About this Site

Leslie Beslie is a personal blog of me, Leslie. I share articles and thoughts on where I live and things I like. This includes NYC, books, finances, running, music, cats, and drawing.

Other Projects: French Toast Brigade | Life & Spending 2016 Weekly Planner | College Football Daybreak Podcast

Book Review: How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big / Business Self-Help

Scott Adams is the creator of the comic Dilbert. As a successful entrepreneur, he wrote this memoir/business/self-help book to provide examples of life strategies that might help others. The book starts out strong with helpful advice about business strategy. The ending becomes preachy as he turns to habits & lifestyles. Leslie Rating: 2/5

How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

I initially enjoyed reading How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. The best piece of advice from him is to use systems not goals. This is exactly how I’ve been looking at life for the past few years. Goals are for losers. You need to have systems. Without a system in place, you will fall back into the old routine. He is definitely on point there.

Adams also has a lot of optimism and focus. I like the idea of a forward focus. Being optimistic means learning from failures rather than becoming stagnant from them. His attitude is upbeat and the book starts out as an enjoyable read. The beginning of the book is very memoir so it is interesting to learn about someone else. However, from there the book is just him telling us how to live our lives.

Moving into business, the tone definitely changes and he starts to sound a little bit like an asshole. His business strategy is to always be an entrepreneur and sell a product, never selling his own time. He makes it clear that his comics are a business; he is not an artist. So if he will earn more money by changing something in the comic, he does not have the limitation of artistic integrity. This is a product so it must be designed for those willing to buy it. It also is simple so it can be easily recreated and mass produced. That way he is making the most money in the least amount of time. This is likely the type of attitude it takes to be really rich (and Adams is really rich, really really rich, and he won’t let you forget that fact).

From Business advice, he turns to straight-up life advice. This is the asshole bit. Because these things worked for him, he is certain they are key to everyone’s success. Yes, it is that preachy and self righteous. He states that this might not work for everyone but his attitude is clearly that it will. This section also has a Dale Carnegie feel to it. Which is no surprise because one of his Life Tips is to learn how to manipulate others. Sure, you’ll get other people to like you. And I guess when you’re asking people for money in the business world that is important. But it just feels so icky to me. (Clearly I am not cut out for the business world).

Another of his Life Tips is to drink coffee for the energy boost. Yes, that is a pro-tip. He also has a huge section on Daily Affirmations. But the whole idea is such a joke I’m ignoring it.

The few takeaways the book has can be found in other places. The rest of the book has a know-it-all tone that does not seem helpful. The more I thought of the book after, the less I liked it. I give it a 2/5 because the information is nothing new and his explanation of it is unnecessarily condescending.


Book Review: Sleeping Giants / Contemporary Sci-Fi

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is a contemporary sci-fi novel that interweaves the possibility of alien life with current International politics. It is Book 1 of the “Themis Files”, which means this book has a non-ending and empty characters. The story line is still very strong. Leslie Rating: 4/5.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

As I read this book, I loved it. And immediately afterward, I loved it. But within a short period of time, I’ve thought more about the book’s flaws. The core problem I see, which causes a lot of smaller problems, is this is the first book in the eventual series “Themis Files.” Because this novel was written with a series in mind, the characters are shallow & boring. We learn about the characters in a form of “tell” not “show”. We don’t learn about them, we are told about them. For the most part, I was able to ignore this. There is also a cliche love triangle which I also was able to tune out. At least it is used as a vital plot device. But since the characters have zero depth, they also have zero chemistry with each other. I’m sure it will become a focus later on in the series and I have no interest in that.

Let’s get back to the good stuff! The story is really imaginative and unique. I enjoyed it being the sci-fi aspect of alien life forms. Combined with the contemporary aspect of politics. The question as it is presented in the book is, if parts of an alien weapon are found all over the world, who owns the weapon once it’s together? Who provides the funding? Where is the project located? I found all those questions fascinating.

