Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher (book review)

Happy Tuesday!

Okay guys, I admit that things got a bit weird last week with my Valentine’s Day post (The Golden Ass: A Valentine’s with Something for Everyone) but to your, very likely, welcoming this week I don’t have anything nearly as topical nor as weird (but if you like weird, trust me there is plenty of weird left in the tank).  No this week I have something fairly pedestrian in comparison to last week’s book, something more fantastical but in the traditional way.

This book, Furies of Calderon(1), is another series from the wonderful and imaginative Jim Butcher (best known for The Dresden Files books, I wrote a review of the first book in the series and can be seen here: Storm Front by Jim Butcher and my friend wrote a review on the comic omnibus which covers the events of the first three books here: Spoiler Free Book Review Dresden Files Graphic Novel Omnibus One).  I got this book as a xmas present from my best friend Evan and was extremely excited when my other reader friend Marc told me the backstory to the conception of this series:

How did you come up with the original idea for CODEX ALERA? We’ve heard rumours that it involved a bet on whether you could combine the Roman empire and Pokémon… is that true?

The bet was actually centered around writing craft discussions being held on the then-new Del Rey Online Writers’ Workshop, I believe. The issue at hand was central story concepts. One side of the argument claimed that a good enough central premise would make a great book, even if you were a lousy writer. The other side contended that the central concept was far less important than the execution of the story, and that the most overused central concept in the world could have life breathed into by a skilled writer.

It raged back and forth in an ALL CAPITAL LETTERS FLAMEWAR between a bunch of unpublished writers, and finally some guy dared me to put my money where my mouth was, by letting him give me a cheesy central story concept, which I would then use in an original novel.

Me being an arrogant kid, I wrote him back saying, “Why don’t you give me TWO terrible ideas for a story, and I’ll use them BOTH.”

The core ideas he gave me were Lost Roman Legion and Pokémon… Thus was Alera formed.”

(Source: “Jim Butcher chats about Pokemon, responsibility, and Changes” by Beth Johnson, guest reviewer for fantasyliterature.com)

See this series hit a golden triad of nerd-topia for me: Jim Butcher style fantasy, anime, and action/adventure.  Plus after being recommended by two different reader friends who’s tastes I trust to be closely calibrated to mine (but both of their tastes are heavier on the fantasy side, I’m more of a realism/so-fucking-weird-it-leaves-you-wondering-what-you’re-doing-with-your-life kinda freak(2)), I knew I was in for a treat.

Furies of Calderon is an early Jim Butcher work, or at least it feels like it.  Being published in 2004 he had a few Dresden Files under his belt and his experience shows in this book however that’s not to say there are no flaws with the inaugural piece in his 6 book series(3).  This book has some imperfections which doesn’t hold it back from being an excellent fantasy adventure by it self but does keep me from being driven towards the 2640 page commitment that entails the rest of the series.

So O.K. Corral style here is my thoughts on the book: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly style.

The Good:

Even this early in Butcher’s career he’s really good at misdirection or leading this reader to think that things are more grim than they are but still leaving clues to the observant to keep it fair. Let’s take an example from the second chapter after Alera and her mentor Fidelius are captured by the enemy and in a compromising position:

Aldrick drew his sword and said, “The old man [Fidelius] isn’t necessary.” He went outside the tent.

A moment later, there was a sound not unlike a knife sinking into a melon.”

(Furies of Calderon, 24)

At this point we as the readers have developed a 1.5 chapter (24 pages) bond with Almara and Fidelius and then we are lead to believe he was executed stage left however we later discover that he was faking his death and there was a literal melon being stabbed to simulate the sound of a man being cut through the gut.  It’s small details like this that make me appreciate an author more because they’re thinking about the reader’s experience reading the book a second time.

Butcher also does a good job at inciting curiosity such as only partly explaining how the “Fury magic system” works, who some characters are like (Fade? Aldrick? The fucking furies mapentire Marat “species”[are they even human?!]) and locations like most of the map beyond “Vallis Calderon” specifically what lies beyond “The Shield Wall” (okay, I admit to being a “Game of Thrones” fan(4) and I guess I’m conditioned to have curiosities about a mysterious northerly wall).

The Bad:

Okay so Jim is capable of bad writing, as I learned from this 650+ page novel.  Thankfully the bad isn’t concentrated in parts like books I could mention(5) however the mercy is spread among hundreds of too many pages in a couple of paragraphs segments:

[Pirellus] was lean with hard, fat muscle, and bore a slender, curved sword of metal blacker than mourning velvet in his hand.”

(Furies, 477)

Goddamn that’s a deadly sexy description of a serious swordsman.  This is our introduction to one of the most deadly swordsman in the cannon (as far as we know) and he was challenged by one of our main characters, Almara (as we have met from chapter one) however Butcher kind of ruins the sexy tight writing he showed us with spoon-feeding the reader exactly how deadly this Pirellus is

Pirellus was a master metalcrafter, one of the finest swordsmen alive. If he chose to engage in the duel, he could kill [Almara], and there would be little she could do to stop him. And yet it was necessary. Necessary to convince him of her sincerity, necessary for  him to know that she was willing to die to get him to act, that she would sooner die than fail in her duty to Alera, to Gaius. She stared at his eyse and focused on the task before her and refused to give in to her fear or to let it make the sword tremble at all.

