Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians (Book Rev)

Happy Monday!

A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Serial Reader (full review here) and in my review I mentioned having an unofficial and non-intentional avoidance for kindle readers.

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 trendsetter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Source: Serial Reader (app review) footnote 1

However since then my friend has given me his old kindle fire with the book recommendation “Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians”

alcatraz

So today’s post has 3 parts:

  1. An update on Serial Reader (I have found more bugs since the initial review)
  2. A review of the book Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians
  3. Initial impressions of the Kindle Fire

Update on Serial Reader:

I’ve gone through a few phones since I wrote about Serial Reader(1) and one thing I’ve noticed is that I have trouble signing into my account across devices despite the “forgot password?” feature.  The issue this brings up is that when you have to “re-create an account” (I literally had 3 accounts under the same email, same password) you lose your place in your book(s) and have to wait until the serial catches up to where you were in your book UNLESS you get a premium membership (pretty reasonable at about 3$) however the issue remains: IF I CANNOT SIGN IN, I CANNOT ACCESS MY ACCOUNT PREMIUM OR FREE-MIUM.  This being the case, I’ve lost my place in the two books I was reading(2) a couple of times each.

Also it had this relatively minour/inconsistent bug where it doesn’t keep my place.  It most often happened when I finished a chapter and then the next time I came back to read, it started me at the end of the last chapter instead of where I was into the next chapter.

So all things considered, I can recommend Serial Reader if you’re not going to change devices anytime soon but because of this issue I do have trouble recommending it for purchase.

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians Book Review:

Alcatraz Vs The Evil Librarians is about the titularly named character, Alcatraz Smedry, who is really good at breaking things.  Not like being clumsy or destructive, in fact Alcatraz makes a very specific distinction between “break” and “destroy”\

There was that word again. Destroy. I felt my hair bristle in annoyance. I don’t destroy things, I thought. I break them. They’re still there when I’m finished, they just don’t work right anymore.

Page 9

Shortly after accidentally burning down his foster parents’ kitchen we’re introduced to the eccentric Grandpa Smedry who reveals “Yer a wizard Alca…” No I’m sorry that was uncalled for, this book isn’t a Harry Potter knock off.  For one thing, this book is much better(3). These books are very self aware in the currently fashionable post-modern style which includes that Alcatraz will speak to the reader directly and frequently, often noting how this being a story about his life and him as a character.  We learn that the world we know is under the rule of a network of evil librarians (though why they’re evil is never fully explained…) and that there is another world somewhere around ours (I suspect it’s an “occupies the same space but not the same time” kind of situation but again, not entirely explained in this first installment) and it’s up to the extended and extensive Smedry family to recover Alcatraz’s father’s life work: The Sands of Rashid (which was stolen by the evil librarians).

I’ve mentioned before about my general reluctance to get involved in book series that span more than 1200 pages and/or 3 books however this series started and ended so very strongly that I’m interested in at least reading the next couple of books (there’s a total of 5 books and book 2 and 3 would have to be pretty amazingly bad for me not to try and power through the last couple of books).  I will be taking a break on the series for a couple of books (variety keeps me going) but stay tuned because I do plan to review more as the series goes.

Thoughts on the Kindle Fire:

It’s pretty brilliant.  I am a bit reluctant to admit it, it’s like admitting to liking Taylor Swift (just her early stuff, like most songs before the “Red” album), but I’m coming out and saying that I like it a lot so far.  It just has too many damn features that I love, like the blue light mode, the highlight and note system, even the fucking cover is brilliant. The only things I kinda don’t like is that it’s a little too “COME BUY EVERYTHING! We’ll make it obnoxiously easy…” however I guess that’s apart of its brilliance.  In Google/Amazon we trust (in a capitalist society, who needs governments anyway? I’m sure someday when Google or Amazon, if one doesn’t buy the other first, buys the US Government, Okay Google/Alexa will be happy to answer my question).

 

Footnotes:

  1. I’m really rough on phones.  I blame my first phone, an old sprint sanyo , mostly because it was a fucking tank.  I got that phone just as I graduated high school and it went through a litany of punishment, including one time where I played beer pong
    sanyo

    This phone was a tank.

    with it, and it JUST. KEPT. GOING.  I appreciate that phones have gotten much more complex and fragile since then but it seems to come at the cost of being so damn fragile.

