Bountiful Garden by Ivy Noelle Weir with art by Kelly Williams

[Image ID: The five issues of Bountiful Garden splayed out on a bed. The first issue is on top and the only one fully visible and is notable for being a Free Comic Book Day copy. The Snapchat captions reads "Spooky space time." End ID]

“Bountiful Garden” is a horror story about space and terraforming other planets, but not quite in a way you might expect. 

Our cast is a crew of children, most of whom appear to be teenagers at maximum. Jane appears to be the youngest, probably no more than preteen in age. They are woken from cryostasis 10 years early because something has gone wrong with the ship. 

Their mission is make a new planet habitable, they have two engineers, a botanist, an architect, a biologist and a military personnel member. Their ship has been stopped above a planet with no notable human inhabitants but traces of an old civilization, and lots and lots of plants. 

From issue one of the five issues mini-series, you get the impression that something wasn’t quite right with the mission from the outset. They aren’t the first terraforming mission that’s been sent out, and none of the others have ever been heard from again. “The signal’s too weak,” according to the government. Our military boy has complete faith, which makes a lot of sense, but the others aren’t so sure. It’s one of several things that sparks conflict between our crew.

Throughout the story we are teased about the planet, the strange plants growing on it, and the remnants of a religion, as well as about the backstory of the program on Earth that led to these six children being on this expedition. Something I really love was how seamless the backstory about the government program that was woven into the story through the characters. We learn so much about it through short moments of the characters ruminating and discussing why they’re even there. There’s a big pay out involved, but it goes to their parents instead of them, because they aren’t on Earth to collect it. For one person, this will help their parents escape poverty, for another, it inspires bitterness that their parents will be reaping the benefits of their work on an expedition that they were well aware had a high chance of them dying. 

The planet’s backstory is given in a different, but no less skillfully done, way, by the characters picking up clues within the text, glyphs found at ruins, strange dreams, and by clues presented directly to the readers that the characters don’t see. The most notable of these is an extra-textual fragment titled “Recording Found at Site 11A,” which appears at the end of issue four and tells the story of how the strange plants came and essentially terraformed the planet. 

The art really helps the haunting feelings come through too, the characters are so expressive and distinct, and the inkwash style allows it to be dark, yet vibrant at the same time.

Another thing of note that I enjoyed was how diverse the cast was. There was an even split of female and male characters as well as a diverse array of characters of different ethnicities, a breakdown that allowed for deaths without falling into racist and sexist tropes surrounding character death.

All in all, if you like horror, sci-fi and stories of how interpersonal relationships can fracture when people are isolated and trapped, “Bountiful Garden” is the mini series to check out. It’s newly available in trade paperback as of April 6th!  

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Some Strange Disturbances: A Cold Winter’s Eve written by Craig Hurd-McKenney, feat. guest contributors

[Image ID: The cover of Some Strange Disturbances: A Cold Winter's Eve. Two figures are ice skating outdoors, Prescott and the Comtesse, Prescott has light brown skin and dark hair and is wearing a grey suit and a black bowler hat. The Comtesse is in a magenta dress with a white fur collar and a a matching feathered hat. The ice they are skating is cracking and beneath the ice is the shadow of a kelpie. The title "A Cold Winter's Eve" is displayed above this scene in a white and ice-blue color. The snapchat caption reads: "Spooky queers vol. 2.5a"

“Some Strange Disturbances” continues to be the gift that keeps on giving with the side story “A Cold Winter’s Eve,” a side side story and mini anthology.  

We see our protagonists, Prescott, Delilah, the Comtesse and Brandt, gathered together on Christmas Eve, it is following dinner, prepared by Brandt, and they have gathered in the parlor to share spooky ghost stories. While the framing story as a whole is written by Craig Hurd-McKenny, author of the main series, each of the stories told by the characters is written and illustrated by a guest author. There are seven stories in total, Prescott, Delilah and the Comtesse each telling two and Brandt telling one. 