(Furies, 480)

Notice this isn’t the beginning of a paragraph nor even close to the last page where we got a very distinct description of the swordsman and his prowess. It’s three pages later of sword-waving (in the metaphorical sense, Amara is a biological woman after all) and a very long paragraph of describing how deadly this Pirellus is, we are FINALLY granted some action (a page later mind) and that’s not even between her and her perceived adversary.

This nicely segues into my final and main complaint about the book which is a general complaint across most of the book but becomes most evident after page 490: the book is too long and accomplishes too little.  I’m inclined to believe Butcher was paid by the page/word for this novel because the “climax” of the book was about 150 pages and the falling action was around 20 pages). In almost 700 pages, Butcher accomplished what could have been finished (with some tight editing) in around 400 pages (give or take, I didn’t count strictly but even given space for world building, there’s still a significant amount of purple text even for a fantasy novel(6)).

The Ugly:

Thankfully there’s not much of this here.  Butcher does make some minor mistakes that did bother me (such as using too many similar names in the same story arc IE Aldrick grrm diesand Asturak, having some flat characters on both the “good” and “bad” side such as Bernard and Kord respectively, having places mentioned by name in the narrative but not appear on the map, etc) however the worst of the lot was at the end of the 150 page climax Butcher pulls a a GRRM and kills just about every character we’ve been following in this  book including my personal favourie, Fade (for the mystery mostly but also he has the best name in this  book) which is a pretty bold move.  Except that it wasn’t.  As the magic system works in this series there are healers who are capable of reviving people from the dead but it’s only available to extremely strong and experienced healers which even then it’s risky to both the healer and the patient.  So after this  long drawn out battle which has left everyone injured, dead, or otherwise indisposed, somehow there’s a healer available who can revive like 6 people (I don’t have the book in front of me but I can think of at least 3 people who are “killed”) which effectively tells me as a reader: THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES! DON’T WORRY NO ONE REALLY DIES!

Final Verdict:

This is a solid, if long, fantasy book.  I have read much worse and I have read much better.  The problem I have is that, like a blog post series, the interest nose-dives after the first installment and I won’t say I fully understand the loss of interest in every case but I can say I understand my personal loss of interest in this series beyond the beginning and that’s largely to do with the pacing of the novel and the ability for watercrafters (the healers of this magic system) to be able to reverse the condition of death even with seemingly-dire-canonical-implied-risks which ends up in being a Chekhov’s Gun full of blanks.  It’s almost like a GRRM book except remove the lasting implications of tragedy.


I in no way regret reading this novel regardless of my apathy to continue with the series in general.  If you like high fantasy and like Jim Butcher’s works you’ll very likely like this book however if you’re like me and kinda borderline on fantasy or generally a slow reader (my main reason for not reading more fantasy novels) you might be best off renting it from the library or generally passing on this novel.  It’s an interesting world with some interesting characters but Butcher wasn’t able to cut enough fat for me to remain interested for the remainder of this series.



  1. I keep mis-reading/mis-typing this title as “Furries of Calderon” which has an entirely different connotation. furry test
  2. A good example of the realism I like is the “dirty realism” of Bukowski (see my reveiws of Bukowski’s “Post Office” and “Notes of a Dirty Old Man”) and a good example of “o-fucking-weird-it-leaves-you-wondering-what-you’re-doing-with-your-life” is Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace).
  3. I am sorry to disappoint however I will not be reviewing all 6 books in this series, which is to assume I will finish all six books.  I very likely will not for reasons that will be outlined.
  4. I specify “Game of Thrones”(GoT) versus “A Song of Ice and Fire”(ASoI&F) because as I’ve read and deeply enjoyed the first two ASoI&F books, I was warned of way way too much purple text (filler content) come book 4 and 5 whilst when I just finished ASoI&F book 2 was when GoT season 2 was ending and it seemed like a good point to segue between the book series and the HBO series.
  5. See The Pesthouse by Jim Crace book review
  6. I appreciate that due to the nature of the fantasy genre, more time and text needs to be invested in developing the world however that does not give license for the author to be redundant in descriptions nor to drop 200+ word interior monologue thought processes of the characters we are following. Let there be some blanks that my imagination can fill, please.

The Golden Ass: A Valentine’s Day Novel with Something for Everyone

Happy Tuesday!

Okay so Valentines day is tomorrow.  I have expressed how seriously I take this “holiday”(1) in the past.

However as a shameless self-promoter and a young writer/artist desperate for ever more attention as a form of validation (for a struggling artist, everyday is like being single and drunk on Valentine’s day: an emotional fucking roller coaster), I always try to jump on whatever will grab me more traffic without completely whoring out my “talents”.  Which this time of year means writing something about Valentine’s day.

This post started out as a simple etymological exploration of the English word “love”(2) and myth of Eros and Psyche, particularly inspired from the brilliant video from Overly Sarcastic Productions: Miscellaneous Myths: Eros and Psyche.

Then I remembered: this is OBOP what’s so offbeat about writing about “love” during valentines week? It’s onpoint but not offbeat.  So I. Dug. DEEPER. And what I found was…really interesting.

the golden ass

The book in question this week is one that, like the word “love”, has a few different faces and lacks the simplicity that a four letter word seems to promise.

NOTE: I haven’t read this book in it’s entirety yet.  I’m working on it but I couldn’t finish it in time however I promise this will not be the last time I visit t his unique piece of literature.  I have big plans for this rare volume.