Since this is first in a series, this book has a non ending which is disappointing. I mean, it answers all my questions. But never fully tells the reader what it is they found. The alien robot weapon really is the best part of the book. I wish Neuvel spent longer finding parts and building the robot weapon. Instead, it happens pretty quickly which is why I mention it here. It’s not a spoiler. I was expecting that to be the big reveal at the end. Instead it was pretty rushed.

The more I think about it the less I enjoyed the book. But I absolutely loved it while reading so maybe that is the important part. I am still going to give it a 4/5 because the writing of plot is on point and it is an original sci-fi story.


Book Review: Queen of the Night / Historical Fiction

Novel Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is a historical fiction novel set in 1800’s Europe telling the life of an opera singer and her journey to high society. Leslie Rating: 3/5

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

Originally, I heard about this novel via a book podcast that I no longer subscribe to. Including this one, their recommendations have been duds for me, personally. The plot was described as something far more interesting than it actually is. However, I did not know that when I picked this up from the library.

The day I began The Queen of the Night, I was reading it outside on my lunch break. A man walked by and in passing said, I just read that book and I really recommend it. It was rather long but a good book. I thanked him for his recommendation. Skipping to the end of the book, I took notice of the 550 page count but didn’t think anything particularly lengthy about it. After finishing the story, I now realize he meant ‘long’ figuratively. Because the story definitely went on for about 100-pages too many.

The first 300 pages were rather captivating. The story begins at the end, where we learn a very popular opera singer is asked to play a role in an opera being written specifically for her. I know nothing about opera but apparently this is a really big deal. As the story is being described to her, she realizes it is based on her own life, which was supposed to be a mystery.

Then the book goes back in time and we learn about her life history. This is a typical rags-to-riches story except interwoven with a historical timeline. The middle of the story is when the Franco-Prussian war hits. In what should be interesting, these parts were definitely a slog. Chee’s writing style is exceptional when writing a character-driven story. When writing a scene-based story, he struggles. Writing about the streets of Paris when there are bombings, dead bodies, and rivers of blood had never felt so boring and forced. Chee’s method of writing is “tell” rather than “show”. There was little emotion when describing these war scenes. And they did little to drive the plot or add depth to the main character. You can easily skim through the middle and not miss anything.

Once that part is over, we are brought back to the Soprano’s life story and Chee finds his writing niche again. The story moves rather suddenly at the end but does wrap up nicely. I found the story overall enjoyable. It probably would be more enjoyable if I knew anything about Opera. Or about that period in history.

This is very much a character-driven historical fiction story. Chee’s writing is on point for most of the book. I am interested to see where he goes from here. I did not (and probably will not) read his previous work. Overall, I did enjoy Queen of the Night and am giving it a 3 out of 5 rating.


Five Graphic Memoirs You Should Read

When I first started reading Graphic Novels, I started with memoirs. I loved reading an illustrated autobiographical story. I’m a sucker for personal stories anyway. Graphic Memoirs do read different from autobiographies. Little moments are shared in a way that doesn’t work as well in written novels. There doesn’t always need to be a grandiose chapter of insight into the author’s life. Little moments can be illustrated very easily. And still portray the author’s life.

Graphic Memoirs also tend to be about a particular aspect of an author’s life, rather than a chronological telling. In this way, it’s like reading a very personalized non-fiction story. These can be of travels, family, childhood, mental illness, identity or a number of other specialized topics.

My favorite type of graphic novel are memoirs and I’ve read a lot of them. The five books below aren’t necessarily my favorite. More so, these are a good representation of memoirs and tackle very interesting topics.


Epileptic by David B.

Page from Epileptic by David B

Page from Epileptic by David B

This memoir chronicles the author’s brother’s struggle with epilepsy and how is family handled it. The story itself is actually very interesting. As his family tried lots of different religions, home remedies, and other natural paths to cure their son of epilepsy.

But what truly makes this book are David B’s illustrations. They are very dark. His drawing style is of mostly blacks. Thick lines. Very busy. And very grim. The book has a dark overtone to it all throughout, most of which is depicted just in his style.

