“Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened” by Allie Brosh (Touchstone, 2013)

Hyperbole and a Half
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In case you haven’t noticed, short comic strips have slowly been becoming the rage and “the” popular thing to read online over the last few years. One can simply tell by thinking of all the comic strips they read online, how many of them have been turned into books? And the reason for this is that they’re good comics that can provide something to those who don’t necessarily read them online.

Hyperbole and a Half is one of those comic strips that goes beyond many others in not just being entertaining, but also informative, interesting, educational, and harshly personal from Allie Brosh. With a hugely popular blog of the same name, it seems only logical to have a number of her posts and strips converted into a print edition; the collection also features a couple of posts and strips not seen on her blog.

The key here is that Brosh is imparting some personal stories from her life, told through hilarious comic stick figures, but at the same time helping her get the message across of why she felt this way, what going through depression was like, and how she coped with it. It is a strange memoir of sorts that uses humor to alleviate its seriousness, and the beauty of it is that while the reader is laughing along, enjoying both the writing and the script, they are also understanding and learning about Brosh’s coping mechanism and ways of dealing with what she has gone through. To call it both amusing and funny is a gross understatement to both these words. Read Hyperbole and a Half, and you shall discover why.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Hyperbole and a Half from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Indexing” by Seanan McGuire (47North, 2014)

Indexing
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Seanan McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye urban fantasy series, as well as the author of some great biological horror books like the Newsflesh trilogy and Parasite under the pseudonym Mira Grant. In Indexing, she brings her two worlds together in a way, employing elements of the urban fantastic, but adhering to the rules of genetics and viruses.

In this world there are those that live their everyday, expected lives and nothing happens, but there are those who don’t know they are a part of something bigger and magical, who can suddenly have their existence affected by a memetic incursion, finding themselves playing a lead role in a fairytale as one of its characters. And these aren’t the happy Disney tales we’ve become used to, but the darker, original ones filled with blood and death. Whether it’s a Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ugly Stepsister or Evil Queen, once the incursion has begun it’s very hard to put a stop to it.

Fortunately, there is a group known as the ATI Management Bureau that takes care of these incursions. They are trained professionals with a crack team in all areas, from research to communication when an incursion has begun, to sending out the right team to deal with said incursion. Of course, a number of the team are fairy tale characters who have had their memetic incursions held at bay or controlled and so know full well what they’re dealing with. But because this is a Seanan McGuire novel, nothing ever goes according to plan.

McGuire has taking an interesting premise, using her knowledge and research (she holds a degree in fairytales and mythology), as well as what she has learned from her other series, and brings it all together in a fun adventure story that turns many of the fairytales we consider ourselves very familiar with completely on their heads. She amps the drama and keeps the conflicts cropping up and building from chapter to chapter.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Indexing from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book Report: Amazon’s Luster is Tarnished, Game of Thrones Goes For Eight, Habitual Reading & More!

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Hachette continues not to bow down to Amazon, as the publisher chief explains why it’s important.
With Hachette as their publisher, both Stephen Colbert and J. K. Rowling have things to say about Amazon.
The New York Times has some suggestions to help fight against Amazon.

 

“The Troop” by Nick Cutter (Gallery Books, 2014)

The Troop
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The Troop is a return to a classic sort of horror that starts out scaring you quick, then builds and builds, letting your imagination ratchet up your fear with each chapter. As Stephen King’s quote for the book says, “Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”

Scoutmaster Tim Riggs gets the fun job of leading a troop of fourteen-year-old boys into the heart of the Canadian wilderness to teach them about survival and roughing it. He happens to be a medical doctor and feels like he can handle whatever nature can throw at him, and has never had any issues before. That is, until now.

A stranger shipwrecks himself on the island and soon runs into the scoutmaster and the boys, and he is very, very sick. There is something inside him, eating him away, turning him to skin and bones. Riggs watches this before his very eyes as he tries to help the suffering man, who soon dies of what appears to be starvation. It is a sad day for the troop, but they must move on. Except, Riggs is noticing that he now has this growing hunger within him that cannot be satiated; he knows that he is sick, and whatever that poor man had he now has.

The boys know they must now fend for themselves, but Cutter has done a great job of creating an interesting cast of characters here, as each boy is individual with his hang-ups and issues, and as the reader follows the story along, it’s discovered that there are some real special kids here with some big personal and psychological problems. Combine that with this strange sickness and the harshness of the Canadian wilderness, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a story going.

Cutter intersperses chapters with reports, interviews, articles and documents recorded after the ending of the story, which just helps to pique the reader’s interest further. While towards the end some storylines get dragged out a bit, overall the book keeps you hooked to the end, which you have no real clue about. This is horror at its best: making you want to stop reading right away, but knowing you physically are unable to.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Troop from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

S. VI

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[This is the sixth installment in a series. The whole series can be found here.]

