This Book Is Full of Spiders (John Dies at the End, #2) Review


I have decided I will rate this book five stars because I don’t want to punish if for being the sequel to a favorite. That This Book is Full of Spiderssaid, if the only way to evaluate this book was comparing it to John Dies #1 it would have an entirely different rating.

The Good Stuff: 
This book continues to have a fun and engaging plot and voice. It is fully entertaining and. . . like I said, fun. It might sound shallow, but reading is supposed to be enjoyable, and this is a by-far enjoyable read. The writing is strong not because of flowery-prose but because the MC is pronounced. It is mostly written from David’s POV and that is not just indicated with pronouns but with the characterization of every description. I really respect that. When it shifts POV it isn’t so strong, which disappointed me, but I really did appreciate the character development of the other secondary characters. It was right on. I also thought a lot of the plot points in this story were very sharp. The author combines modern warfare tactics like drones with a supernatural apocalypse scenario which was very believable. He also combines modern technology and Internet hysteria in his discussion of the apocalypse. His contemporary discussions had to be a step ahead of the cliche because the cliche doesn’t live in the modern times. I appreciated this innovation.

The Bad Stuff:
It is mostly shallow, like an action movie. It is really entertaining and I love it for that but John Dies #1 had meat behind it and this book basically didn’t. There were some moments of this book where I stopped to think and philosophize but most of the time it was just meaningless action. It didn’t have the harsh bite that the first one had behind the plot. The nihilistic horror came up a couple of times and I loved those parts but they were segmented. It didn’t drive the story.

Also, besides being in the same universe and following the same absurd metaphysics, this book really isn’t a sequel. There were a lot of huge questions left unanswered in book one. On one hand, if all the questions were answered it would lose a lot of the horror. On the other, shouldn’t the confusions at least be addressed in the sequel? They didn’t even have to answer them. There was only one quick dialogue between [Carlos/Amy/Dave] that seemed to hint on the truth-about-Dave that was revealed in book one but it was really ambiguous and like three lines.

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Fault in Our Stars: Review/Discussion


The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars (Photo credit: TheNerdDilettante)

Let’s get the crying discussion out-of-the-way.
A book isn’t good because it made you cry. I understand that the significance of that is really ambiguous. But yes, I have been crying for the past few days, while reading this book, and I fully expect to cry for a few more days. And then, if the books does fall out of my consciousness I still will be crying because I’m stumbling over some personal battles. The crying is more about me then someone else’s story. But expressing this really human/mortal experience that triggers this emotional prolonged emotional response is why ‘crying’ is used as a way to say this book is really good. Because it is inflicting a pain that’s so human.

‘Cancer Book’ Discussion 
That pain isn’t cancer. I wouldn’t say that writing a sad cancer story is hard. Most creative content about cancer is sad but not all of it is as dynamic as Fault in Our Stars. The depth of this pain that the reader goes through is what makes this book intelligent. This depth exists for two reasons.
One: The writing of this book is phenomenal, on a contemporary masterpiece level. Yes, I know “Young Adult” and all but listen to me, long confusing prose isn’t what defines a literary masterpiece. A literary masterpiece is a book with a strong point of view, the MC Hazel Grace was engrained in every plot point, every description, every thought plop, and the plot itself was engrossing, and the relationships grew and shrunk and were divulged and shown in full complexity, and even the secondary characters were expressed with full dimensionality and growth and blabla, I could rant on and on from a writing POV on why this is a good book —
— but who gives a fuck about that.