His visualizations work perfectly for the story he’s telling. This is also an interesting memoir because it is, essentially, his brother’s story. Yet told from his perspective.


Page from Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles was the first graphic novel I ever read. I love traveling. I love reading about traveling. Guy Delisle has written several graphic travelogues of his various experiences traveling as an animator. He is a Canadian citizen, which allows him work visas in countries that us Americans don’t necessarily have access to. This memoir is about his time in Burma. But he has also written about living in North Korea. That one is also very interesting.

Since I have never been to Burma, seeing his illustrations helps to bring the country alive more than written descriptions could. He shares many little moments in his day-to-day life, which really help to show what living in the country is like. Writing this out would become mundane or monotnous. But illustrations are different and even the same drawing can represent different things.

In this one, his family is staying with him in Burma. So it is also a memoir of him being a father and raising an infant, while working in a foreign land. There is a lot to this that written text just wouldn’t do justice. He brings to life his infant son, the country of Burma, and even his work as an animator.

I highly recommend all of his travelogue memoirs!


Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney

Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney

Marbles by Ellen Forney

This is the best autobiography I’ve read on mental illness. Far better than any written novel. Illustrating mental illness makes the feelings visible. Seeing a drawing of someone crawling on the floor in sadness gets the point across better than using metaphors. Having a visual for a manic episode shows the true nature of the disease. These emotions just cannot be conveyed as strongly in text.

I’ve never felt like I could relate to any book on depression as much as this one. Her drawings of sadness clouds, darkness, crawling from the bed to the couch, represent perfectly how I’ve felt in depressive episode. Rather than write in words her feelings while going through mania or depression, we are able to actually see what her feelings look like.

This novel also addressed the Creativity Factor of mental illness. She illustrates the struggle between wanting to manage her mental illness while also fearing she will lose her creativity. Forney goes into this in detail. Even discussing famous artists who were definitely suffering from depression.

Also, in the end she does learn how to manage her episodes through behaviors and meds. Most of the book chronicles her visiting a psychiatrist and how she goes about that. I love her honesty not only in her writing but also her drawings. Lastly, Forney identifies as bisexual, which is always nice to see representation in media.


Page from Tomboy by Liz Prince

Page from Tomboy by Liz Prince

Tomboy by Liz Prince

Liz Prince is one of my favorite graphic novelists. Her drawings are simple yet tell you everything you need to know. Her writing is a perfect balance of wit and substance. I can also relate to her fairly well. So that helps. In the past she has published short graphic novels about a long-term relationship. And then, when that ended, her life being single again. Those are both really great and funny.

Tomboy is Prince’s first long-form graphic memoir. She is definitely ready for it. Instead of focusing on relationships or the lack of relationships, Prince focuses on her own identity. Specifically in the terms of her gender. This is not a LGBTQ novel. It is not a trans novel. Prince falls into this niche where she is both cis and straight, yet is assumed not to be. Her look is rather androgynous. And her personality/interests more masculine. She her struggles with being misidentified in childhood. And being the only girl on the baseball team.

Her illustrations help to show us all of her various phases, hairstyles, and body changes as she grew up. These visuals are key, since we her appearance is the main topic of the book. In the end she finds a place where she can be herself, and be liked for being her. This story’s message couldn’t be conveyed as strongly if it were written in text rather than the graphic memoir style.


My Friend Dahmer by John Backderf

This is a novel I didn’t love when I finished, but was sufficiently creeped out while reading. The premise of this graphic memoir, is that the author went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. He had a few brief interactions with him. And even back then knew that there was something off about Dahmer.

The book then goes into detail about Dahmer’s childhood. His early homicidal tendencies. And other high school interactions with him. But the fact that it is revolving around the author’s own personal experiences, really makes this one. Hearing this from a personal perspective is very effective at increasing the creepy factor. Reading about a serial killer is creepy enough. But to think that this person was once considered just a regular high schooler, is even creepier.

