Book Review: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey (Audiobook narrated by Steven Boyer) (Series, #2)
Will Henry, 12 year old orphan and assistant to renowned Monstrumologist, Pellinore Warthrop, is shocked to find a refined woman on Warthrop’s doorstep. She is the wife of Warthrop’s best friend who has now gone missing in rural Canada while looking for the elusive wendigo (aka werewolf). Warthrop insists that there is no such thing as a wendigo, but he agrees to go looking for his missing friend anyway, even if he believes his mission was ridiculous and an affront to monstrumology’s reputation.
I can’t believe it took me this long to get to the sequel of one of my rare 5 star reads, The Monstrumologist. I gave my dad a copy of The Monstrumologist for his birthday, and his enthusiasm for the series brought my own back to me, so I joined in with him to read through it. I had a bunch of credits stacked up on Audible, so I went with the audiobook versions. My speedy father reading in print quickly outpaced me, but that’s ok. I’m really enjoying the audiobooks, although I’m sure I will be reading the final book in the series in the fall when it comes out on my kindle. Can’t wait around for the audiobook! All of which is to say, my enthusiasm for the series remains high, if not steady, and the audiobooks are just as enjoyable as the print.
Yancey does something brave for a second book in the series. Instead of following the formula that worked so well in the first book and basically doing a monster-of-the-week-in-our-town method like Buffy and so many other urban fantasies, he changes things up. There is a monster, yes, but it is entirely different from the first one. This is a monster that might not even exist, unlike the anthropophagi in the first book who are almost immediately clearly real. Additionally, Warthrop and Will must travel away from New England to go looking for the trouble. It does not come to them. Another good plot twist is that the story does not entirely take place in Canada. It moves to New York City. Thus we get both the dangers of the wilderness and the dangers of the city in one book. These plot choices mean that what makes this series a series is the characters, not the fantastical nature of their world. By the end of the book I was thinking of the series in terms of the relationship between Will and Warthrop, not in the context of what nasty beast we might meet next. It thus does what great genre fiction should do. It looks at a real life issue and dresses it up with some genre fun. And the issues addressed here are big ones. What is love and what should we be willing to sacrifice for it? Is it more loving to stay with someone at all costs or to let them go to protect them? At what point do you give up on someone?
The horror certainly felt more grotesque this time around, although it’s possible I just wasn’t remembering the anthropophagi that well. This is a bloody book full of horrible things. Precisely what I expect out of my genre. There’s not much more to say about the horror than keep it up, Yancey. Also that this might not be for you if blood and guts and profanity are not your thing. But they *are* mine and, oh, how well they are done here.
Just as with the first book, the language Yancey uses is beautiful. It’s rich, eloquent, visual, and decadent. It’s a word-lover’s book. An example:
But love has more than one face. And the yellow eye is not the only eye. There can be no desolation without abundance. And the voice of the beast is not the only voice that rides upon the high wind….It is always there. Like the hunger that can’t be satisfied, though the tiniest sip is more satisfying than the most sumptuous of feasts.
The characterization here remains strong for Will and grows much stronger for Warthrop. Will grows and changes as a 12 year old in this time period in his particular situation would be expected to. With Warthrop, though, we get a much clearer backstory and motivations for his actions. In the first book we came to know Will. In this one we come to know Warthrop, although Will is not left without any development. It’s a good balance. I also enjoyed the addition of two female characters, who I thought were well-written, particularly Lily, the budding young feminist determined to be the world’s first female monstrumologist. She is truly three-dimensional in spite of her rather limited screen-time compared to Will.
The pacing doesn’t build steadily from beginning to end. It rather builds to a first climax, comes back down and builds again to a second climax. This makes sense, particularly in a werewolf book, but I must admit it felt a bit odd in the moment. It almost felt like reading two books in one until it all came together in the end. In fact, this is one of those books that gets better the more you look back on the story as a whole. Be prepared to enjoy it more in retrospect that in the first reading.
The audiobook narrator, Boyer, has a tough book to work with. There are a wide range of characters of multiple nationalities to act out (Canadian, German, French, New York, Massachusetts, etc…). Additionally, at least three different languages are spoken (English, French, and German). I’m not fluent in anything but English, but I did take German in university, and I can say that his German accent is at least passable. He also does an excellent job creating a unique voice for each character. I only rarely got lost, and that was generally due to rapid-fire conversation where each character only had a word or two. I must say, though, that he does mispronounce a few words, which detracts from Yancey’s gorgeous writing. I blame the audiobook director for this, though. S/he should have realized and corrected this. Overall, though, the mispronounced words are only in a couple of locations and do not deeply affect the reading of the book.
