation inchoate. Joking aside do you ignore or interrupt the flow, I interrupted and just thought, why man?

So on the whole we've got some seriously weird, dark fiction that even now I'm still in two minds about, I can appreciate it but I don't think I'll ever truly love it. There's certainly brilliance here, a touch different maybe, the more I think back the more I like it, it just takes some assimilating and some smaller titles would be good.

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A Collection of Children's Books

A Perfectly Messed-Up StoryA Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

* * * The following three reviews are of books read & reviewed (sort of) by me and my niece Emma * * *

More like...A Perfectly AWESOME Story! I can't believe Emma didn't want to get this. When I found it at the library and suggested it, she gave me her scrunched up, "Whaaat? Really? I don't know..." face, but I persevered. Something about A Perfectly Messed-Up Story had her name written all over it.

VINDICATION! She loved it! Granted, I had to "play it big" in my reading, going over the top as the main character, Louie, a Casper-pale midget with a bad comb-over sporting a yellow onesie, who attempts to tell his perfect story only to be foiled by huge globs of peanut butter and jelly and the like dropping on to the page from some imagined reader above.

"Once upon a time, little Louie went skipping merrily along," begins the story which worryingly continues on in such a staid manner, threatening to bore young readers/listeners. But then on page three, like most kids books do, the author throws in his monkeywrench, and soon enough Louie is being bombarded by all manner of sticky messes, impertinent fingerprints, and various sorts of stains. He becomes so exasperated that he gives up, but just when it seems there's no hope for this book, the story begins again, Louie makes it all the way through without a single droplet of PB&J, and all is right with the world!

Emma's favorite part, and mine too, was when the peanut butter plopped right on Louie's face. Many a giggle ensued!


The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire TruckThe Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck by Laura Murray
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck should have been a no-look pass that led to a game-winning slamdunk. Instead, Laura Murray dropped the ball.

Emma was NOT impressed with this story of the famous Gingerbread Man visiting a fire station on a school fieldtrip. That surprised me, because she absolutely LOVES the original story, so I figured this would be a no brainer.

Like most sequels looking to cash in on a successful original work, this mimics its predecessor. Most notably it rhymes and has chase scenes. But instead of enjoying the read, I found myself racing through this as fast as can be, all the while Emma tried to flee!


Yeah, you just keep on driving, buddy...

Little Green Peas: A Big Book of Colors (with audio recording)Little Green Peas: A Big Book of Colors by Keith Baker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A wide and thin rhymy book about pea people that goes nowhere and is essentially meaningless, but mildly enjoyable just the same.

Little Green Peas is page after page of pea people sailing, flying kites, playing baseball, skiing and more all with a focus on colors.

This was Emma's library pick and I think she thought she'd like it a whole lot more. She thought the little peas were cute, but she learned her colors years ago, plus the reading level was too easy for her (she'll be six next week) and the lack of a plot or even any kind of tension really left us both feeling flat. That's not to say we didn't like it. We did...somewhat.

On the Emma-o-meter Little Green Peas registered as a half smile with a bemused sigh.


Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Archduke of Austria-Hungary and his wife are assassinated and their son, Alek, flees into the night with trusted advisors. Deryn Sharp disguises herself as a boy to gain a post on a Darwinist airship. With a Great War brewing, how will their paths intersect?

I had Leviathan on my kindle for so long I'd largely forgotten when I purchased it. Sometimes, you just want to read about giant steam-powered robots in the dawn of World War I.

Leviathan is a steampunk adventure tale set in the opening months of World War I in an alternate world where war is brewing between the Darwinists and the Clankers. Darwinists use genetically engineered war machines while Clankers use big honking human piloted robots. Sounds pretty good, right?

In a Young Adult sort of way, it's a fun tale. Will her comrades find out Deryn is a woman? Will the Germans find where Alek is hiding? Will we see brutal robot on robot action?

The worldbuilding in Leviathan was my favorite part. Who doesn't love giant robots and huge living airships? Setting it during World War I was a nice change of pace that avoided some of the usual steampunk tropes. I also liked that Alek and Deryn didn't instantly fall in love and neither of them was a Chosen One type of character.

The writing didn't wow me, however. It was pretty average and felt a little repetitive at times. My main gripe, while we're on the subject, is that not a lot actually happened. I'm aware that it was the first book in a trilogy but it was pretty unsatisfying on its own. It set up a lot of stuff for future installments but had very little meat to it on its own.

Three out of five stars. I'm still undecided whether or not I want to spend money on the other two, however.

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