Although Backderf’s illustrations aren’t overly dark, these visuals really make Dahmer’s actions feel more realistic. And, yes, creepier. It’s interesting to see him transform from an awkward teenager into, well, a monster. Having visuals for this is really effective.


Must-Read Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Books

empty grocery store

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read in a long time. Unlike most novels in this genre, the villain of the story are human beings. Much like they are today in a pre-apocalyptic world. It’s not us vs them. It’s us vs us. And humans can be really fucking scary.

The novel also explores what living in a post-apocalyptic world will be like. Not just one year after, but 20-years later. Mandel skips right over the first year+ of the breakdown of civilization. This could be interpreted as lazy writing, but I didn’t mind it. Most other apocalypse stories solely focus on these years. We don’t need another rehash of the lootings, killings, escapes, and deaths. We can assume that this will happen. Instead, we get to learn how civilization tries to restore some semblance of sanity.

Also different in this story is the cause of the end of the civilized world. Much like Stephen King’s The Stand, there is a highly contagious fast-acting flu. You can catch it by just being near someone with it. And it will kill you within 24-hours. Just a flu. Something that starts with a little coughing no big deal. This feels more realistic to me than some other plot devices. I also prefer to have something simple like a flu end the world to nothing at all. Many novels just skip right over that part.

The Stand can be a bit of a trudge to get through. Especially the second half. But the beginning is one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had reading. The killer flu, Captain Trips, starts with an innocuous cough. Then the coughing gets more fierce. And by then it’s likely you already have it. And your chances are slim to none. It is set in New York City. And that is where I was living when I read it. Do you know how many people cough on a subway train? In stores? While walking on the sidewalk? Every time someone coughed, I thought about Captain Trips and twitched a little. That is why using a realistic apocalypse device is so important.

Instead of focusing on survival, Station Eleven focuses on living. You know, what we do every day. Because there comes a point where you are surviving. All your needs are being met. But now what? There is no electricity. Little communication. No fast transportation. No running water. The flu has ran it’s course so you are no longer afraid of it. But now what? What about entertainment? The novel focuses on a traveling theater that performs for various small towns around Lake Michigan in the Mid-West.

You learn about many of the character’s though there are some main ones. And the narrative thread used to connect everyone is brilliant. This is an emotional story, not one about fighting. Much like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The story also spans decades so you get to watch character’s grow up. This helps the reader to feel a closeness to the main characters. Even if we never find out about certain parts of their life.

Station Eleven is a welcomed change in the post-apocalyptic genre. Reading about the human condition in a broken society is just as interesting as reading about humans surviving.

Read This If You Like: Stephen King’s The Stand and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.


post apocalyptic sci fi desert

Inverted World

Christopher Priest wrote The Prestige in 1995 and it became a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in 2006. Both formats of the movie are great. But back in 1974, Priest wrote the classic sci-fi novel Inverted World. This is frequently found on Best-Of lists and is well deserved. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I hadn’t read anything like it.

The first sentence of the novel is, “I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.” This sets the tone for the new world you will be entering. And Priest’s writing style. The dystopian society he creates is openly strange. Yet many nuances are subtle to the point of going unnoticed until later on in the story.

The main character lives in a city named Earth that is on rails and needs to be continuously moved. It reminded me of A Handmaid’s Tale because the society is broken into classes. There are many rules. Many secrets. Men and women are separated. It feels very rigid. In this way, it is also similar to Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. One group of people gets more information than others. This bothers some, but not everyone.

Priest builds a world that will engulf you. Learning more and more about this strange society only makes you ask more questions. And the build-up absolutely pays off. This is one of the best endings I’ve read. Remember, it was written in 1974. So you may predict it now (I didn’t) but that doesn’t mean it was predictable in it’s time of publishing. Inverted World keeps a perfect pace, never letting the reader get too confused or frustrated. After all, dystopian secret societies are what post-apocalyptic civilization is all about.