Overall this is an excellent follow-up to a remarkable first book in the series. It brings to the table that which made the first so powerful: YA horror with rich language set in a historic time period. But it also changes things up enough to avoid falling into the monster-of-the-week trap. The entries in the series are part of a larger story, and that can be seen. Fans of the first book should pick up the second book asap.
5 out of 5 stars
Evan walks the seacoast of his small town every night reliving the horror of watching his son drown. But one night he hears a beautiful song and discovers a perfectly naked, perfectly beautiful woman attached to it. As he begins an affair, willfully oblivious to anything about the woman beyond her beauty, he fails to realize he is falling for the siren of Delilah.
I picked this up during one of the monthly kindle book sales on a whim, and am I glad I did! This book was simultaneously terrifying and electrifying. The flip-flop between fear and titillation was a truly delightful reading experience, and it came with a well thought-out plotline and delicious settings to boot.
Evan is not a likeable guy. In fact, Ligeia, the Siren, is more likable than he is, and she routinely rips people’s throats out with just her teeth. But disliking Evan works for the story. It lets the reader invest in Ligeia and see her side of things. There are ways in which she is a monster, yes, but there are also ways in which she is quite human. Having a deeply flawed male “victim” to her charms allows the reader to see the monster in us all.
Both the horror and the sex scenes are adeptly written. The sex scenes are titillating without being too much, and, similarly, the horrific scenes are grotesque without going too far. The presence of both in the story makes for an ever-changing, exciting read. Similarly, the plot is complex without being overly so and managed to keep me guessing. It also strikes the balance quite well.
I also really enjoyed the light commentary on hunting and eating another species. It provides a depth to the story beyond simply lust leading one astray.
Kind of puts a whole new spin on fishing, doesn’t it? Here you men are always out there reeling in the fish, and here’s a half-fish woman who’s reeling in the men. (page 146)
Of course, there is also commentary on cheating and the other woman. There has to be, since Ligeia is Evan’s mistress. I must admit that that basic plot can sometimes upset me, so I do think it distracted me a bit from enjoying the book as much as I would have otherwise. On a similar note, the ending is not quite what I would have hoped for, although it did make sense in the context of the story.
Overall, this is an interesting mix of horror and erotica that is fast-paced and enjoyable. Those sensitive to cheating as a plot device or explicit deaths may want to exercise caution. Recommended to those who would enjoy their horror and erotica together.
4 out of 5 stars
When Josey arrives a secluded trailer park near Albuquerque to empty their septic tank, it soon becomes apparent that not all is right in the park. In fact, most of the residents have turned to zombies. As Josey’s fight for survival goes on, we meet a quirky cast of survivors, bystanders, perpetrators–and zombies: illegal immigrants who call the valley home, their exploitative factory boss, a WWII veteran and grandpa, his young grandson, a paraplegic Vietnam Vet, a boa constrictor, bicycling missionaries, and many more. Will anyone survive the valley of death?
I have finally found the exception to my don’t-take-book-recommendations-from-other-people rule: my daddy. My dad texted me and told me he was reading a book about a zombie trailer park and asked if I’d like to borrow it when he was done. I couldn’t turn that down, so he sent his kindle loan to me as soon as he was finished reading it. I knew within the first few pages that my dad had picked a winner. That really shouldn’t surprise me, because, well, it’s my dad, and we’re very similar, but I had been burned a few times with book recommendations recently. Anyway. On to the review!
Bebb’s book is a fresh, engaging take on a zombie outbreak. The origin is a factory error, which is decidedly different from the more usual government experimentation or voodoo approach. It’s great commentary on the exploitative practices of factories, not to mention the exploitation of illegal immigrants, without ever being too heavy-handed or preachy. The zombies are a mix of the rage virus and traditional undead. Before dying they are inexplicably full of rage and will eat almost anything but also when they die they reanimate. It’s a cool mix, and I enjoyed it.
The cast of characters is incredibly imaginative, diverse, and even-handed. People are truly just people (or zombies) regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. And, really, how many books can say they have a WWII vet, a sewer truck worker, a mechanically talented Latina, a wheelchair-bound obese meth chef, a loyal dog, bicycling missionaries, and a pot-growing paraplegic Vietnam Vet. I mean, really. And none of them are two-dimensional caricatures either. They are all well-rounded and presented with thought and humanity. I also never had that problem I sometimes have in books where you can’t tell the different characters apart. Everyone was entirely unique and easy to remember.
The plot is complex. I honestly did not know how it was going to end, and it maintains a fast pace throughout. I was never bored and was never entirely certain what was going to happen next. That’s coming from a big zombie fan, so I do think that’s saying something significant about the uniqueness of the engaging plot.