All the stories are stunning and haunting in their own ways. I think my favorite is the second one told by Prescott, about a young man named Theo, who is haunted by the ghost of his lover Silas through the new telephone that was installed just after his death. It should be noted that there are stores that include racially and homophobia motivated murders. The murderers do get what is coming to them, but be careful if that is something you are sensitive to. 

Lastly, I want to talk about Brandt and his story. Brandt is mute and, as such, his story is told entirely without dialogue. Delilah, who we learn early on in the book has a limited knowledge of sign language, is the one who translates the story for their group, and translating sign language to the print form of visual only story telling is inspired. We don’t hear Delilah’s overlay telling of the story, we just get the visuals. It’s still showing Brandt’s disability through the structure of the comic. 

It is definitely worthwhile to pick up alongside the main story and I am very much looking forward to “Some Strange Disturbances: Nob’s Tale,” which is meant to be a companion piece to “A Cold Winter’s Eve” and is part of the HSP 2022 catalogue that is currently being kickstarted. The Kickstarter ends on November 4th, so be sure to jump on it soon (or sign up to get reminders for when it’s close to ending)!

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

Some Strange Disturbances written by Craig Hurd-McKenney

[Image ID: two thin graphic novels laying overlapped on a desk. The cover of the one on top shows a circle of people at the base with their hands on a table surrounded by candles. There are also candles in the middle of the table. Rising from those candles is a green skeletal specter in a hooded robe. In the robe is the book title "Some Strange Disturbances" followed by the last names of the author and illustrators "Hurd-McKenney, Gervasio and Aon" in the bottom left corner the price of the book is listed as $9.99. The volume below is in shades of Blue and White with a few gold chain accents. The central figure is a dark haired girl surrounded flowers and above her is the snout of a dog like creature. In the top left corner the title is listed as "Some Strange Disturbances #2: The Lunchroom Under the Arch." End ID]

Queer Victorian horror. Three words and you instantly have my attention. Furthermore, the graphic novel format is a perfect structure for “monster of the week” style storytelling, which is more or less what we have with “Some Strange Disturbances.” In volume one, “The Rat King of Bedlam” they battle a rat king (the creature, not just a particularly regal rat) and in volume two “The Lunchroom Under the Arch” they get a two for one deal with a real horror and a faked horror.

I should back up. Let’s start with who “they” is and what they are doing. “They” is a group of three queer individuals in 1895 London. In volume one, in addition to battling a rat king, we are introduced to our protagonists and they are introduced to one another. We have Prescott Mayfair, a white gay man who in is more or less closeted and struggling with it; Delilah Quinton, a young, asexual Black woman who is in the patronage of a Lord and Lady who see themselves as white saviors; and the Comtesse, a trans woman whose father thinks she is possessed and has her institutionalized. Volume one, is just as much about them meeting as it is about the rat king, but the end of the story they have created their own found family, which even includes the guard from Bedlam who had been set to watch over the Comtesse.

[Image ID: Two panels the first is the interior of the Comtesse's antique shop. Delilah, a Black woman with short tight ring curls is holding a glass of champagne possibly and speaking to the Comtesse, a tall woman with carefully styled wavy hair, who is also holding a glass. Delilah says, "I must say, Comtesse, the store is lovely." The next panel is a close up of the Comtesse, who replies: "I so did have to find a use for all of Duddy's money, the payoff for burying my old self in the fire. It's best to live, and live well now, in my new life. That's what I intend to do, parents or no." The Snapchat caption reads: "I'm so happy for her" followed by the sob emoji. End ID]
[Image ID: Two comic panels, the first is of a London city street. There are people walking on a side walk against buildings and a horse-drawn cab is coming down the street from the carriage a speech bubble emerges and Prescott Mayfair speaks: "Brandt, I do so hope we're passed the indignity I put you through at Bedlam, knocking you out cold like that." The next panel cuts to inside the cab where Prescott and Brandt are sitting next to each other. Prescott is wearing a suit with a bowler had and a thin mustache. Brand has a very bushy mustache connected to sideburns and a top hat. Brandt has one arm over Precott's shoulder, motion lines indicate that he is patting Prescott's arm. Brandt's other held up in front of him as are both of Prescott's. Prescott continues speaking: "You are important to the Comtesse, and thus important to me. I hope you know this." The snapchat caption below the two panels reads, in all caps "Oh it's that Brandt." and then switches to sentence case for "The Comtesse wooed her jailor, love it." End ID.]