Read This If You Like: Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale and Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451.


dystopian cold

World War Z

Max Brook’s “oral history of the Zombie war”, World War Z, is a non-narrative fiction novel of various people’s experiences. This is also the first book I’ve ‘read’ as an audio-book. And I couldn’t recommend a better one. The novel is set-up in a fictional world where a Zombie war happened. And the author interviews numerous different people, in different countries, to get their understanding of it. We talk to civilians and soldiers. Some interviewees multiple times.

For the audio-book version, this was just like listening to an interview. The voice-acting was top notch featuring some big name celebrities. I will listen to anything narrated by Henry Rollins. It was easy to become absorbed in the descriptions of the war. Even though the apocalyptic event is being described in the past-tense, Brooks does a great job at making the reader feel like they’re still in it.

In an over-saturated genre, World War Z really stands out. It takes a wide range of stories from so many different people. This allows you to hear about a soldier describing “all-out war.” Thinking about facing an enemy who doesn’t need to eat or sleep. Doesn’t need any comfort. Doesn’t even need shelter. Framing a zombie battle in that way was interesting. There was a hopelessness involved; despite knowing that this person survived.

Unlike the other two novels mentioned, this one spans many regions. It’s interesting to hear how the war affected people in different parts of the world. How the first few days were interpreted differently. And how varied people’s responses were. Even though there is not one main character, other than the interviewer, I still felt emotionally close to many of the speakers.

I am not one to typically read a book on zombies. But if you’re going to read (or listen to) one, this is the one.

Read This If You Like: Non-narrative fiction. And zombies.



Repeat Favorites: Rewatching & Rereading

Enjoying a book or movie/tv show so much that you can experience it repeatedly is the biggest compliment I can think of. It’s interesting to think of what keeps us engaged despite already knowing the story, the characters, the plot devices, and the reveal. Not all works hold this ability for repeat viewings/reads. And it’s not always because the media is necessarily good. Sometimes it just as a particular association for us.


the hobbit book versions

Winter Read: The Hobbit

For the past three years, I’ve read Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit in December. This started because I wanted to re-read the book when the first movie came out. Then I just continued it each year. Even last year when I didn’t see the last movie, I still read the book. December is a mixed month of celebrations and loneliness for me so I tend to read light-fiction for the month. The Hobbit definitely provides a comfort. Even though I know all the battles, story-lines, and characters, I still love the thrill of the conclusion. I still love Bilbo’s desire to go home and drink some tea.

The first time I read this book, I was in my late 20’s and didn’t think I’d like it. I wasn’t interested in LotR, though I had seen the movies. But I thought the books would be too much. And I wasn’t very familiar with The Hobbit. A boyfriend told me to read his copy and I ended up loving it. This is always a reminder for me to keep trying new things and branching out to new genres. I imagine this is a book I will continue to re-read and enjoy for a while.


christina applegate

Movies for Sick Days & The Holidays

I have several movies that I like to watch when I’m home sick but this is my favorite. I always go to Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead first. This is not a movie you really have to pay attention to. The premise is totally silly. Christina Applegate is hilarious/fantastic. It also has decent “real world” concepts like sitting in rush hour traffic and complaining about taxes. Also, it has my all time favorite quote, “I’m right on top of that rose!” Watching this movie is definitely comforting and I won’t feel guilty falling asleep during it. I guess at it’s heart, this is a coming of age story and I am such a sucker for those.

Then from November-January I have a whole rotation of movies I love to re-watch every year. Most are classics. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Holiday, The Cutting Edge, Love Actually, Planes Trains and Automobiles. Those are the must-watch ones. Sometimes I slip in others that I only watch every few years or so like The Family Stone. It’s not that these are the best movies by any means. But they provide a comfort in the dead of winter.


finding nemo star fish

Can’t Get Enough: Finding Nemo

Several years ago while recovering from a surgery, I spent four days going in and out of sleep. I wasn’t keeping any type of regular hours. Sometimes I could hold a conversation and sometimes I would nod right off. I didn’t have the energy to sit at a desk or stand up for even a short period of time. So laying semi-upright in bed watching tv was the only thing I could do at the time.