There are more than a few interesting(3) things about this novel other than it’s rather lewd title.  The first being is that the original title was “Metamorphosis”, which as far as I can tell has very little to do with the Kafka novel of the same name, but then was renamed by St Augustine of Hippo to the more appropriate “The Golden Ass”(4) and the second is that this is the only novel from the Grecco-Roman to survive in it’s entirety.  Some one cared to make sure that this piece of literature survived the fall of the Roman empire.

As promised, The Golden Ass is about an Ass or more specifically about a man who is driven by curiosity and the desire to learn about magic and accidentally turns himself into a donkey and then goes on adventures.  These adventures include adultery, witches rasing a familyreplacing a man’s heart with a sponge, golden showers, murder, necromancy, , thievery, kidnapping, anonymous sex with an invisible being, animal cruelty, catamite priests, cuckolding, incest, and bestiality.  These are just the highlights, folks.  Truly something for everyone.

Now if you’re still with me, you might be wondering “Fin: what does this lewd and strangely appropriately titled piece of ancient literature have to do with Eros and Psyche?”

One of the inset stories in The Golden Ass is Eros and Psyche. I feel like the entirety of The Golden Ass, rather than one hand-picked and relatively tame piece, does a better job of reflecting the complexity, beauty, and occasionally taboo aspects of love.  Love, for me, in every capacity from romantic to platonic has many different forms and facets.  Sometimes love is beautiful, other times it’s gross, but most often love much more complex than just a couple of star-crossed lovers who get a lovely ending or the loyalty between individuals who have grown together and die together.

Happy Valentine’s day.


STAY TUNED: The next comic in The Adventures of Fin and Louie is coming soon (probably this week), it’ll be the second to last comic before the end of the “Looking for a Friend/Count Rubber’s Keep” story arc.


  1. Valentine’s day started out as a guilt trip from a Saint named Valentinus (there are two, no one knows who it was about originally) who, according to legend, was marrying Roman soldiers illegally, they took vows not to be married, and then healed the judges blind daughter.  The judge ruled to against the Saint and the Saint wrote a farewell note reading “Farewell, your Valentine”.  At best, being someone’s “Valentine” is like a passive aggressive death curse or something.

2. Which does have an interesting and complicated history which reflects it’s relatively sloppy application because of how ambiguously it can be used from sports (Tennis) to phrases like “for love or money” roughly meaning “for anything” which it self has revealing implications of motivations.  If you’re interested, read more here: “love” etymology online dictionary

  1. I recognise that one of my weaknesses as a writer is the over-use (I prefer “liberal”) of the word “interesting” however this is one of those posts where “interesting” might be the best word to use liberally to talk about this ancient novel.

  2. I understand that St Augustine of Hippo was not, publicly, a fan of Metamorphosis and likely nicknamed the book a less polite title as a way to smear the reputation of the book.  I think the title is an improvement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have looked into this book in the first place.

Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Bukowski (book review)

Happy Wednesday!

I wrote about a Bukowski novel before, Post Office, which sometimes I kind of wish I kept my copy of but ultimately it wouldn’t make a difference since I’m once again on the road.  Much like Bukowski himself, I’m a ragman who has a penchant for writing and being frequently called insane.  When I saw another Bukowski novel at the local goodwill, I snatched that shit up.

I will be the first to admit, I can be kind of a dumb bastard sometimes.  When I began reading Notes of a Dirty Old Man, like most other books I read, I went in corpse cold: no preparation just going in and seeing what happens.  This has lead to some confusion over the years because I’ll begin reading a book and think “HOLY SHIT! What the fuck am I reading? Is this a work of fiction?” or “Uhh…is this supposed to be a comedy because this guy’s monologue about suicide is kinda funny” or similar oddities.  I  know this is easily fixed, I do frequent wikipedia, but I think that would ruin some of the experiences I have with books for me.  Either way this happened again with Notes of a Dirty Old Man.

When I began reading Notes I thought maybe it was an experimental novel given its broken and non-sequenced pieces, the lack of proper capitalization and a general lack of obvious structure.  I was trying to find connections between Bukowski recounting beating the crap out of his friend “Elf”, a baseball playing angel getting his wings butchered off, and philosophical waxings at the race track before one day recently (I started Notes months ago, but took a break to read a book my now-ex-girlfriend highly recommended then the hiatus continued when my best friend gave me a few books for xmas and then after finishing one of the books I got for xmas [“Briefing for a Descent into Hell” by Dorris Lessing, which is phenomenal for the record, review coming someday] I really felt a need to get back to Notes) I looked up the wiki article on Bukowski himself and discovered that the novel I’m reading is a collection of pieces Bukowski wrote as a column for an independent newspaper called OPEN CITY.  Sudden a couple of things made more sense however even after completing this novel and doing some research I still think there’s plenty that’s unknowable about this book.

I’m not including a spoilers tag in this book review because I don’t know if there’s anything to spoil about this book but here’s what I feel one should know going into the book, if you’re that kind of person:

  1. Bukowski is a bastard.  Accept it or don’t but you have been warned.
  2. Bukowski is a drunk, a drifter, and has no apparent moral compass.
  3. Bukowski is very sexually deviant in his writings.
  4. If you’re the sensitive type who requires “trigger warnings” FUCKING RUN AWAY.  I’m serious you will not be able to handle his works particularly this book.
  5. Don’t feel bad for laughing at necrophilia, suicide, or murder.