Two: This book is a new favorite because of something way more emotional and potent then anything you can learn in a creative writing class.
I said that the pain isn’t cancer but that doesn’t mean I fully believe this isn’t a cancer book. I understand the metaphorical significance of cancer but disregarding the non-metaphorical, non-romantic, non-emotionally painful, actual concrete plot-driven experiences that Hazel Grace and her lover Augustus Water experiences is the kind of thing that would cause Hazel Grace to roll her eyes at you. Yeah, there is metaphorical weight to cancer but her pain came from a very real and physical place, as was many components of the plot, so I disagree with saying this book isn’t a cancer book. It is a cancer book. It also has headfuckery that goes beyond the physical consequences of a tumor.
The Personal Stuff
I think by now you understand my 5-star review thing. Cool. If you haven’t read it and just wanted a review then please leave now and go grab it from your library and commence on your own literary self-destruction and revel in it. If you have read it and feel like I do, vacant and alone in a world of vacant and alone bodies, and want to attempt to connect with someone then I’m about to divulge some parts that connected with me….
I know I love. I know I love my boyfriend, and parents, and friends, and art, and all the life in the future, even if it is going to hurt, and all the other lives around me, even if I’m shy, and even myself, even when I’m dark, and this book is the reminder that it is all going to pass. It isn’t the only reminder but I almost shut some of those morbid thoughts out of my head. And reading this book was like my first loved one’s funeral, that first realization, that everyone that I love will die. That I have three choices in the world: mourn a loved one, be mourned for, or die with that loved one. That’s the situation that scalps me.
But this book is far from nihilistic. We might all die and end up in a ditch and end up forgotten in the long-term but who cares about the long term. The mortal points of our life are filled with so much significance that it might as well be infinite because it would take an infinite quantity of time to recognize what all these emotions and experiences really are, really mean.
That’s what makes it worth it. We aren’t grenades ready to blow each other up. Pain is worth the moments alive with each other, the love that we share with each other, that pain is a byproduct of living, we can’t avoid it, so we might as well feel pain for those that are worth it, and that’s why we need to love. That’s why the romance in this book, from lover to love, to parent to lover, to friend to friend, is all so fucking real.
It is like this:
Dear my lovers:

I love you so much that I will mourn for you. I could mourn for someone else but you are worth it. You are worth the pain of mourning because living with you is a universe: subliminal, infinite, and filled with love.

Meta Analysis on Self-Destruction 

The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars (Photo credit: rachelkramerbussel.com)

Yes, this book can be optimistic, I sorta just said it was, right? But I still think this book was more a self-destructive choice for me than an enlightened rainbow-and-unicorn choice. This book is very. . real. It very much discusses the agonies of dying, death, and mourning. It also discusses the extreme power of love, that overpowers, even these extricating experiences. So, the optimism is: everything really really hurts but there are forces on this planet (i.e.:love) that’s worth all the pain. (That’s the kind of pessimism/optimism that I live for.)
Since I started this book I have had an extreme anxiety that someone I love will die. I have had particular people and ‘fantasies’ about those people in mind — I do have some emotional health disorders, so maybe this did trigger an attack, but I am experiencing something dark. This book did spark this inside of me. In a sense, this book is the grenade– this dark short piece that has engrossed me with pain — but I love it so deeply that it is worth it. So, it is accidentally? meta* in this fashion. This book gave me a pleasant and enjoyable relationship with a cast of characters that really feel ‘alive’ to me, plus, a concrete reminder of yes, mortality, but also that other people think like I do — that I’m not alone, that we are all on this planet dealing with this same subliminal experience.
*again the major plot point in this book in a fictional-book about cancer, so there is some intentional meta as well

Book Review: The Witch of Portobello


portobello

I picked up this book because I like portobello mushrooms and witches. Turns out this book isn’t about either one of these things. Despite this, I really enjoyed this book!

First thing is first, this isn’t a fiction or fantasy book. It isn’t trying to be a fiction or fantasy book. So, insulting it for not being these things isn’t fair. There are a lot of bad reviews for this book on this website and I think that’s why. This book isn’t really a novel. It also isn’t a Biology textbook or a historical account of the Civil War. It is pointless to be angry at it for not being these other things. I suggest entering this book with an open mind.

This book IS a discourse about returning to pagan roots.

This might be confusing because there are characters and there is a plot, however, these aspects are just aesthetics so the reader can be engaged in the discourse. Also, this book is “preachy” because elaborating on paganism is the entire point of the book. Religion and spirituality are mentioned in every scene not because the author is uncreative but because that’s what this book is about! It is best to understand this book as an emotional and exciting essay instead of a fantasy book about witches.

