Monday, 17 November 2014

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn (4/5)

First published: 2010
Page count: 274

The back says: Presenting Emilie Autumn's long awaited autobiographical, reality-bending thriller, "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls." This beautifully bound hardcover volume measures 8" x 11.5" and clocks in at a massive 274 fully illustrated pages. Positively packed with hand-written memoirs, photos, and paintings, this profoundly empowering epic not only deserves a place on your tea table, it is also one of the most complete accounts of bipolar disorder ever penned, and will take readers behind the doors of both modern day psych ward and Victorian insane asylum in this true life horror tale of madness, murder, and medical experimentation.

But reader beware: It's much easier to get into the Asylum than it is to get out.

I say: If I had read this in my teens it would have ruined me completely.

In the best of ways, of course.

However, being an adult I could recognise some parts of Autumn’s tale that seemed like fabrications artistic licence for the sake of the story – it is classified as an autobiography. One of these were the fact that she says that the carers in the asylum allowed her to keep her socks even though she very easily could have hung herself with them. This could be true for all I know, but it seems improbable. I am not going to go into what the other little things I questioned were, but that is the main reason this didn’t get a full 5/5.

So there.

What we have is the story of Emilie admitting herself to an asylum on her doctor’s recommendation after a failed suicide attempt. While there is isn’t allowed to check herself out – as she had been promised – and is put in the same ward as those with serious mental illnesses. While in the asylum she receives letters in her notebook from Emily who is admitted into an insane asylum in Victorian England. The narrative weaves between the two characters and also includes illustrations by and pictures of Emilie.

I found both stories intriguing, although I was more engrossed in Emily’s tale, which seemed more fleshed out. Admittedly there doesn’t appear to be very much to do in a mental ward, but the prose and flow of events made more sense in Emily’s parts – which seems like a strange thing to say since [spoiler: highlight to read] Emily is just the alter ego of Emilie, but there you have it. Also, the monstrous hardships Emily had to endure were so vividly described I just had to root for her.

Having said that, Emilie also had to go through some serious things that I do not want to look lightly upon (regardless of me believing all of it or not).

The book itself looks amazing and although I was enthralled by it, I found no interest in Autumn’s music or the future theatrical musical production of the book.

No offence meant, it’s just not for me.

So yeah, 4/5 due to reasons explained and the instances of magical realism which I didn’t particularly care for.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (4.5/5) [re-read]

First published: 2009
Page count: 375

The back says: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is empty.
But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, for just as long, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl is sent up – the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprisingly yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home… wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the Maze is unsolvable.

And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers – if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

I say: I don’t really have that much to add to my first review, other than that certain parts towards the end left me rather impatient, but that was more due to my knowing what was going to happen. The main reason I re-read this so soon was because my niece read it prior to seeing the film, and she needed someone to discuss it with.

Also, this is probably our next trilogy for our yearly book club.

Although everyone knows that I love to moan about how films always ruin the book, this time I was seriously seething.

They.

Ruined.

Everything.

Quite literally.

It was not the same story that I fell in love with, but some inane bastardisation that left me cold and unhappy. There were added scenes that did nothing more than waste time and the brilliance of the maze was turned into something I can’t even begin to describe.

Ugh.

So yeah, don’t see the film because it was terrible. Do read the book. It wasn’t better the second time around, nor was it worse.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman (3/5)

First published: 1999
Page count: 120

The back says: All Tom's friends really are superheroes.

There's the Ear, the Spooner, the Impossible Man. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding, the Perfectionist was hypnotized (by ex-boyfriend Hypno, of course) to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, she's sure that Tom has abandoned her.

So she's moving to Vancouver. She'll use her superpower to make Vancouver perfect and leave all the heartbreak in Toronto. With no idea Tom's beside her, she boards an airplane in Toronto. Tom has until the wheels touch the ground in Vancouver to convince her he's visible, or he loses her forever.


I say: I first came across Kaufman when I read and adored The Tiny Wife, and I have been meaning to read more of his works for quite some time, which is probably why I found myself a tad disappointed with this.

The whole premise of the novella is that all Tom’s friends are superheroes – and I understand what Kaufman did with that – but I didn’t really like it. I don’t have a particular reason for not liking it other than it feeling a bit contrived.

It just wasn’t the wonderful story I was hoping for.

I don’t really have anything to say about either the prose or the story itself; I just read it to read it, which is sad because every now and then a little nugget of profundity would slip through my hardened exterior and make me smile.

3/5 because it was a short and worth the read (my expectations were just too high).

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Liquor Store Diaries and Other Ramblings by Nathaniel Carroll (2.5/5)

First published: 2014
Page count: 100

The back says: You work at a liquor store. People want to drink, you make it happen. Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong. Find out what it's like to be submersed in a world of desperate change-counters, pesky co-workers, and outrageous alcoholics. Discover how easy it is to learn a lingo and go from clerk to implicated felon. Experience through the eyes of the entrenched the toll taken on the soul after years of catering to and enabling the cream of any town's most depraved crop. Not for the faint of heart, the raw observations and judgments captured in this collection are sure to make you cringe, laugh at times, and walk away with a renewed sense of appreciation for the public servant who holds the key to your salivation.

I say: This was a Kindle edition that I downloaded during my brief trial period of Kindle Unlimited (which I didn’t continue because it just didn’t seem worth it) and to say that I am disappointed would imply that I was looking forward to reading it.

Which I wasn’t.

The most annoying thing about forcing my way through this rather short read was the abundance of spelling and grammatical errors on nearly every page. If I wasn’t re-reading sentences that made little sense, I was cringing at the flagrant lack of editing.

Couldn’t anyone have read through this just the one time?

Having said that, I understand where Carroll was taking his anti-hero, but I quickly lost interest because it was all just a little bit too over the top for my liking. I suppose selling urine in the liquor store may be feasible, but I just couldn’t deal with where any of it was going.

Although the other ramblings left much to desire, I can still see myself reading something else by Carroll in the future under the strict guidance of an editor and proof reader because there was something about the prose that I did like. It's a shame it got lost in all the mistakes.