Given these things, you may start thinking to yourself “Chessis Christ, what kind of person are you if you can identify with Bukowski?” and you’d be accurate in thinking this.  I have no answers.

Here’s some quotes that I liked from this book:

“Eliot Mintz — he’s like a kid’s accordian: no matter how you squeeze him you get the same sound” (24)

“every man is afraid of being a queer. I get a little tired of it. maybe we shouldall become queeers and relax.” (33)

“(by the way…I realize I switch from present to past tense, and if you don’t like it…ram a nipple up  your scrotum. — printer: leave this in.)” (37)

“…I’ve  got an old saying (I make up old sayings as I walk around in rags) that knowledge without follow-through is worse than no knowledge at all. because if you’re guessing and it doesn’t work you can just say, shit, the gods are against me. but if you know and don’t do, you’ve got attics and dark halls in your mind to walk up and down in and wonder about. this ain’t healthy, leads to unpleasant evenings, too much to drink and the shredding machine.” (49)

“…the world makes madmen (and women) of us all, and eventhe saints are demented, nothing is saved. so shit. well. according to my figures I’ve only had 2500 pieces of ass but I’ve watched 12,500 horse races, and if I  have  any advice to anybody it’s this: take up watercolor painting.” (50)

“‘Love’ is something you need penicillin for.” (59)

“The next guy that calls money ‘bread’ should be paid off in whole wheat.” (59)

“there is only one place to write and that is ALONE at a typewriter.” (77)

“God got out of the tree, took the snake and Eden’s tight pussy away and now you’ve got Karl Marx throwing golden apples down from the same tree, mostly in blackface.” (83)

“this is the way a Loner ends up: dead alone. dying alone. a Loner should get ready early.” (90)

“there are times when insanity becomes so real that it isn’t insanity anymore.” (125)

“some cunt had decided to stay with me — that was love, that was bravery. shit, who could really stand me? anyone who could stand me had a lot of forgiveness of soul. I  just had to REWARD this sweet, little dear deer for having the guts and insight and courage to stay with me.
what better reward than to fuck her in the ass?” (181)

“When Love becomes a  command, Hatred can become a pleasure.” (206)

“I’d rather hear about a live American bum than a dead Greek God.” (207)

“love arrives and departs without notice.
is it possible to love a human being?
of course, especially if you don’t know them too well.” (221-2)

“…sometimes you just have to leave those crazy broads and get yourself back together. There’s a certain price on pussy that no man will pay; meanwhile, there’s always another fool who will pick up  the one you’ve dropped, so there’s really no sense of guilt or desertion.” (254)

The next comic in “The Adventures of Fin and Louie” coming soon.



Serial Reader (app review)

Happy Monday and happy New Year!

Being a broke university student (formerly) and a broke professional writer (currently) it probably goes without saying that I am a big fan of free books.  Last year whilst going to uni I was told about Project Guttenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/) which I primarily used to read books in the public domain.

Public Domain Books

A public domain book is a book with no copyright, a book that was created without a license, or a book where its copyrights expired[20] or have been forfeited.[21] Every book and tale written prior to 1923 (or 1947 in most countries) is in the public domain, among them, every book written by Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells. (source: wikipedia “public domain”)

However as much as I love and support the work Project Guttenberg does, I have always struggled to find a good Project Guttenberg reader app for my phone/tablet.  I have tried the Guttenberg Books app for android and (SURPRISE: DOUBLE APP REVIEW) it’s awful.  It frequently crashes, looses my place in books, has a very poor search function, and generally kind of drives me insane but as per the hardness of my head I toughed it out with the Guttenberg Books app for a year.


I love this cover art.

Then one day whilst reading this really brilliant book called The House on the Borderland and after loosing my place in the book several times in the first 50 pages (I read slow AND have a job AND a family, it’s hard for me to put down more than 5-10 pages in a sitting), I got really fucking frustrated.  This frustration drove me in, what I anticipated would be a arduous hunt for the right reader app that wasn’t kindle(1), to the digital pages of “Serial Reader: Classic Literature in 20 Minutes a Day”.

The idea behind Serial Reader is that each book available in the app is “subscribable” meaning that each book you subscribe to is broken into chunks that are under 20 minutes to read (I have yet to see any over 15minutes in my feed but I only subscribe to one book at the moment) which is usually about a chapter, and each book you’re subscribed to is sent to you in a daily “issue”.  It’s a well established tradition in literature to release novels in serialised episodes, this is how Wilkie Collin’s classic detective novel “The Moonstone” was originally published in Charles Dickens’ newspaper (yes, that Charles Dickens) All The Year Round and Dickens himself even earned his literary success with the serialisation of his novel The Pickwick Papers.

Serial Reader is itself simple and easy to use and has a minimum of bugs (there is this one where it remembers my previous stopping point but when I swipe the next page it


I love these features.

jumps back to my actual stopping point, it’s my literal only complaint about the app) and has wonderful little features like being able to highlight and take notes on text in app but the features that are my FAVOURITE are when you highlight a word or phrase, a prompt pops up asking if you’d like to define or look up on wikipedia IN APP(2) which leaving a reader app is the number 1 reason I don’t look up the definition of more words or look up the wikipedia entry on unfamiliar phrases.

