Sunday, July 24, 2016

#CBR8 Review #20: Books of Adam – The Blunder Years by Adam Ellis

That transition into adulthood and finding your way can be a tricky one, and full of random shenanigans. I feel like that’s a common topic for a lot of stories today about finding success and where you want to go in your adult life: I am definitely sitting right in that stage, just trying to figure stuff out and not really sure the best way to go about it.

In The Blunder Years, a lot of those fears of failure and feeling lost and adrift come to life through little essays about various moments in Adam Ellis’ life, as he tries to make his way after graduating from art school. Stages of learning and progression are presented in the form of funny stories that are punctuated with humorous comics to illustrate the wackiness of some of the situations he found himself in. The drawings involved in this are cute and comedic, and Ellis definitely has a distinct style about how he portrays people. And if you haven’t checked out his other web comics, I would definitely suggest taking a look, as they can be quite funny. (He is now over at Buzzfeed, apparently). 

Topics that are hit on within this book include leaving town for something new, first apartments, finding friends, relationships, finding work, and general advice and lessons learned on the way. Some of the tales recounted are quite funny, and Ellis’ mannerisms and character throughout them really reminded me of myself at times. I will, however, say that overall I wasn’t really sure where this book was going or if there was a clear focus as to an ultimate conclusion. But maybe that’s the point of the whole thing, given the stage of life it represents: sometimes there isn’t a destiny to achieve or an overarching plan, but we are just blundering through things and figuring it all out as we go along. I know I certainly am. A human meatball disaster.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

#CBR8 Review #19: John Dies at the End by David Wong

You know when you’re dreaming and something absurd and surreal happens but your dream self is just like, “yeah, that makes sense”? That’s what the progression of this book and the characters’ reactions felt like to me. They just kind of rolled with everything, despite it being a ridiculous ride of the supernatural and things that don’t entirely make sense. A crossover between our world and another filled with monsters and other strange beings and seemingly arbitrary rules of what is possible and what is not. But I guess when things get weird, you learn along the way, which is exactly what the protagonists of this book do.

John Dies at the End follows a young man named David, and his friend John, as they become embroiled in a strange fight against evil paranormal forces from other realms. It all starts when John ends up taking a bizarre “drug” at a party, and begins to see things that not all people can see: other planes, if you will. David soon ends up accidentally having this drug enter his bloodstream as well, and well, wackiness ensues as they try to stop various demons, creatures, etc from attacking people and entering our world on a larger scale.

But the thing about David and John is that they are human disasters. You probably knew some guys like this at some point in your life: the young guys who are really lovely and fun, but don’t really have any huge motivations and are just kind of coasting into adulthood without having any of their crap together? I know some guys like that, actually, and they are really sweet but oh boy they are unmanageable.

And that’s exactly what makes this story really funny. It’s not just the absurdity of everything that happens once this paranormal stuff starts to surface, it’s how willing David and John are to just go with it. They might ask questions for a minute or be confused as to what’s going on, but they are very willing to just accept things as reality. David has to use a bratwurst to communicate with his friend like some kind of weird phone? Okay, I guess that’s just what has to happen. A strange jellyfish-like creature is floating through a local girl’s house? Right, let’s see how we can kill it.

Honestly, I love absurdist humor, as it catches my attention way more than any violence, sex, or anything else that’s simply mean to be shocking. At times I wasn’t really sure where this book was going, however, and am not sure where the sequel will go, but I enjoyed it enough to want to see what happens in the next book for sure. 

[Don't forget to visit the Cannonball Read main site]

Saturday, July 2, 2016

#CBR8 Review #18: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.”

You know how horror movies can be super effective when they create a sense of unease just by making you know that something is not quite right? But you can’t determine what that thing that’s not right is, and therefore you have no idea what to do or how to fix the situation? How the idea of a monster is almost scarier than when you actually see what it is, because of the way your imagination runs wild and fills in the dark space with exactly what you fear? Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods, uses this idea of ambiguity and uncertainty to create an eerie set of visual short stories, all of which center around the concept of the dark and mysterious nature of the woods. What dangers might be lurking in there, unseen? What kind of monsters do our minds make up when we let it drift?

The five stories (as well as a short conclusion) are all presented in a way that never quite leaves a definitive end to the story: it is up to us to fill in the blanks as we see fit. While this has the potential to be frustrating, the ambiguity that I mentioned before really works here, as it creates a sense of unknowing to add to the overall mood of the collection.
The stories included in Through the Woods are as follows (and I’ll be brief in my descriptions as each story is pretty brief, and therefore I don’t want to give too much away):
- “Our Neighbor’s House”: Three young girls are left at home when their father goes on a hunting trip, but never returns.
- “A Lady’s Hands are Cold”: A woman marries a man, but begins hearing strange sounds from his house at night.
- “His Face All Red”: A man’s brother returns after being lost to the woods.
- “My Friend Janna”: A young girl acts as the town’s local medium.

- “ The Nesting Place”: A young girl does not take kindly to her brother’s new fiancĂ©. 

Each story is presented in a visual fashion, the artwork of which is absolutely beautiful and ties the whole thing together really well. I am particularly fond of all the artistic depictions of the woods, my favourite being a full, two-page spread of the woods at night found in the book’s conclusion section. Carroll also has a real knack for showing people’s exhaustion and unrest in their expressions, which is another thing that I think really works here as it illuminates how tired and drained people can become when they are stressed and afraid. She has a truly distinct style of artwork, which may not be for everyone, but I found it to be quite expressive and really love it personally.

The only thing that I could really bemoan about this book was that it reads very quickly, and therefore I almost wanted there to be more of it. I am not the fastest reader, but managed to finish it in one short sitting (possibly owing to there being not too much text on each page, as the artwork is really the main focus). It is not really like anything else I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed this short and pretty book. I can see why some people may not love it, as it’s the kind of thing that’s not for everyone. I was also under the impression that it would be more of a “horror”-style book, but really I would just call it eerie or creepy, as that’s the mood I got through the whole thing, and it was really effective in maintaining.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]