What really makes the book, though, is the sprinkling of humor throughout. This type of humor won’t match everyone, but it certainly works for me. I described it to my dad as “Patrick F. McManus with zombies,” but if you don’t get that reference, it’s hard to describe the humor. So, here are a couple of quotes from the book to demonstrate it.
Your average one armed pot growing hermit who just murdered two men might be thinking about a variety of things. (location 2592)
Crazy cop fuckers done bit off my titty! (location 5423)
That second one….oh man. I laugh every time I see it.
So with all this love, why not five stars? Well, much to Bebb’s chagrin, I’m sure, there aren’t enough commas. (His author’s intro states that previous reviews said there were too many and now people will probably think there are too few. Sorry to confirm that suspicion, Bebb!) Compound sentences tend to run on and on with no commas or semi-colons, which can be a bit frustrating to read. Also, the book isn’t quite properly formatted for the kindle. Its display varies from section to section. Similarly, while some sections are clearly divided by a dividing line (such as with tildes “~~~~”), others just have a big gap, which is not what one should use for ebooks. With the variety of ereaders, it’s important to use something besides space as a signal that the reader has entered a new section, since the space can display drastically differently on different readers. It’s best to use something like the tildes between sections. Using empty space is a holdover from print that doesn’t work. Bebb did use the tilde line in some sections, but not all, so there’s also a bit of a consistency problem.
Overall, though, the formatting and comma issues did not distract me from the wonderfully unique and humorous zombie trailer park story. I’m so glad my dad discovered this indie author and passed his work on to me, and I look forward to reading more of it in the future. Highly recommended to all zombie fans, provided you like the type of humor outlined above.
4 out of 5 stars
Note: It’s currently listed for free!
ETA: Had a delightful email convo with the author, and we determined that I read an older version of the book. The current one available should have mostly cleared up editing/layout concerns.
Hello my lovely readers! It is finally fall in lovely New England. If I was forced to pick, I’d choose fall as my favorite season, although winter would come in a very close second. I might not feel this way in other areas of the US where there is no leaf changing or crisp autumnal weather or orchard season. But here all of these awesome things exist, so yayyyy!
Things I love about Fall, in no particular order:
- Cooler weather, which means I don’t immediately look like I ran a 5k when I step out my door
- Fall fashion, particularly knee high socks! And denim jackets! And getting to wear my hair down periodically!
- Also my hair no longer looks like I stuck my finger in a light socket.
- Pumpkin. Spice. Latte. (with soy)
- Fall leaves
- Kicking fall leaves
- Hiking in the woods
- Hot chocolate
- Spiked hot chocolate
- Giant pots of tea
- The perfect weather for snorgling
- Did I mention pie?
- Squash dishes
- Slow cooker season!
- Long hot baths
- Related: horror everywhere. Oh how I love horror.
- Cinnamon and nutmeg in everything
- CIDER for the love of fsm, I almost forgot cider.
I had a long weekend this weekend, which was partially a reward to myself for making it through what I have been told are the toughest two months in medical academic libraries’ calendar year and also partially to spend some time with my bf who just got back from a two week trip abroad. Many things on this list were covered, including pumpkin spice latte and pie. We made an apple pie together with apples we got from the orchard ourselves, and it was amazingly delicious. Special thanks to my daddy for sharing his pie crust secrets.
As for the blog, you may have noticed that my most recent read was actually four books in one, and you really should check it out particularly if you are a scifi or 1950s American culture fan. That slowed the reviews down a bit, but I have this new rule where I won’t kick myself over my book numbers being lower because I read a long book (or two. or three!). Big books shouldn’t be left on the sidelines purely for being big.
Happy weekends and happy fall, all!
5 out of 5 stars
This is one documentary you need to believe the hype about. Chris Rock decided to make it after his daughter (not even five years old yet) asked him why she doesn’t have good hair. This documentary then looks at the world and culture of African-American hair. It covers everything from perms to weaves to hair shows. Chris Rock interviews famous and not famous people alike with a certain charm and intelligence that gets them to really open up. I think the scene that best demonstrates the feel of the whole movie is when Chris Rock is interviewing a white male scientist about sodium hydroxide, which is the perm that African-Americans use to straighten their hair. The scientist has just shown Chris how quickly sodium hydroxide eats through raw chicken, and Chris says, “You know black people put that on their hair.” Horrified, the scientist says, “Really?! Why would they do that?!” Chris says, “To look like white people.” Epic. Silence. The documentary is smart, because it doesn’t run around blaming white people for this whole culture among African-Americans against natural hair. It kind of blames everybody, and it does it in a witty, intelligent manner.