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They key to a good book is that it needs to keep you hooked, and S. certainly remains true to this, as does the sub-book within it - Ship of Theseus – which goes from the mystical to the action-packed to the outright bizarre. There’s a little bit of everything to keep you interested. What’s also interesting is that the book Ship of Theseus, being Straka’s last book, features numerous references to his other books, all clearly cited by the translator as well as pointed out by the two readers – Jennifer and Eric.

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As chapter five progresses, it’s revealed that the likelihood of Jen actually graduating appears to be more and more remote, as she does worse in her classes, the book and Eric clearly distracting her, absorbing her life to the point where she doesn’t seem to really care, even though Eric continues to point this out to her. Much like the character S in Ship of Theseus, Jen is also adrift in this story. (See what I did there.)

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A problem that does start to develop with S. from the reader’s perspective is all the cool handouts and media that are part of the book are not always clear and obvious with their intention and/or meaning. Sometimes there will be a reference in the story, or the characters reading the book will mention or point it out in some way. Other times there’s nothing and the reader is left feeling a little confused why there’s a postcard from someone and what bearing it has on the book. Perhaps there should’ve been some sort of separate handout listing and giving a brief explanation on the inserts. I know it would’ve detracted from the overall effect of the project, but it risks losing the reader a little, which one should really avoid.

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It’s revealed that the translator for Ship of Theseus is working on a code with the footnotes, which Eric and Jen deduce and discuss, as well as the apparent fact that the translator was working on this code for years. It’s the start of what will turn out to be a complete hidden communication between the translator and the author, a most unusual relationship.

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The abundance of strange “S”s found around the world continues, and is discussed a little in the context of the story with Straka saying he was unaware of this, even though it seems pretty prevalent both in Straka’s life, Jen’s and Eric’s lives, and even in the story of Ship of Theseus, adding to the overall weirdness of the book.

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At the end of the fifth chapter of Ship of Theseus there is a basic return to how the story originally started off with S on the ship with some unusual characters, and now he’s back even though things are different and yet still the same.

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Book Report: Reading Rainbow Kickstarted, Books Too Smart For You, Outback Bookstores & More!

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The Kickstarter has surpassed the million dollar goal and is working its way through three million to be restarted as a webseries.
Relations between the online shopping juggernaut and the publishing giant continue to strain as others voice their opinions on the whole matter. Ultimately, “the reader is caught in the crossfire.”
James Patterson speaks out about Amazon at BEA.

“Kronos Rising: After 6 Million Years the World’s Greatest Predator is Back” Max Hawthorne (Far From the Tree Press, 2014)

Kronos Rising
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The book Jaws by Peter Benchley was published in 1974 and became an international bestseller, followed by the movie adaptation that became an instant cult classic and a favorite of many. Since then some sequels have been made, and many knock-off novels that play on the whole idea of a sea monster on the loose terrorizing a small town and its people.

I thought Kronos Rising would be another unrealistic example of this genre: predictable, over the top, and simply inaccurate, but the bookwas in fact a complete surprise.

It is a classic setting: a small American town on the east coast where things are simple and straightforward and haven’t changed in some time. Jake Braddock is the town sheriff, a former Olympic fencer who lost his wife in a tragic accident and has made some bad choices in his life, but now he’s on the straight and narrow and does just fine dealing with simple, small-time crimes, until that all changes.

People are starting to disappear out on the water and at first it seems like there might be a man-eating shark on the loose, but the evidence seems to point to something bigger, much bigger. And when an uneaten part of a rich senator’s son shows up, things really begin to heat up. The media gets involved wanting to know what creature is behind the attacks. Braddock enlists the help of a pretty scientist who has shown up with her crew from the World Cetacean Society; she has some evidence revealing that the creature is not just big, but enormous; a surviving relic from the time of the dinosaurs know as the kronosaurus queenslandicus. It is hard to believe but the evidence is irrefutable.

The media has a field day with this announcement, not believing it until the giant creature shows up in the harbor and wreaks havoc upon the residents. The rich senator calls in an élite group to take care of this creature, enlisting the help of Braddock and the scientist, though the sheriff knows they’re getting in way over their heads.

The characters in Kronos Rising are well developed, each with their own complicated backgrounds that have a strong bearing on their current lives. The key to a good story is conflict, and this book is full of it, as the characters come into conflict with each other, which at times feels a little contrived, but nevertheless makes for addictive, page-turning reading.

Max Hawthorne has also done his research into marine biology and ocean life, which all helps make his characters more knowledgeable and interesting and the whole world more believable, even if there is a giant monster eating people in it. The writing is compelling and action-filled so even though the book is well over 500 pages long, it is still an addictive read. While the last third of the book goes off the rails a little and some of the characters become almost caricatures, overall the book is a great addition to this genre, worthy of sitting on the shelf next to Peter Benchley’s Jaws.

Originally written on May 11, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Kronos Rising from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.