For some reason, I decided I really wanted to watch Finding Nemo. I would put the movie on, then doze off shortly after. A little bit later I’d wake up and watch some more of it. When it ended I would just play it again, watching different parts this time, and nodding off again and again. I’m pretty sure I had Finding Nemo playing on repeat for at least 2 days straight while I just dozed in and out.

Like the rest of these, it was a comfort. And I have this very specific association with the movie now. It’s not my favorite movie, I don’t know it by heart, but I do know that when I’m half conscious and in pain, Nemo and his friends can provide some relief.


futurama lego set

Television Favorites: Futurama & Freaks and Geeks

Serial media doesn’t always keep my attention. So liking a tv show enough to re-watch it is a big deal for me. I have only done this with two shows: Futurama and Freaks & Geeks. Although the latter is just a single season so that is easy. And Futurama is just so good. This is the only show that I can quote most of.

Freaks & Geeks is rewatchable because I can relate so much to the main character, Lindsay. I was very much like her in high school and relish in the second hand embarrassment I feel when watching her transition through the high school caste system.


What are your favorite tv shows, movies, or books to read/watch over and over? What makes them so special?



Q1 2015 Book Challenge Update

The first quarter of 2015 is behind us and I’m still powering through these book challenges. I am going for the Book Riot and Pop Sugar list separately. This means I will fulfill some categories twice. And I want to avoid duplicates. So each book will only be used for one category. This will take me longer than a year and that’s fine by me. I never want reading to become homework. I don’t have a list of “To Read” books. I just read books as I see them or hear about them. And 99% of what I read comes from the library. I am reading books other than specifically for the challenges. But they certainly are helping me broaden my general reading fare.

Here’s the challenges I’ve completed so far, with the book and author, and my subjective rating.


Book Riot Challenges

  • A book published by an indie press: The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison (3/5)
  • A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (2/5)
  • A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (4/5)
  • A YA novel: The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (3/5)
  • A sci-fi novel: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2/5)
  • An audiobook: World War Z by Max Brooks (4/5)
  • A collection of poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (3/5)
  • A book that was originally published in another language: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (3/5)
  • A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, comics: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (3/5)

 

My motivation for doing these challenges was to get outside my usual comfort zone of books, and I definitely did. That was the first audio book I’ve ever read and I loved it. I also rarely read poetry collections, so that was very interesting. And even the YA novel, which I was dreading, wasn’t that bad.


Pop Sugar Challenges

  • A book with more than 500 pages: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (4/5)
  • A funny book: Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet (3/5)
  • A book by a female author: Into The Go-Slow by Bridgett Davis (3/5)
  • A book with a one-word title: Thrown by Kerry Howley (3/5)
  • A nonfiction book: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (3/5)
  • A book based entirely on its cover: Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux (3/5)
  • A trilogy: The Magicians by Lev Grossman (3/5)

 

I was dreading reading a trilogy so I got that out of the way quickly; powering through them all as though it were one long story. It was worth it as I really enjoyed it. However, I still think I’ll typically avoid trilogies as I just don’t have the attention span. Really.



What I Bought at MoCCA Arts Fest 2015

mocca arts fest 2015 purchases and favorite artists

Every spring the Society of Illustrators hosts the MoCCA Arts Festival in NYC. I’ve been going for several years now and always come home with a wonderful selection of hand-made comics, mass published graphic novels, and original prints. It’s one of the largest smallest comics-focused arts show in the city; definitely worth checking out next year if you missed it.

This year’s was different from previous years because the venue was moved from the Armory on the east side to a multi-story gallery space on the west side in Chelsea. I didn’t like the layout or security but it was kind of a fancy pants building.


More importantly, at MoCCA Fest I bought quite a few wonderful and beautiful things from some wonderful and talented artists.