I know I called this “monster of the week” style storytelling, and it is, but there is an overarching plot thread that ties each volume together too. In volume two we see the specter (not a literal specter in this case) of the Comtesse’s mother return in flashbacks and ties to a medallion that is found at the scene of the haunting in the titular lunchroom, part of which turns out to be staged. This remains something that isn’t completely resolved by the end of the story and holds the threads for what will happen in volume three and seems to centrally involve the Comtesse.

[Image ID: Four panels. The first panel is a close up of a medallion, the pattern on it is a skull in and oval within a rectangle and a small diamond and star both above and below the rectangle. The next panel is a close of of a man's nose and eyes. His nose is rather bulbous and his eyes are shocked and wide. Panel three zooms out to show the man pulling the medallion over his head and ratty top hat his eyes are shaky and unfocused. In panel four the man seems coherent again with the medallion around his neck, he turns to a young woman with her hair done up in a bun and a high collared dress and says "Ya think you're better'n me, miss?" The snapchat caption reads: "Wuh oh" End ID]

Volume two also introduces us to new characters, some that will stay and some that don’t. Most notable of these is Nobuyoshi Yamamoto, or Nob, a Japanese man and sumo wrestler who is Prescott’s love interest. It is only through Nob’s actions that they win the day in volume two.

[Image ID: Screenshot of text, the lines that are not the focus are scribbled out in pink. The visible text reads: "The scene simply wrote itsellf. Prescott, in an opium stupor, is running to a meeting and slams right into this sumo wrestler. A sumo wrestler who, in that moment, steals Prescott's heart and his decorum." The Snapchat caption reads, in all caps, "Oh yes." End ID]

Something I really appreciated as someone invested in queer history, is the detail that went into portraying everything. We have afterwards in both volumes that discuss and give insight into the culture of the day. Volume one has sections on Fannie and Stella, two trans individuals; race and the practice of human zoos; and the trials of Oscar Wilde; and volume two discusses how the character of Nob came to be along with the cultural context of Japanese people in London during the period.

All in all, this is a thoroughly researched and beautifully written (and illustrated) series that I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in Victorian era history, horror, queer comics or any combination of the three.

The first two volumes are for sale here, and, in exciting news, the Kickstarter for Headless Shakespeare Press’ 2022 publishing catalogue, which includes “Some Strange Disturbances: Nob’s Tale” and “Some Strange Disturbances: The Demon Bride,” went live on October 4th! Now could not be a better time to get into this series.

[Image ID: On a black background is an image Victorian illustration of a scene in a church. There are men standing on both sides and in the center a man in fine dress holds the hand of a woman in a coffin that is being propped up, with a priest behind them in a mockery of a wedding. Above this image is the text: "To be continued in Some Strange Disturbances: The Demon Bride." Below the image is the Snapchat caption: "Feral. I simply  cannot wait."

Coming later in the month from me will be a mini review of “Some Strange Disturbances: A Cold Winter’s Eve,” a SSD side story and short comic anthology.

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

The Route of Ice & Salt by José Luis Zárate, translated by David Bowles

The cover of The Route of Ice & Salt. Using varying shades of blue and white the background is the bow of a ship moving through water.

Over the boat is the author's and translator's name, José Luis Zárate, translated by David Bowles. Over the water is the title in larger font. The Route of Ice & Salt. 

The snapchat caption reads: Hot vamper summer, followed by a forward facing boat on water emoji.

(Not spoiler free)

It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say I was expecting this book to be less queer than it was, but I was expecting it to be more subtextual. I suppose that’s because I was thinking about the time period in which “Dracula” was originally was written, and how queer readings of “Dracula” all rely heavily on coding and subtext. Not that this is in anyway a bad thing, I loved every queer minute of it and I am so so very glad that we now have an English translation of this wonderful book.

