book reviews

Goodreads review: Wolf in White Van

Wolf in White VanWolf in White Ban by John Darnielle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The short review? Songwriter writes book. Book digs a bit deeper into some of songwriter’s peccadilloes. People who like songwriter’s work will like book. EXEUNT.

I have to admit I was predisposed towards liking this book given that I am a fan of Darnielle’s music. Knowing how good the writing is in The Mountain Goats – an eclectic, honest and nerdily funny combo who’ve produced some of the best songs about a) peanuts, b) relationship decline, c) abusive adolescence and d) insurance fraud ever (I’m not covering goths, road trips, wrestling, Michael Myers or religion here, but take my word for it, they’re there) – I expected good things.
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Goodreads review: Outcast, Vol. 4: Under Devil’s Wing

Outcast, Vol. 4: Under Devil's WingOutcast, Vol. 4: Under Devil’s Wing by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So we remember what I said about the first volume of this series? And the second? And the third? Again, we can spin it out to the fourth: developing, slowly, with enough subtlety in the presentation to keep me reading.

This trade brings us pretty much up to date: at the time of writing there’s been four additional issues, so we’re still two off another collection. The show based on the property has been and gone, and is seems Kirkman is interested in keeping the slow-burn nature we’ve become accustomed to thus far. But this volume seems to feature more explaining than previous collections, and ramps up the fuck-is-all-the-town-involved? weirdness level.


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Goodreads review: Outcast, Vol. 3: This Little Light

Outcast, Vol. 3: This Little LightOutcast, Vol. 3: This Little Light by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Third volume through and we can pretty much take the previous thoughts I’ve had on this series and stretch ’em out again.

Once more, the story of possession and high stakes starring Kyle Barnes, his mate the Reverend Anderson and that blow-in who manages to look like a cross between Roger from Mad Men and an escapee from a Norman Rockwell painting.

See? (more…)

Goodreads review: Queen Victoria’s Bomb

Queen Victoria's BombQueen Victoria’s Bomb by Ronald William Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book’s commonly touted as one of the precursors of the steampunk movement. It dates from 1967 and though I’d been keen to read it, I hadn’t found a copy. Having an interest in steampunk – the literature, not the habit of sticking cogs onto anything and wearing goggles down the shops – I figured that a three-ish buck version on Kindle was a safe enough bet. (more…)

Goodreads review: Outcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending Ruin

Outcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending RuinOutcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending Ruin by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This will be a short review, largely because there’s not a lot to go on. You could probably read my review of the first volume and apply it to this one and you’d be fairly well set. The art remains affectingly retro, cinematic and draughtsman-like, and the pacing – while languid – is tight. So, second verse same as the first?

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Goodreads review: The Raven

The RavenThe Raven by Peter Landesman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I first read this book not long after it came out. I was still at university, and was still enamoured of study and reading between the lines enough to think that if a text was gnomic enough it must have been super-profound, and if I didn’t get it, it was my fault and not the book’s.

That was then. Now, I can go “eh, fuck that book” with impunity and not feel as if I need to turn in my Lit Nerd decoder ring or something. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Commandant

The CommandantThe Commandant by Jessica Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jessica Anderson is someone who I’ve always meant to read more of but hadn’t managed to. Tirra Lirra By The River was loosely covered in my Eng Lit degree, and didn’t make much of an impression (probably because of my youthful inattention, frankly) but The Commandant, it turns out, is exceptional.

It’s one of the titles reissued in Text Publishing’s yellow-covered series of classics, and from the introduction I can see how the work might have been considered a bodice-ripper when it came out. Though – the off-screen appearance of shagging, if any, aside – it’s a disservice to call it such. It’s a meditation on early Australian history, as well as a forerunner of other such historical fiction as Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. It sits well with Patrick White’s Voss inasmuch as it takes history for its basis, and then adds to it, using invention as the magnifying glass for fact. (more…)

Goodreads review: Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & MuJunji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu by Junji Ito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there’s anything the manga-reading public can agree on, it’s that Junji Ito is one fucked-up dude. He’s a writer of horror manga, and is probably most famous for Uzumaki, a spiral-obsessed mind-fuck of popped eyeballs and extreme scoliosis. (I reviewed its three volumes here, here and here, if you’re still unsure about his oddity.)

His work is normally known for extreme violence and inventive ick and squick, so when I found out he’d written a series about cats – yep, cats – I figured I had to give it a go. (more…)

Goodreads review: Post Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll

Post Everything: Outsider Rock and RollPost Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll by Luke Haines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, there’s a lot of room in my life for books in which the creator of one of the best Britpop-umbrella bands details the life-and-death of his next project, writes a music featuring a Lord Lucan cameo, filches cash from a label even as they are dumping him, is told how to make decent scrambled eggs (low heat, folks, low heat) by a perhaps-imagined drug-addict cat, and receives album advice from dead rappers.

(Even though he’d hate the fucking Britpop bit.)

This is that book. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You AreThe Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Watts died in 1974, but he seems to be much more popular today than ever he was while alive. This book, The Book, was written on a Sausalito houseboat, and has been on my to-read list since I heard about it on a discussion forum years ago. I feel it might have been of more import to me had I read it when I was younger – it’s certainly a counterpoint to the “you’re all special!” mindset imparted by school – but I still found it quietly reassuring today.

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