Disturbing & Scary Books That are Great

I love scary books and movies even though I tend to really get scared easily. Scary movies I can’t watch alone. But books are great because you can read them in a public space, yet still feel creeped out. I’ve never really been scared by a Stephen King book, so none of those make this list. And there is a big difference between scary & disturbing.


american psycho book by bret easton ellis

Disturbing: American Psycho

The satirical aspect of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t make it any less disturbing. I get that it’s supposed to be repulsive. It’s supposed to make you want to feel sick. And uncomfortable. And uneasy. It’s supposed to be over the top – and it is! It certainly grossed me out several times but the writing never strays from it’s point and overall I’d consider it a great read.

This is one of the few books I remember feeling truly uncomfortable reading in a public place. It was specifically during the second sex scene and it involves…. an animal. And I’m squirming in my seat right now just thinking about it! But reading the details of this insane sexual act plus the gruesome murder following it, I truly felt uncomfortable reading this on the subway.

Here I was sitting next to people on the train, they’re like la la la going to work and I’m next to them reading about a man trapping a rat in a woman’s vagina.

But that kind of awkwardness is, in a way, reassuring. I’d question myself if I just shrugged at it. Plus, it’s pretty amazing to know an author’s words are powerful enough to make me feel such strong emotion. To describe acts so vulgar and disgusting that can still gross me out in this jaded day and age. American Psycho was written in 1991 (though it’s set in the 1980’s). And it’s disturbing factor still holds up over 20 years later. You can’t say that for too many stories (novels, movies, etc).


charles burns graphic novel black hole

Disturbing: Black Hole

Charles Burns illustrations are beautiful and fantastic and creepy as hell. The world he creates in graphic novel Black Hole is incredibly dark. His drawing style, mostly made up of blackness, only adds to that. Burns really brings out emotions in the characters, even if the story isn’t completely straight-forward. The world is confusing, just as some of the characters are emotionally confused. And it works so well.

The illustrations are never quite repulsive but they can be disturbing, which works so well for the plot. This is definitely a story that could only work as a graphic novel. And really, only by Burns.


nos4a2 by joe hill

Scary/Creepy: NOS4A2

At this point, it’s safe to say that I am in love with Joe Hill. I loved his previous novel Horns. And I really loved this one. Parts of this are a little disturbing because it has to do with a serial killer kidnapping children and his assistant doing gruesome things to women. But really the whole thing is creepy and borderline scary in some parts.

This is another book that I felt slightly odd reading on the subway but for a different reason than American Psycho. Although unfortunately both books do involve raping/killing/maiming women. Hill never gets nearly as gruesome in his descriptions and knows exactly when to end it. There was one scene in particular that was so scary/gruesome I found myself wishing I could read it through my fingers – like I do when watching scary movies. Unfortunately reading while half-covering my eyes didn’t work too well. But Hill knows his audience and just a sentence after I started getting too squeamish, the scene concluded smoothly.

What saves NOS4A2 from being disturbing is that part of it takes place in magical areas – or innerscapes as they’re described in the book. There is a supernatural aspect to the book which makes it a bit more creepy than disturbing. Plus, the atmosphere is spooky.

The book is revolved around the serial killer’s home innerscape of Christmasland. If you think about it, Christmas is really creepy! Christmas music, the lights, Santa Claus… if you take it out of context, it’s all creepy. Like, if someone were to seriously listen to Christmas music outside of the month of December, it’d be a little weird.

This atmosphere, especially of turning a holiday that is supposed to be of cheer into this entire world of fear, is just spooky the whole way through. Sure, some scenes are scary in themselves, but there is a lingering creepy tone to all of this, which just really made it a fun read.



Reading A Book Trilogy as a Really Long Novel

lord of the rings as one book

Series have always been difficult to keep my attention. Outside of The Boxcar Children or Babysitter’s Club, I couldn’t keep up with long story arcs and a rotating cast of characters. This also happens with television series. A long-winded plot just means filler episodes, disposable characters, and an often disappointing ending.

Trilogies, for books or movies, seem to be all the rage right now. And I get it. As the reader, you become attached to a character and want to learn more about them. As the publisher, you see $$$ knowing that even if the third book is poorly written it will still sell because now the audience is invested. Brilliant really.