There are other minour features such as progress bars, badges of reading completion, and a variety of fonts (this is a surprisingly great feature, I’m not usually a font person but I really like “OpenDyslexic”), which are great but most of them didn’t leave as much of an impact as being able to define/wiki a highlighted section of text in the app.

Overall if you’re looking for a Kindle alternative, again I am no authority I have very little experience with the Kindle reader despite hearing near universal praise, Serial Reader is an extremely solid choice.

Feel free to share with me your experiences with Serial Reader and/or other reader apps (including Kindle, I guess but I get enough feedback on that from literally every other reader in my life) in the comments below.

Keep reading, folks. Even if it’s in 20 minute chunks.



  1. I really don’t know why I have had this unofficial kindle reader boycott, maybe it’s because I avoid apps that want me to enter payment information or something.  I think it’s a money-fueled-fear aversion. Or maybe I’m a trend setter.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  2. Okay so results may vary, as I discovered whist writing this.  The copy/define/wikipedia/etc feature works on my LG android phone but doesn’t seem to work on my MI phone.  Screenshot_2018-01-08-11-55-54-298_org.mschmitt.serialreader

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson (Book Rev)

Happy Monday!

If you’re reading this that means I am still, in fact, alive.  I haven’t posted much in the last month because November(1) but I have been reading some good stuff or rather more accurately what I’ve read has been about as good as a bag of mix nuts: about half the total are peanuts and the rest are unique and really nice.  If The Bootlegger was a pedestrian peanut (I’ll be fair, it was consistently good but nothing exciting or surprising), The Rum Diary was a strange shaped and richly flavoured Brazil nut.


The Rum Diary is considered Hunter’s “lost novel” but actually it was the second novel he wrote and didn’t publish until later, the first one being Prince Jellyfish which still remains unpublished.

The Rum Diary’s narrative focuses on a young American journalist, Paul Kemp, on assignment in Puerto Rico’s capital city San Juan.  Kemp is worried, or in a martyr type way, romanticizes, about the notion of  being “over the hill” whilst living a wet and transient existence traveling the world over as a “vagrant journalist”.

[Vagrant journalists] were professionally deviant, but they had a few things in common. They depended, mostly from habit, on newspapers and magazines for the bulk of their income; their lives were geared to long chances and sudden movement; and they claimed no allegiance to any flag and valued no currency but luck and good contacts.

The book opens with some background to the narrative, outlining the steady success of an ex-jockey named named Al who opened a bar out of his backyard called (wait for it…) “Al’s Backyard”.

“At first he served nothing but beer, at twenty cents a bottle, and rum, at a dime a shot or fifteen cents with ice.  After several months he began serving hamburgers, which he made himself.

Al’s backyard will serve as one of the main stages for the drama of the news staff to unfold as it serves as a place for, as it seems, almost exclusively the cast of characters working at the Daily News, the American news paper.  Having the introduction chapter outline the humble history of this establishment, one which was there before the characters and maybe also before the Daily News, helps to establish a couple of themes which become prominent through  the story: the primary theme being one of establishing the sense that despite the characters feelings, they and their actions are ultimately insignificant because the world they’re operating in is older and better connected then they are and the more subtle theme that authentic work is much less likely to get you beaten, killed, or become an accessory to murder.


Relevant example of the US – Puerto Rico Relationship

As I’ve mentioned there are many motifs that could be explored in this novel, one of particular interest to me is the relationship of the dog, the character Moberg, and the Puerto Rican children in the narrative, but what stuck with me was the dynamic between Yeamon, Kemp, and Sala.

All manner of men came to work for the News: everything from wild young Turks who wanted to rip the world in half and star all over again — to tired, beer-bellied old hacks who wanted nothing more than to live our their days in peace before a bunch of lunatics ripped the world in half.

Yeamon is the young Turk whilst Sala is the beer-bellied hack which leaves Kemp in a grey “teetering on  the edge of over the hill”  area thematically and literally, being between the ages of the young Yeamon and the over 40 Sala.

This is an interesting technique of building Kemp’s character by contrasting him with two other characters who represent a possible past and a possible future.  This definition by contrast emphasizes Kemp’s journey of self exploration which gives a cathartic context of absolution to a seemingly unusual scene towards the end of the book depicting Kemp throwing him self into the surf and letting himself be washed ashore.

“The surf was high and I felt a combination of fear and eagerness as I took off my clothes and walked towards it.  In the backlash of a huge wave I plunged in and let it suck me out to sea. Moments later I was hurtling back toward the beach on top of a long white breaker that carried me along like a torpedo. Then it spun me around like a dead fish and slammed me on the sand so hard that my back was raw for days afterwards.” 192-3

The significance of this scene seems to be that Kemp desires to transcend the trappings of an idealized past and seeming inevitability of beer fueled burn out via an impromptu performance of a cleansing ritual traditionally preformed in June called “La Noche de San Juan”

On the island of Puerto Rico, which had been named San Juan Bautista, after the saint, by Christopher Columbus, a night-long celebration, called “La Noche de San Juan” is held. After sunset, people travel to a beach or any accessible body of water (e.g. river, lake or even bathtub) and, at midnight, fall backwards into it three, seven or twelve times. This is done to cleanse the body from bad luck and give good luck for the following year. wiki

There’s so much more to this book that I haven’t time to explore but I implore you to get a copy of The Rum Diary and see what speaks to you.