I could easily rate this book three stars, but I’m ignoring the Epilogue and giving it a four. The story was building up the idea that human’s spiritual intellect isn’t sharp enough to really know what is going on out there. And that awful things happen even if you have a feeling everything will turn out alright. AND I love that dark cynical point of view that is sprinkled throughout this book. But when you get to the Epilogue and it turns that on its face, well, I think that as intentional, but for me it was extremely agitating. Look, from chapter one, you know something really awful is going to happen to the MC. You don’t forget because it is repeated throughout the narrative. It is only a couple of sentences but it is the only clue to negativity in this entire book, the rest is VERY optimistic and positive.

When reading this book I thought, ‘If there really is a Blessed Mother then why do such horrific things happen to her children?’ But this question isn’t even touched upon! If the author has a different philosophical perspective, then ok, but make your argument. Totally ignoring legitimate concerns really weakens the thesis.

Paganism is a big deep world but this elementary introduction was perfect for me because I’m really elementary with this kind of stuff. Paganism wasn’t sold to me, but in a lot of ways that was just the vessel. The MC rejected Christianity and went to back to her roots and found Paganism. This reject and replace — this independence — that she has is powerful and resonated with me.

Female Chauvinist Pigs: A Review and Deconstruction of Whorephobia and Transphobia


Female Chauvinist Pigs

Female Chauvinist Pigs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs was incorrectly recommended to me because the queer chapter was supposed to resonate with me. Um…. that chapter did nothing but fill me with abhorrent rage. When I spoke to the previous reader, they were surprised with the way I read it. So I re-read it again, and this time I felt like spitting in the book. So, no that queer chapter didn’t resonate with me. But okay, let me say something positive before I get too deep into that.

Despite the advert homophobia, transphobia, and whorephobia, there *is* something of merit to this book. It deconstructs enthusiastic sex-positivity feminism, pro-sex work feminism, AND commercialized feminism, all areas that need a hard eye. As a sex-positive pro-sex work feminist, it is really easy for me to be really open and enthusiastic about any element of a (wo)men expressing their sexuality, either personally or commercially. This book’s main idea is to be wary of this.

It reminds us that a man-centered, materialistic, commercial and very sexual feminism is very easy to sell and buying into it can lead to poor education, self-esteem issues, and issues with our consent and self-expression. Raunchiness is only one type of sexuality, but it is the one that is being packaged and bought in mass leaving minimal room for personal growth and individuality.

On the other hand, sex isn’t this monogamous pleasurable romantic experience all the time. For example, turning some tricks for money isn’t inherently oppressive because sex means more things that making love, basically. But I do agree with her point in saying that sex workers are *workers* and aren’t the sexual role models for our private life. At times the overbearing idealization of sex workers forces some women to replicate porn stars and strippers in their actual non-fantastical lives, leading to a male-centered idea of sex, the complete opposite of “sexual revolution”.

But anyway, let’s get back to the queer chapter. The author discredits genderqueer and transmen experiences by making massive generalizations about lesbians and transpeople. Basically, the author writes that the motivation between mastectomies, masculine pro-nouns, and transitioning away from one’s assigned gender (female) is internalized misogyny. This blanket statement is extraordinarily problematic and dangerous for readers who are not familiar with transpeople, and especially genderqueer people— the author straight up says that the only way to be a real boy is to go “all the way” with the transition. She also interviews transphobic lesbians and asks them about their opinion on trans* people as supporting evidence— let’s repeat that. This straight cis-feminist, a group that has historically eliminated trans* people from their community, interviews lesbians, another group that has historically eliminated trans* people from their community, about whether trans* people are ~real~ or not.

*head desk*

I mean, okay, her point is that misogyny is pervasive and is in queer communities, and I would agree with that. I would agree that queerness isn’t a safety net to be oppressive and queer people have been given too much slack in the civil rights world. But like, the couple of interviews with random NY/SF misogynistic lesbians she met and one queer magazine editor / “community leader” isn’t exactly fact-finding. If she didn’t have time to do this chapter right she should have just cut it.

Also, what’s up with her insulting queer people for being non-monogamous. Since queer people have been exiled from traditionalism, they have created their own relationship structures that go beyond the monogamous fairy tale idea of sex and love that the author is trying to push so badly.

Yeah, this book has some interesting points but honestly I would just read the Conclusion and Afterword in the library and then pick up something else.