Book quote: "I am the Captain. 
Impossible that I order one of my men to come to my cabin and ask him to undress, much less insist he stand still and permit me to clean him with my tongue, lightly biting his flesh, trembling with craving for his skin."

Snapchat caption: I was expecting the queer aspect to be more subtle than this, but who am i to complain about a book being MORE GAY than i expected.

“The Route of Ice & Salt,” as you may have already guessed, is explicitly queer and you never forget that for one moment. The whole novella is grappling with the overlapping acceptance, shame and guilt of one’s own identity and actions as well as society’s perception of queerness as monstrous. It opens with our narrator, the captain of the Demeter, musing on his mens’ bodies, expressing attraction, but also noting that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to act on that attraction, and it ends with the captain proclaiming as he faces the monster aboard his ship that he is not a monster for his desires. 

Book quote: "I know that Thirst is not evil in and of itself, nor Hunger a stigma that must be erased by fire and blood.
Not even Sin.
It is what we are willing to do to feed an impulse that makes it dangerous."

Snapchat caption: Yes yes, this

Much like the original novel, “The Route of Ice & Salt” is epistolary, and made up of the captain’s log and his private diary. It is in the private diary that we learn about the captain’s inner life and how he navigates his sexuality. There is a fine balance between erotic and horror, particularly as the captain’s dreams become influenced by the vampire aboard the ship. 

It is in these dreams that we learn about the captain’s lover, Mikhail, who is rather at the center of the captain’s turmoil surrounding his sexuality. He blamed himself for Mikhail’s death, following his brutal murder at the hands of the townsfolk. It is also noteworthy that they treat Mikhail’s corpse as if he were a vampire, cementing the connection between the monstrous and the queer.

There is repeated connection too of vampire bites to the neck and the bruise sucked into the neck by a lover. In fact, when the captain sees such a mark on one of his crew, his mind goes to the later instead of the former. 

My absolute favorite thing about the book, however, was how brought up various different cultural ideas surrounding vampires, even before the captain knows there is something on board he would call a vampire. The vrykolakas of Greece, the strigoi and vrolocks of Romania, the rakshasa of India. It was an expansion of vampire lore, through the lens of these sailors’ own backgrounds as well as lore of the places where they had sailed, which I thought was just… so great and clever.

Book quote: "Is it not said that to kill the vrolocks, the vlkoslak, the bloodthirsty living dead in Romania, one needs only living water?"

Snapchat caption: Love how the vampire mythos of various cultures has come up throughout the book.

Some potential warnings to note, in addition to the aforementioned murder:

There are several mentions of age gaps between partners. The captain is noted to have been younger than his lover by some undisclosed number of years, and there are several mentions of ambiguously young sex workers.

Additionally, if you are familiar with “Dracula,” you will know that no one living survives the passage from Varna to Whitby. This is a queer erotic horror story that fleshes out a small piece of the original novel. There is a cathartic ending, but if you’re looking for a fluffy happy ending, this probably isn’t the book for you.

That said, I would highly recommend this book to fans of “Dracula” and anyone looking for queer horror or queer nautical fiction. 

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth

The cover of The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth. It has a black background and a grayscale drawing of an anatomical drawing of a winged human.

If you like fictional science, Victorian fantasy, great art and a creeping sense of horror, then “The Resurrectionist” by E.B. Hudspeth is the book for you. 

The book comes in two parts. The first is the fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black that takes your through Black’s early education and career as a surgeon, the development of his strange evolutionary theories, and the experiments he makes later. 

So what is all this fake science? Through his early surgical work, Dr. Black comes to believe that birth defects and other abnormalities are caused by the human body trying to grow limbs that humans once had but no longer have, like wings, or a mermaid’s tail… and ergo mythical creatures were once real and also we should try to bring them back.

Snapchat of text, the highlighted quote reads, "Among the paper's most controversial claims was the idea that many so-called mythological creatures were in fact real species that once walked the earth. Black further argued that remnants of these creatures sometimes manifested themselves in latent trails, that is, genetic mutations."