Life has been very good but busy for me and I am not sure if I can commit to a regular posting schedule for a while.  I’m in the process of moving and my job in in a transitional period also (both improvements) but because of this, I haven’t had much time left over for non-work/non-home stuff.  The next post will be a comic, maybe the next few honestly.



  1. I don’t know, November is one of my least favourite months and looking back last November was similar in posting schedule, as in almost none, so maybe I’ll just be taking November off each year.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (book review)

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had as good of a holiday weekend as I had (I consider Friday the 13th to to be a holiday and a decidedly not-unlucky day).  After a weekend full of psychobilly and general excitement, I figured given that something equally creepy would be in good  style.  I have been reading The Bootlegger by John E. Hallwas and had ambitious plans to have it finished by Thursday last week and be ready to review today…however as it’s a good book (BONUS MINI BOOK PREVIEW) it’s about as dry as a wrung rag: it’s not dripping with excitement but it’ll do.  What was also adding to the lack of dampness were the other 3 books I was nibbling on the side, Storm Front being one(1) that, like the other books I’ve read in the Dresden Files series have been, ends up being too good to just nibble on(2) (I seriously feel like trying to nurse a Dresden Files novel is like, for me, trying to eat a soft oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, my favourite cookie for anyone taking notes, in no less than 200 bites: I’m not a strong enough man for that).

(NOTE:  My friend Brad Evans, same guy who originally recommended the Dresden Files to me in the first place, wrote a great post on the graphic novel omnibus that covers the first three books of the Dresden Files (including Storm Front, obv) which can be read here: “spoiler free book review dresden files graphic novel omnibus one”)

storm front

Fun Fact: Jim Butcher never mentioned Harry Dresden wearing a hat but there was a miss commutation between him and the cover artist.  I’m glad Butcher gave the hat the green light.

Storm Front begins the Dresden Files, a hard boiled detective noir style story series, which follows a fellow who’s yellow pages advert reads:

Harry Dresden – Wizard

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates. No Love potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

The series falls squarely in the urban fantasy sub genre being set in an okay middle American city called Chicago(3), which this series as a whole plays as an interesting counter part to a similar series (also urban fantasy, also a detective/action series) I read called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter which is set in St Louis which I may revisit at some point.

The novel opens as one would expect a detective noir story to open: “Hard Luck Harry” sitting in his office killing time whilst waiting for work to come in when something disrupts his waiting

“I heard the mailman approach my office door, half an hour earlier than usual.”
-Storm Front, 1

Which sets an interesting president for use of common tropes for the rest of the novel which, despite how that sounds, is a really “good-interesting” thing.

I do like to complain about over used tropes in books(4) mostly because the fact that a motif becomes a trope is because it works however for it to continue to work in an interesting manour one has to make interesting use of said trope(5) and that’s  something Butcher excels with in this first book.

Storm Front follows the format of a good detective novel: the A-story explores Harry Dresden’s “day life” as a consultant to the CPD Special Investigations unit investigating the mysterious and brutal death of a couple whilst the B-story explores Harry’s “night life” as a private eye on the case of a missing husband.  The character line up is classically balanced with a “good cop, bad cop” duo, a few femme fatales, and a healthy number of potential threats and suspects that intertwine both the A and B stories.

I cannot recommend this book enough, nor can I write much more without spoilers, so with that if you haven’t read this book or any Dresden Files book (they are all in a continuous story line but each book works pretty well standing alone) I encourage you to to treat your self to an excellent read.

Tune in Friday continuing The Adventures of Fin and Louie.




  1. I’m also reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and Letters from the Underworld by Dostoevsky both of which will get book reviews in the coming months.
  2. Before I started writing this blog I had read a few Dresden Files books starting with Skin Game, which is the current novel as of this writing, and from that first novel I was FUCKING HOOKED! I normally read an average of 100-200 pages in a good week and that book was 454 pages.  I finished that shit in 3 days.
  3. The fact that St Louis consistently lives in Chicago’s shadow despite St Louis’s important and historically significant contribution in the development of the United States and the westward expansion plus the fact that we, as a city, are older than the United States as a fucking country is a constant sore spot culturally for St Louis folk.  At least our baseball team doesn’t suck.


    I’m not even a sportsball fan but that shit’s funny.

  4. Mostly. I generally just accept that most TV and Movies have to be held to a lower bar than the average book (in my personal opinion) however I do deeply appreciate a well crafted movie and watching video essays channels on youtube such as such as Lessons from the Screenplay, Every Frame a Painting,  and Now You See It, that pick apart movies on technical levels of aspects I just don’t appreciate because I have no experience with film making.
  5. I’m not entirely convinced that we can write stories that don’t at all rely on some sort of trope or another since these bits of culturally or historically familiar archetypes seem to help ground the story in literary reality or in a cannon of understood story telling because even some of the most enigmatic stories I’ve read had some sort of possible archetypal understanding of the characters whether it be reading House of Leaves as a modern interpretation of Odin’s addiction to wisdom and Frigg’s journey of self-realisation through disassociation or Infinite Jest’s use of Socratic Dialogues via Marthe and Steeply as mouth-pieces.  I’m  sure they’re out there and I’d love to read one, if you think you know of one feel free to leave a comment or sent me a message.



The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (book review)

Happy Monday!

As I mentioned last week I have for you today a very spirited book review of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, another one of those books that “…the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall” however in this context that’s not a particularly good thing and it disappoints me to say that.