  2. The Sleeper Awakens by H.G. Wells and House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
  3. I read the first 2 Harry Potter books and really just couldn’t get into them.  The movies were okay. I’ve seen them all once because of my kid sister otherwise I probably would have quit them too after movie 4 I think.  I remember there was a lull a bit around half way through the series.

 

***WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW***

 

Thoughts on the story:

“‘…we’re here to interfere! We’re trying to overthrow Librarian domination of the Hushlands, after all.’ ‘Why not just let people live their lives, and live yours?”

Page 112

This is an excellent question and one that gives me the feel that these Smedrys are acting as “world police” liberating people, who didn’t ask for it, and with out regard for the consequences of crumbling a regime that in, the cannon of this story, is fairly peacefully and the further consequences of the sequential awareness of said “evil regime”.  Alcatraz frequently mentions things like “I am no hero” and “I am not a good person” which makes me wonder if this is a foreshadowing of a moral crisis he will have later in the series.

“Do you have to have a point if you’re an evil sect of Librarians?” Bastille asked with annoyance.

Page 145

This begs the question: Does evil have a “point”? (read: purpose) or more generally does any morality have a “point”? This, being a quote from one of the “heroes”, goes unchallenged which does trouble me a bit because it implies that Bastille, a native of The Free Kingdoms and a child still, has never been challenged to think about WHY librarians are evil and if there is a purpose to the things they do.

“The Scrivener [the founder of the evil librarian cult]. He taught that the world is too strange a place — that it needs to be ordered, organized, and controlled.  One of Biblioden’s teachings is the Fire Metaphor. He pointed out that if you let fire burn free,it destroys everything around it. If you contain it, however, it can be very useful. Well, the Librarians think that other things — Oculatory powers, technology, Smedry Talents — need to be contained too.”

Page 145

This is an interesting philosophy but one that’s kinda one dimensional.  The deal with fire, both in reality and as a metaphoric symbol for society, is that in small amounts it can be sustained without burning everything in sight without oversight.  Once a fire/society gets beyond a certain size, it can/will grow out of control without oversight. Now to continue this metaphor, a small fire may be able to contain it self but it hasn’t enough energy to do much whereas a large uncontained fire has enough energy to do a great many things but without oversight it will consume everything in sight which would be an effective waste of said energy.  It comes down to the debate between Anarchism and Statism. Anarchism can work in societies up to a certian size but beyond that size it falls into a “Lord of the Flies” brutalism just as Statism works on large societies but when applied to too small of a society it becomes a sort of fiefdom. I’m not saying absolute of either works in any size society but a blind acceptance/rejectance of an opposing ideology is generally foolish.

“Librarians named mountains after themselves — just like they named prisons after [Smedrys].”

Page 158

Still not sure of the significance of this but it’s certainly interesting.

“So, my parents game me up so that they would make a spy out of me?” [Alcatraz] asked.

Page 293

This is some fucked up “the ends justify the means” shit here.  I am more strongly suspecting that The Free Kingdoms have some more problems than is let on in this first book.

What did you expect? That [Grandpa Smedry] would leave [Alcatraz] here all summer, in the exact place where your enemies know where to look? With people that aren’t even your family? In a place you don’t really like, and that is depressingly normal compared to the world you’ve grown to love? Doesn’t that seem a little stupid and contrived to you?

Page 306

Damn…that’s got to be shots fired at Harry Potter.

Okay folks, that’s all I have for you today.  I’m working on finishing the “Looking for a Friend” story arc in The Adventures of Fin & Louie.  If you’re interested in catching up on back issues, they can be found on my new page: The Adventures of Fin & Louie

-fin

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Hungry (The Adventures of Fin & Louie)

Happy Friday!

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.

Overall:

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.
-fin

 

Footnotes:

  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.

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.

-fin

Video Log #3 I really need to stop picking my face during these (surprise ending)

Happy Monday!

I’m anxious because tonight is the first night I believe I’m on my own as far as finding a place to stay. Shelters are full up because of the weather, it’s literally snowing, and I’m without a sleeping bag. Morale: 4.5/10 (10 = this is the best day of my life; 1 = I’m really close to giving up).