The Wolf Man
4 out of 5 stars
Another from the 100 Horror Movies To See Before You Die list I’ve been working my way through. A wayward son of a British aristocrat comes home to hopefully reestablish himself in the little town. He starts to pursue an engaged gal, but while doing so, gets bit by a wolf. Naturally, he turns into a werewolf. I think what’s the creepiest about this film is how the main character goes about pursuing the engaged girl. He starts off by watching her through a window and then hitting on her in her father’s shop in possibly the creepiest manner ever. She resists….at first. But then doesn’t. The whole film sort of feels like a judgment on both him for being a creeper and the engaged girl for being seduced by the bad boy instead of sticking with her nice, stable man. Kind of a nice change of pace from more modern films, eh? The special effects aren’t as good as some others from this same time period that I’ve watched, but they’re still fairly decent. It’s a fun change of pace if you enjoy shapeshifters. Also the “British accents” are pretty much nonexistent.
The House Of Usher
5 out of 5 stars
When this movie started, I thought it was going to be cheesy. But I was very wrong. It turns out that this is an adaptation of a Poe story, and it is completely frightening, even with outdated special effects. Essentially, this guy wants to marry this girl, but her brother insists that the Ushers need to let the family die out. He also claims the house itself is evil. I won’t tell you what happens from there, but suffice to say the tension builds perfectly until you are on the edge of your seat for the climax. Vincent Price plays the brother and let me tell you, he is a legend for a reason. When I finished this one, I was actually nervous to go to bed. Which never happens to me.
PS There is a 2007 remake. Ignore it. Ignore it so hard.
3 out of 5 stars
This is based on the true story of a murder during the 1980s ecstatic clubbing days (see what I did there?), which was written about in Disco Bloodbath by James St James. (Btw, the memoir is almost impossible to find and hella expensive). Anyway as for the movie. It’s very campy. The absolute best part is seeing Macauley Culkin and Seth Green play two fabulous druggy gay men. It’s campy but not over-the-top. I mean, these clubbers really did act like this. They weren’t exaggerating. But the plot is oddly told, jumping around perspectives and time and can be hard to keep up with. Also the ultimate murder is told by a rat (a man in a giant rat suit). So yeah. It’s odd but fun. Recommended to fans of Seth Green.
5 out of 5 stars
This movie really doesn’t need much explanation. It’s a classic (chosen for preservation) for good reason. I have read Dracula, and I was flabbergasted at how good the adaptation was. Modern film adaptations could learn a thing or two from this production. Bela Lugosi as Dracula is still deliciously creepy, instilling chills. Two cool things to know. One, originally there was an epilogue in which the audience is told vampires are indeed real that has been forever lost so the ending does feel a bit abrupt (because it’s not actually the ending). Also, the entire movie was shot simultaneously on the same sets in Spanish (with Latin* actors).
There’s a tale we have yet to hear about the ka-tet in the time between facing the man in the green castle and the wolves of the Calla. A time when the ka-tet hunkered down and learned a special billy-bumbler talent, an old tale of Gilead, and the first task Roland faced as a young gunslinger after the events at Mejis.
When I heard there was going to be a new Dark Tower book, I had basically three reactions. 1) Yay! 2) Shit he better not ruin them. 3) Guess I didn’t actually finish that series after all, did I? May have written the series review a bit too soon…..
But mainly my reaction was a skeptical excitement. I love the world of the Dark Tower and was ecstatic to be able to get more of it (yes, I know there are the young gunslinger comic books, but they feel slightly less the same to me since they are in a different format). However, I was also terrified because well we’ve all been in an instance where we mess with something that was good to the point where it’s not good anymore, right? I was worried King was going to do that to the Dark Tower. I am so so so happy to be able to say that worry was unfounded.
This book goes to show just how clearly the entire world of the Dark Tower series exists in King’s mind. The format is a story within a story within a story. The ka-tet have to hunker down to wait out a storm, so Roland starts to tell them a story from when he was a young gunslinger. Within that story, the young Roland tells someone else an old story of Gilead. The Gilead story wraps up, then the young gunslinger, then the ka-tet. A writer must know his world very well to be able to handle such a structure smoothly without confusing his reader, and King does just that. There was no confusion and each story felt fully told. Or as fully told as anything is in the world of the Dark Tower.
I’ve said before that every book in the series basically is a different genre, which is part of what makes it so fun. So what genre is this one? I’d say it’s fairy tales. Once upon a times. And fairy tales generally have a lesson to be learned within them, so what is it in these three? Well, they vary, but I would say overall it’s about leaving aside childish things and childish ways to become an adult. (And, I might add, that happens much much earlier in the Dark Tower than it does in our particular world).