The Pesthouse, a post-apocalyptic story set in the United States, opens up with some of the strongest writing in the entire book. Consider the opening paragraph:

“Everybody died at night. Most were sleeping at the time, the lucky ones who were too tired or drunk or deaf or wrapped too tightly in their spreads to hear the hillside, destabilized by the rain, collapse and slip beneath the waters of the lake. So these sleepers (six or seven hundred, at a guess; no one ever came to count or claim the dead) breathed their last in passive company, unwarned and unexpectedly, without any fear. Their final moments, dormant in America.” (1)

However this is from the preface from a character named Nash, who is never revisited and very loosely related to the story in a rather irrelevant way which is a shame as he might have been a more interesting or likable character than the lot Crace has cast for us. Once the narrative proper starts with chapter one page eight, the quality of writing

the pest house

Instead of ‘The Pesthouse’ this book should be renamed ‘The Passivehouse because almost the ENTIRE novel is written in the passive past tense voice.

goes down for me because nearly the rest of the book is written in this slow dead-paced passive voice

“Franklin Lopez had not been sleeping in Ferrytown, though [he had] wanted to. [He had] not been sleeping anywhere, in fact. [Could not] sleep. [He had] weathered such pain the day before that [he had] been forced to consider…” (8) italics for emphasis

Notice in 3.5 sentences Crace uses “had” 5 times (I count conjunctions ie the original quote reads “he’d” and I extrapolated it for emphasis as [he had]) and another passive past tense word “could” once. I’ve had creative writing teachers who would not accept your story if it was written entirely in the passive voice unless it was used for specific reasons (an example that comes to mind is the story format of the frame story where a character, usually a lead is remembering back and telling us [both the reader and the audience in the context of the story] their story complete with

pat rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss can grow a sexy beard

foreshadowing because of hindsight insight, an excellent example of this story structure executed masterfully is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss and The Pesthouse does not present a reason for this stylistic choice.

Without giving spoilers, I found the story to generally drag on until about the final act when the story converges with a strange religious sect when both the story and writing quality improved enough to help me push through to the rather anticlimactic ending.

Overall I really didn’t like this novel because it felt like a first draft of something that could have been much more interesting rather than a cash grab at the Post-apocalyptic America-land trend(1). If this was Crace’s first novel, I’d be much more lenient because this novel does have potential to be something more interesting however it’s his 10th novel in 20 years and not only but he’s an award winning author and a member of the Royal Society of Literature. I haven’t read Crace’s other novels but if after 20 years this is what he can produce, I am not impressed.


  1. Whilst in the UK and talking with one of my friends on the subject of post-apocalyptic stories, she pointed out to me a distinct lack of non-american set post-apocalyptic stories particularly none she could think of taking place in the UK [I failed to remember, somehow, that Children of Men takes place in the UK] and whilst on the subject of the post-apocalyptic trend in media I do want to note that I would really like to see more stories set in places that are not america for a change or maybe more interesting types of apocalyptic events like H.P. Lovecraftian monsters enslave the human race or aliens visit the planet, unbenounced to humans, and grant all the octopi super high tech helmets that allow them to build structures and complex tools which leads them to creating an alien atlantis which then leads them to land excursions and demanding rights leading to interspecies civil war (they create helmets for dogs and pickles and things too), or maybe all the water on the planet turns to jell-o (or jelly for my UK readers) and it’s like a science thriller race against time to figure out a way to turn the jell-o into water again or something fucking original (zombies are cool and I will likely never get my proper fill of zombie media but seriously there are other interesting crisis to subject fictional humans to).


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Never Let Me Go (Book Review)

ANNOUNCEMENT My housemate and I were attacked whilst riding bikes around South City on Friday night.  After giving our statement to the police they told us there’s been 13 reported assaults (also my friend was robbed and my next door neighbor’s house was broken into all on Friday night).  I know not all of you are St Louis based but if you are please stay safe out there folks.

Happy Monday!

Just before leaving the UK a friend of mine, a fellow foreigner (I being American, her Thai), gave me a few books that she’d read and didn’t want to take home with her when her time came.  My friend she described this and another book, The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (which I will also be writing a review about), as “the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall”.  I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that, whether she meant she liked or disliked them so much to cause a burst of such passion but these books did evoke a strong emotional response, one in each direction (one good, one poor).  Originally I was planning to do a double review both books seem to tell similar stories but I ultimately nixed the idea because I found I had too much to say about each book.

never let me goNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is what I call a “light dystopian” novel or a novel where the dystopian aspect isn’t entirely prominent in the story’s setting but still plays a vital role in the plot.(1)  The story follows a trio of friends (Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy) from childhood in a boarding school to adulthood in a narrative that can be equally classified equally as an coming of age or mystery or love story.  


The dystopia angle of this book wasn’t clear to me from the beginning as it took me until about chapter 7 (p70 – 81) to appreciate what was happening and why, however I believe that subtlety is intentional in Ishiguro’s enigmatic stream of consciousness type writing style presented in Never Let Me Go.  Ishiguro’s attention to detail from the chapter lengths nearly all being a measured 10 pages in length(2) to his ability to weave extremely non-linear story without losing narrative focus is extremely impressive.  