The caption reads "You'd be surprised how realistic this is in terms of shit people got up to in the 1800s. There was real historical discourse about whether or not the mermaid was a missing evolutionary link."

So armed with the obstinate belief of many a Victorian scientist with bad theories, he sets about trying to prove this in the worst possible way. First he cobbles together fakes a la the Feejee mermaid, but then he decides to take it a step further and experiment on living creatures. He starts with animals… but doesn’t stop there.

Snapchat of text, the quote reads "Unhappy with the success of the anatomy show and grieving the loss of his son, Victor,

The thing I really enjoyed about this first part being presented as a biography are the questions and mysteries that arise, but due to the restraints of the genre and structure of the story, cannot be solved. He transplants wings onto a dog and then a young woman, and we are lead to believe that these wings work, but logically we also know that shouldn’t be possible, so then we wonder, maybe Dr. Black was onto something

Additionally, when dealing with late Victorian evolutionary theory, especially when discussing disability and birth defects, you always, always run the risk of running into eugenics. To my pleasant surprise, Dr. Black is never affiliated with the eugenics movement, in fact, they denounce him and his work.

This is rather a double edge sword of an endorsement, however. Like, yay, he’s not involved with the eugenics movement, but the denouncement also serves as a moment of “the people doing really fucked up shit think the shit you’re doing is worse” and let’s not forget Dr. Black was experimenting on living human beings by the end. 

Which brings me to my next point and major warning; there is a not insignificant amount of medical ableism in this book. Much of it is typical for the time period and field in which Dr. Black worked, but it’s still there and there were a small handful of things that I thought could have been done better from the perspective of the modern biographer of Dr. Black, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me. 

Two anatomical drawings a mermaid with each individual part labeled. The first is a skeleton and the skeleton with some minor musculature. Beneath the image is the label "Siren oceanus."

Part two of the book is a “reproduction” of Dr. Black’s seminal work, “The Codex of Extinct Animalia,” where he details his “discoveries” of various mythical creatures, from mermaids to dragons to centaurs. Each section includes beautifully detailed anatomical drawings of each creature, just like what might have been found in a regular anatomical text book of the time, accompanied by blurbs written by Dr. Black and a short explanation by the biographer. 

Ultimately, if you enjoy dark historical fantasy, science fiction and horror, such as Frankenstein, The Terror (tv show), or Dracula you might enjoy The Resurrectionist too. 

You can watch the trailer for the book as well as find links to purchase here.

If you enjoy my content, please consider buying be a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

Banquet by A. Szabla

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[Edit: Originally posted September 29,  2018]

Do you like eldritch horrors? Do you like the accidental child acquisition trope? Do you like gay shit? If you answered yes to all three then Banquet is the comic for you.

From the earth above, a child has fallen through a mysterious portal, which we know leads into Hell. While his parents and the entire human world believe him dead, but he survives only to be found by Hadrien Galerius Vespatian, fourth crowned king of the Bottomless Pit. Utterly amused by and curious about this little human, King Hadrien, decides against the council of his advisor/bodyguard/boyfriend, the hellhound Bernard, and the anger of some of the other noble houses, to adopt this human child and raise him as a son.

The comic is wonderfully paced and plotted, and the panels manage to be simple yet full of detail without feeling cramped or cluttered or losing any of the story. A. Szabla does an amazing job of conveying facial expression on both the human characters and the monstrous ones. And when the monstrous characters take on human forms, it’s delightful to see how the human form fit and reflect the monstrous character.

While Banquet is humerous at times, it is not just a silly story. It has all the fixings of plot just getting underway. It’s just enough to get you hook and leave you wanting more and anxiously awaiting every new update. And for a new comic that’s a good place to be in.

I will say for those, like myself, who might be concerned about the treatment of a gay couple in the media they consume. The only disapproval of Bernard and Hadrien’s relationship comes from the fact that certain nobles believe that it is not fitting for a king to be carrying on a relationship with someone low born. So fantasy classist, but not fantasy homophobic.

All and all it’s an incredibly fun read and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing Banquet continue.