I will say, although I certainly had the impression that this book was going to be about Jake and Oy, it really isn’t. It isn’t much about the ka-tet at all. It’s about Roland and the role of billy-bumblers in the world. Although, personally I wanted more billy-bumblers, but I *always* want more billy-bumblers, because they are definitely my favorite fantastical creature. I’m still holding out hope that King will write something sometime entirely about Oy or billy-bumblers. But this book is not it.
That said, I was oddly not disappointed to see far less of the ka-tet than I was expecting, because the two stories within the frame of the ka-tet are so strongly told. They are just….wow. Terrifying, horrifying, unpredictable, and hilarious simultaneously.
That’s the thing that makes any Dark Tower book fun. It contains all of those things.
Lines can go from laugh out loud humor (with a touch of truth):
Turn yer ears from their promises and yer eyes from their titties. (page 43)
To the starkly sad truth:
Those were good years, but as we know—from stories and from life—the good years never last long. (page 110)
To the simply universal:
“What if I fail?” Tim cried.
Maerlyn laughed. “Sooner or later, we all do.” (page 255)
*shrugs* I admit I’m a bit of a fan girl of the series, but even a fan girl can be sorely disappointed, and I was really and truly not disappointed at all. I laughed, I nodded, I wondered, I quaked, I wished for an illustration sometime somewhere of billy-bumblers dancing in a clearing in the moonlight. Although, speaking of illustrations, how gorgeous is the US kindle cover?! So fucking gorgeous, that’s how.
Back to the point, I was not disappointed at all. I was ultimately elated and wishing for more. And other fans will be too.
5 out of 5 stars
Books in Series:
I’m listing all of the books so you can easily see where The Wind Through the Keyhole falls.
The Gunslinger (review)
The Drawing of the Three (review)
The Waste Lands (review)
Wizard and Glass (review)
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Wolves of the Calla (review)
Song of Susannah (review)
The Dark Tower (review)
Series Review (written before we knew there would be more)
Ok, before I review, the numberings need a bit of explanation. Comic books are issued very similarly to academic journals. So there are skinny issues that come out every few weeks (generally). A few of these bound together make a volume. A bunch of these bound together make a book (what we call in academia a “bound journal.”) I *was* reading the books of The Walking Dead but then I caught up to the author. I decided I didn’t want to buy issues, because they’re flimsy and you read through them very quickly, so I’m now reading the volumes. I hope that makes some semblance of sense. This will probably be the case throughout the rest of the series, because you have to wait a long time for the books, and I just am too impatient for that. My reviews will then be much shorter, because a book contains a few volumes, and I am now reviewing one volume at a time. Moving right along to the review!
This volume is basically cleaning up the mess from the action of the previous one and prepping for the action of the next one. Classic in-between chapter. What this volume really reminded me of is the infamous “Live together or die alone” speech by Jack in Lost. In fact, this volume sees Rick basically trying to turn into Jack and failing miserably. Long-time readers know I’ve never liked the guy, so personally I got a lot of schadenfreude out of seeing him be so pathetic in this volume.
That said, the survivors are definitely going for a new strategy, which will lend itself well to future fresh storylines, which any long-running series needs.
Fans of the sex will be quite happy with the developments in that area. Drama! Intrigue! Changes of partners!
Overall, it’s an enjoyable entry, if not mind-blowing, that perfectly sets things up for the next volume. Fans won’t be disappointed!
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Newbury Comics
Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Seven (review)
One thing I have learned from the two movie reference guides I’ve received for review since starting this book blog is that movie reference guides are not for me. Frankly with things like, oh, the internet, they’re just not useful the way they were back when I was in undergrad and professors wouldn’t accept IMDB as a reference in your English paper comparing books to their movie versions. But I digress.
Putting on my librarian cap then why does this reference guide get 2 and not 3 stars? (3 indicating not for me but maybe for others). It frankly bothers me how not academic it is. It essentially reads as a list randomly assembled by some random dude down the road, not a professor of the history of film or a film critic or anything like that really. This would be great for a blog, but not for a serious reference book. Additionally, maybe the print edition is better, but the ebook version is badly formatted and contains none of the pictures promised in the blurb.
The book basically then is your neighbor yammering in alphabetical order about random movies he selected from the early 1900s with all of the natural individual prejudices and caveats that go along with that. There’s nothing academic about it, and when push comes to shove, it’s something that would be better off as a blog than a book. I will give it this though: the title and cover are excellent.
2 out of 5 stars