Lord of the Rings “Trilogy”

I prefer to skip all that and stick to stand-alone books. I don’t need to continue a world or a character. One adventure is enough for me. With that said, I have read all of Lord of the Rings. Though it’s easy to see why I enjoyed those three books when I wouldn’t normally read a trilogy – LoTR is one long book.

For economic reasons, The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes over the course of a year from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955. This was due largely to post-war paper shortages, as well as being a way to keep down the price of the book. – Wikipedia

Lord of the Rings is actually a novel, not a trilogy. It was all written at once, as part of the same story, and released with little time between each volume. As such, you really cannot read each book standalone. There are starts and ends to pieces of the adventure throughout the story, but the books were not meant to be read fragmented. There are no definitive conclusions at the end of each book. Because they were not meant to be separate books at all.

In this sense, reading these three books in a row as the novel they were meant to be wasn’t difficult. I enjoy adventure stories so it definitely kept my attention. And in parts where the politics grew a bit weary, it was quickly balanced out by learning about the amazing world Tolkien created. Like the ents, talking slowly, always in search of their lost entwives.

Reading LoTR as a novel also made the story very clear and kept me connected to the characters. After struggling with other series (The Dark Tower) and not being able to finish. I’ve realized that reading trilogies straight-through is best way for me to keep a connection to the story. So this was how I decided to read The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman.

Magicians Trilogy

The Magicians

Knowing my difficulty reading series, I generally avoid them. So I was a little worried when I saw “read a trilogy” as one of the Reading Challenges that I’m currently participating in. However, the entire reason I wanted to join the challenge was to read outside my comfort zone. And I knew this would certainly be one of those times.

After hearing about the third book when it came out last year, I decided to read The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman for the reading challenge. The entire series was already written and published, so I wouldn’t have to wait around between books. Now, each part is a novel unto itself. But it is also a trilogy so they are all connected and there is an overarching plot.

I knew that the only way I could actually finish all three books would be to read them in order. I actually read these digitally on my second-hand Nook just so I would have them all queued up. As soon as I finished one, I could immediately start reading the other. Almost tricking myself that I hadn’t actually finished a book at all.

Reading an actual trilogy is different because each novel does have it’s own plot – a definitive introduction and conclusion. Sure, jumping into book two or three may be confusing as you’re not familiar with the world or previous character development, but you could still read it as a novel and feel complete.

Grossman actually did a really good job tying in past events and briefly explaining them for new readers or refreshing the memories of those who were not reading them back to back. These quick rehashes never took me out of the book and would have been just enough to bring a new reader up to speed.

If it were not for the book challenge, I wouldn’t have read any of The Magicians books simply because they are a trilogy. So the challenge is doing exactly what I wanted it to. And I am really glad I read the books because I definitely enjoyed the story. I liked it as one long story, reading the books back-to-back, with three separate smaller plot lines along the way.

Southern Reach Trilogy

But then some trilogies are written as separate books but don’t have any individual story arcs. They really are simply drawn-out versions of what could be a more concise novel. This is what Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy reminded me of. Take this all with a grain of salt because I only read the first one, Annihilation. That short 198-page novel was quite difficult to get through and I have no interest in reading the other two.

The books were all released in 2014, so clearly they were all written at the same time. Annihilation didn’t have any sort of plot or conclusion. It was almost like a periodical in that way, the beginning of a series that you need to continue to get to the conclusion. Not a novel unto it’s own.

The book’s 200-pages merely introduced the world, though vaguely, and the main character. I liked the unreliable narrator aspect. But there was no set conclusion, although the book really wasn’t long enough to justify ending so early. I probably would have read continued reading if it were a long novel because I am curious as to what happens. But… not enough to read two other books.

There is just something about breaking up the reading that seems like such a turn off to me. I’d rather it all be one connected story than fragmented out. With my positive experience of reading The Magicians I thought I had another trilogy in me, but I think I’ll stick to my single novels for now. Besides, after hearing my friend’s frustration with the Wheel of Time series when the author died while writing the final book, I think I will stay wary of uncompleted series for a while as well.