Video Log #3 here:

My primary plan is to sleep as much during the day and find a 24 hours fast food place to stay and write at night. Failing that I will walk around muttering to myself trying to keep warm until the Metrolink starts again or something.

Hope to post again tomorrow.

-fin

Wreck the System Releases New Album “Wreckfest”

Happy Monday!

Heya folks earlier this year I had an amazing time at my first nerdcore show in

MEGARAN

One cool dude.

Manchester and scored an interview with some new and some familiar nerdcore rappers including Mega Ran who is in the super group “Wreck the System”.

 

 

 

After that Wreck the System reached out to me to do a press release for their music video “Link with a Link” which if you haven’t seen the video yet, have a listen.

Wreck the System released a new album this week called Wreckfest.  Wreckfest is a concept album about a few friends going to a comic con and Ian, the main character, is going for the first time.

Each song takes us through the experience of the three day convention through both their catchy lyrics and outro sketches at the end of many of the songs.

Here’s the official trailer to their new album.

 

 

Lucien Storm: with kindness in his eyes and a fire in his heart (STL Shines)

Happy Wednesday!

Sorry for the late posting. Monday was a struggle after a busy holiday weekend, Tuesday was busy with work, but here I am today bright eyed and bushy eyebrows! orca-image-1509586175703.jpg_1509586175829

Welcome to my first installment of the experimental series of profiles on rising St Louis stars and artisans.  This week we’re featuring the equally talented and beautiful Lucien Storm.  Without further ado, let me introduce this weeks guest:

Lucien Storm greets me at the door of his home, located in Ferguson, a small city inside St Louis North County.  Storm stands tall, or at least tall to me, with out a sense of inflation, “Welcome to Storm’s Hollow”.  

Entering Storm’s Hollow is an experience I won’t soon forget, the anteroom serves as a hub for the rest of the labyrinthine.  A mural of a tree climbs up the right angled stairs, straight ahead through a door frame I can see a table which appears to have a gigantic body shrouded laying on top, however despite my curiosity and anxiety (both stemming from a mounting sense of excitement) Lucien directs me to the left through a door way into a room straight out of my dreams: book shelves (filled with books and just books) from  floor to ceiling, a fireplace, exposed ceiling allowing the century old wood to show off how well it’s aged, a Ouija board and  some faux candles “float” (fishing line from the ceiling) above a coffee table which sat in between two lush period appropriate wooden chairs the style where the apolstery is attached by patina penny coloured studs.  Storm’s Hollow is one of most home feeling places I’ve ever entered, which as Mr. Storm explains to me is the purpose of his Hollow: a safe place for friends, family, and community.

“Storm’s Hollow is our home, but isn’t just a home.  It’s a space for crafting, hosting, a community center for the pagan/alternative community, and fire and burlesque performance troupes.”  Mr Storm explain.  The primary fire and burlesque troupe that takes refuge in Storm’s Hollow is a cooperative called Hidden Flame.  Hidden Flame will be performing at the Lantern Festival 4th and 5th of November in Eureka MO.

However Storm’s Hollow is more than just a community center and gathering place for makers and performers.  Lucien Storm shared with me a glimpse into the future of his vision, something I’m calling “Storm’s Hollow 2.0”, “What I would like to eventually expand into is building an earthship home (an eco-home built into the earth from re and up cycled products).”  From there he plans to expand into offering classes to other people seeking to build their own earthship and learn more ecological living, and then long term he would like to build an eco-friendly community of earthships somewhere near the St Louis area.

Tune in Friday for the weekly funny! This week is inspired by my mystery guest from Friday the 13th comic

Lady Sugar Skull

May I present “Lady Sugar Skull”?

Is this place bigger on the inside than out? (The Adventures of Fin and Louie)

Happy Friday!

20 oct-1

The adventure continues…

Lost? Catch up on the story so far with these comics:

“…meanwhile”

“WANTED: Fin and Louie”

“Welcome to Count Rubber’s Keep”

I plan to rework the site a bit soon to reflect the changes in posting schedules and frequencies which will include a central location for The Adventures of Fin and Louie.  I’ll probably title it some thing kinda stupidly self-referential like “The story so far…”

Tune in Monday for the weekly Mystery!

-fin

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.

-fin

 

Footnotes:

  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.

    cardinals

    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.