While I have a hard copy of the first book of Banquet, I do not rightly know where you can get a hard copy outside of FlameCon, where I got mine. You can, however, read the entire comic for free, online at www.banquetcomic.com. Since it’s always nice when a content creator makes their content available for free if you enjoy Banquet you should consider supporting A. Szabla’s patreon.

Snaps:

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The Shining by Stephen King

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[Edit: Originally published June  2, 2016]

I saw The Shining (the movie) ages ago. But from what I do remember is that there is so much detail that is lost in translation from book to screen. Even more so than with Pet Sematary (which I have also both read and seen). 

More surprised me about the book than I thought it would, given that I’d seen the movie. The backstory that you get in the book sets up Jack’s downfall perfectly in a way that I don’t remember getting from the movie. I also found that I understood just what “the shining” was a bit better from the book.

Some notable differences from the movie:

  • Jack doesn’t go after his wife with an ax. It’s a roque mallet instead.
  • Hallorann doesn’t die.
  • The animal shaped hedges coming to life does not happen in the movie. (The movie has the hedge maze instead).

There are other differences but these are the big ones that stuck out to me. If you enjoyed the movie I would highly recommend the book, not because I’m saying the book is better, but I think reading the book will add another layer of appreciation to the story if you’ve only seen the movie.

Enough about movie comparisons though, the book itself it excellently written. It takes a while to get through, but it reads smoothly. There’s a reason that Stephen King is the prolific author he is. The stories he creates are timeless for the most part. Though I will admit there were some references that went over my head, I didn’t feel like there was anything lost by not getting those references. 

Steven King’s writing is chock full of details. Little details that you might not consider even describing they’re so small. There were a couple of occasions when I questioned why a particular detail was included but for the most part I really loved all the minutely detailed attention that things were given. It was very easy to paint a portrait in my head of what was going on. 

There were a few issues I took with the book despite my overall enjoyment. There was a thread of homophobia in the book that made me rather uncomfortable. Homosexuality is brought up several times, never in a positive light. The first time it comes up is general “the homosexuals are the reason the world’s going to shit” kind of sentiment and then later a “homosexual encounter” is cited as one of the reasons why one of the characters Jack had in a story was a child molester. 

Which is my next warning, there is a segment in chapter 32, where Jack describes this character from one of his short stories who is a child molester. It does talk about some of the things he’s done, so if you don’t want to read that I would skip the first two or so pages of chapter 32. 

You can get the book here.

Snaps:

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Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

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[Edit: Originally published May 26, 2016]

A thrilling conclusion to a thrilling series. Emma, Jacob and peculiar dog Addison, are the only three peculiars of the original group that haven’t been captured, and now they must free their friends and keep Caul (the mastermind who’s been behind all this from the very start) from completing his abominable plans.

The trio winds up in the worst of worst loops, Devil’s Acre. And must navigate their way through it with the help of Sharon, a tour boat driver. (A delightful play on Charon the guardian of the river Styx). Jacob is finally beginning to realize the extent of his peculiar abilities, which is to control hollowgasts, not just to see them, but even with that their plans hits dead end after dead end. And allies turn out not to be such good allies after all. Victory is only gained at the very last moment.

I should say I’ve had a few issues with the heavily romance driven element of the book from the very beginning, but that’s mostly because I am tired and bitter about heterosexual romances. That being said, it’s very well written and I am very pleased with how it wrapped up. The acknowledgement between Emma and Jacob that their relationship as it was probably wasn’t going to last but friends was a thing they could do. Then at the end of the book they got the chance to be able to take their relationship slower, Jacob was like “hey let’s go that route instead, might be better.” This had me enjoying the relationship by the end of this book more than I had during the previous books.

Something that bothered me, was that we never really got proper closure about what happened to Fiona, the girl who could talk to plants. It’s brought up multiple times that she could have survived her fall off the cliff because she could control plants and could have had the trees catch her, but by the end the subject gets dropped and you never learn if anyone ever went back to look for her to confirm that theory, she’s just assumed dead. If anyone did go back to look for her, Fiona does not appear with the rest of the children when they visit Jacob at his home at the end of the book.