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t fall in love with this book right away but what gripped me from the beginning was Ishiguro’s drumhead tight prose and conversational style that feels so very casual, as if Kathy is just having a conversation with the reader about her memories, that a trick is played where it looks as if storytelling is an effortless endevour that anyone who’s ever told a story can embark on.  However now that I’ve finished the book, in the process it wrung a pint of tears from my eyes, I realise that my reluctance to love this book didn’t come from any lack of quality or resonance but that like the characters in this book, I was holding on to previous feelings about the last book I read (The Pesthouse) and not letting myself be entirely receptive to what Never Let Me Go could offer until it was nearly over.  I say this with intention of being the highest of compliments: I will be re-reading this book at least a couple more times.   



  1. Contrast this with a “heavy dystopian” novel such as The Road by Cormic McCarthy and the distinction becomes clear (or so I hope).
  2. This technique adds to the subtle power of the style by reinforcing expectations for each chapter to be a specific length which when that pattern is broken in later chapters leaves an unconscious impression on the reader.         

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Dust Tracks on a Road (Book Review)

Happy Monday!

Dust Tracks on a Road is an autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston.  I remembered reading a bit of “Their Eyes were Watching God”, also the Crash Course Lit episode is excellent, the first 3.5 minutes of which give a pretty neat summary of her life plus some extra tidbits, in fact let’s justs have a look shall we?


I decided to pick this book up in a reading project I’m starting where I plan to fill out my knowledge by reading books considered an “American Classics”(1) (with a focus on the 20th century lit) and the follow the reading list provided from Crash Course Lit(2).  

Overall Dust Tracks on a Road, from here out referred to as Dust Tracks, left me withmixed feelings.  That being said and without giving spoilers, I can say I recommend the book based on its historical and literary significance but unless you’re seeking it out for it’s historical or literary significance, I wouldn’t give it high priority.  


  1. This burgeoning list has begun with this list, thanks to wikipedia:
    Books referred to as a “Great American Novel”[edit]

At one time, the following works have been considered to be a Great American Novel:

19th century

20th century

21st century

Plus these United States National Epics:


  1. Crash Course Lit list (what is listed here are the ones that I have not yet read AND are not already listed above; this is not an exhaustive list of the books covered in all three seasons of CC lit):

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Sula by Toni Morrison

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Hooked App Review (Chat Story)

Happy Monday!

Soz for not posting last week.  I went on holiday and was expecting to have access to a working computer but I didn’t not.  Anyway back to the regularly scheduled program!

In the spirit of utilising the “mystery” of mystery monday to it’s fullest potential, I’m rolling out my first smartphone app review.  Surprise!

I saw an advert on youtube advertising the app Hooked and I was previously


Hooked logo

unfamiliar with this app and the general genre of “Chat Stories” which includes Yarn and Tap.  Being a big fan of the Master of Experimental Fiction: Mark Z. Danielewski who has written colossal books not only in physical dimensions but also in ambition such as House of Leaves, Fifty Year Sword, and his current pet project The Familiar which is a 27 volume serialised novel, I like to try out experimental fiction.  However like anything that involves the word “experimental” as a defining adjective, there’s going to be a considerable hit and miss rate.  So is Hooked my next favourite thing?  Lets see.       

Premise: The app launches directly into a chat story which confused me at first because I thought it was like one long story but then I got bored halfway through the second part and finally figured out that you have to tap the chat space then click the top back button.  I was trying to swipe left.

Before trying to swipe left, I learned a few things about the app and it’s functions.  The first was that you get about 30 messages for free before being forced to take a 45 minute break or pay (2.99$ per week, 7.99/mo, 39.99/year unlimited, speaking of paying only paying members can contribute stories which is something I will come back to(1)).  Me being broke and cheap and not sold after 30 messages, I put it away and waited my 45 minutes which brought me to the second interesting feature where the app will give you a notification that your free “hoots” are refreshed and

Screenshot (28 May 2017 15-20)

clean minimalist menu design

you can read another 30 messages.  If you ignore this first message, it’ll gently prod you with another notification about 20 minutes later with the next message in the story out of context.  The 30 messages is prime for the freeium function as it will take any where from a couple of minutes to 7 minutes tops.  The notifications are also a good idea because it’s something I could easily see myself forgetting about.  There’s also a search function and lists of genres.  

Features I Want to See: So speaking of features, the ones I list are literally all you get.  I appreciate the minimalism however there are some features I’d really like to see.  I’d really like to see a rating and review system on the story cards .  I realise that you can like and comment on the stories, but this is only accessible after reading.  I don’t mind the fact that if there was a rating system you’d have to read the entire story before voting but I don’t like that as is you have to go into the stories blind as in my experience, the quality of stories varied from fairly interesting to uninspired.  

What would also be a nice feature to see in congruent use with the search function and the genre selection would be a hashtag cloud plus a way to change the settings of the notifications (more, less, or none at all or maybe for some less NSFW stories have a way to turn off notifications for those stories but leave them on for other ones, or to set it so you only get notification at certain hours like not sleeping hours).

Overall:   Speaking of swiping left, I guess that pretty much sums up my personal feelings about Hooked for the time being.  It’s a good idea.  However I already have a good smut site (NSFW Literotica) which has an okay app but lots of good regular writers.  Maybe this app would be better suited for erotica but I have yet to read any erotica on here that’s already on here.  Until they add a few more features like the ones I mentioned, as it is, it’s a left swipe from me.


  1. I’m not crazy about the idea about having contributing behind a pay wall but I guess it may help to sort out “serious” contributors from shit posters.