A few warnings. There are a few scenes where peculiars are being experimented on, it’s nothing overly explicit, but they are there. 

The big warning however, comes at the very end of the book. There is a sequence where Jacob’s parents try to have him institutionalized against his will. It doesn’t actually happen, Miss Peregrine and the children show up and put a stop to that, but the whole sequence of Jacob’s parents and Jacob’s therapist trying to get Jacob institutionalized was very, very distressing for me to read.

You can get the book here.

The reviews for Miss Peregrine’s and Hollow City.

Snaps:

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Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

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[Edit: Originally published May 12, 2016]

What is time really? The citizen’s of Night Vale certainly don’t know. Beloved local scientist Carlos, could probably make some guesses, but most people accept that time just doesn’t work in Night Vale. There are many things that do not work in Night Vale: remembering the man in the tan jacket, for example.  

Join Jackie Fierro and Diane Crayton as they discover the origins of the man in the tan jacket, as well as just what is up with that King City place, and who the hell is Troy? And what does all this have to do with Diane’s son Josh?

This book takes place over a series of weeks. Or maybe it’s one single day. It seems like Cecil’s broadcast only spans one day, yet it runs through the entire book, which according to our lovely protagonists, has events that span several weeks, give or take some altercations with the lawn flamingos.

If you know Night Vale and listen to the podcasts, you will know this is completely normal. Completely normal, just like the Glow Cloud and the fact that writing implements such as pens and pencils are illegal.

If you enjoy the podcast the book is a must read. And by must read, I mean must buy. Don’t take the risk of going to a library, it’s just too dangerous. Particularly since this is fiction, and nothing attracts a librarian more than fiction. Diane and Jackie enter the library in search of information on the mysterious King City and very nearly lose their lives. Don’t put yourself in such danger, buy the book, don’t risk the librarians.

Amazon is convenient location to buy the book. Though it’s sold in other places too.

Snaps:

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House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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[Edit: Originally published April 25, 2016]

I didn’t actually know what this book was about until I read the jacket copy upon opening the package it had come in. I knew it was post-modern and about a house, but that was it. 

So I opened it and began to read. It was nothing I expected and everything that I didn’t know I wanted. It’s formatted as an analytic text, pieced together by a narrator of sorts. In it you get two stories. The story that the analytic text tells, of a family in a house, and the story of the man who pieced that story together. 

The analytic text is the main portion. It is an analysis of a movie about a house that this family of four has moved into for a chance to start over. You pull the story about what happened to this family from the analysis of it. As you figure it out, the story is interrupted by the “narrator” who pieced the book together. He tells his own stories, about how he put the book together as well as just stories about his life. 

When I call the main body of text and analysis I really mean it. There are parts of it that are borderline scientific, complete with formula’s and everything. Yet I found myself plowing through segments that, had they been an assigned reading for a class, I would have hemmed and hawed and then would have skimmed them at the very last minute before class.

As normal as it starts out, the book’s “form” eventually breaks down and you’re finding yourself holding the book up to a mirror in order to read some of the text and turning it upside down and sideways to read others. Saying it loses form would be incorrect. Form is incredibly important to the book, but the form changes. It becomes less and less run-of-the-mill-book-like.

I don’t want to tell too much, for fear of spoiling a book. It is a book, I think, best approached, with only the barest knowledge of what you’re getting into. You read the cover. You read the introduction, you read the book. 

One thing I will say about reading the book is that you must read the footnotes as you go (yes even the footnotes within the footnotes). Don’t think you can get away with not reading them, because they are part of the story. Also, if there’s a note about something in the Appendixes I would highly recommend popping back to check it out before continuing.  

Trigger warnings: There is discussion of a rape in a coded letter dated May 8, 1987, in Appendix II — E pages 620-623. The discussion of rape is in the code, so if you don’t want to read it, just don’t decode the letter. There is also mentions of rape, abuse, and child sexual assault in some parts of the “narrator’s” writing. There is also some pretty graphic descriptions of violence and gore.

The book can be found here.

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