Archive for the ‘Quirk Books’ Category

[READ: Summer 2021] The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

I loved the name of this book.  The fact that it was put out by Quirk Books was a major plus.

This book was read by Bahni Turpin and she was magnificent.  I was hooked right from the start.  I loved her Southern accents and the way she made each character unique and easily recognizable.

In the preface to the book, Hendrix explains that this novel is a kind of apology for his earlier novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism.   In that novel teenagers were the protagonists and parents were cast as trouble for them.  He felt the need to address the concerns of the parents this time around.

I love the way the characters clearly love their children but are also realistic about them:  “Being a teenager isn’t a number,” says Maryellen. “It’s the age when you stop liking them.”

The story opens in a hilarious way.

It’s 1988 and Grace Cavanaugh had started a book club,  She wanted all of the women in her circle to read the classics.  This month’s book was Cry, The Beloved Country.  Grace was the quintessential Southern woman.  Her house was perfect.  Her thick pile carpets were white and immaculate (the way she inwardly cringes as cheese straws land on the carpet is hilarious).  She did not allow for anything improper.  She expected people to do what was proper.  Like finish the book club book.

The story zooms in on Patricia Campbell.  She needed the book club,  But she did not read the book.

She was given twenty minutes to talk about the book.  And the way she tries to stretch it out is hilarious.  Eventually Grace calls her out on it.  And is very disappointed in her.  Soon enough, though, the other women reveal that they didn’t read it either.

On her way to her car Patricia is stopped by Kitty Scruggs, another book club woman.  She invites Patricia to join the book club that she has just started.  It’s going to be her and Slick Paley, a conservative Christian (with an amazing accent, thank you Bahni) who seems dumb but is far from dumb, and Maryellen, a Yankee transplant (who has a very different accent which is nice to hear).  Eventually, even Grace joins because they are going to be reading the most salacious true crime books they can find.

Each of the women is married and their families are very different.  Patricia’s husband is straight-laced.  Her daughter is just old enough to be sarcastic to her and her son, Blue (that name is explained about 3/4 of the way through the book) has suddenly become obsessed with Nazis.  Basically, she needs these women.

Five years later, the book club is still going and the women feel closer to each other than ever (although Patricia doesn’t feel super close to Grace, because who could, really).  Then one night, a night that Blue didn’t take out the garbage, Patricia walks to where the cans are stored and is attacked.  The assailant is an old woman.  She acts crazy and even though Patricia knows her, she can’t talk sense into her. The old woman bites off part of her ear (which becomes quite a conversation piece, obviously). (more…)

Read Full Post »

rek2SOUNDTRACK: OF MONTREAL-Tiny Desk Concert #263 (January 28, 2013).

of-montrealWhen I saw that Of Montreal was doing a Tiny Desk Concert I really had no idea what to expect.  I mean, it could have been anything.  The blurb even jokes that Of Montreal concerts have been described as “wildly theatrical,” “flamboyant,” “synchronized dancing” and having “strange, wandering creatures that look like amoebas.”

So I was absolutely not expecting to see two guys with acoustic guitars and a woman singing a gentle folk song.  I actually double checked to make sure I was watching the right show.

Evidently around this time, Kevin Barnes (the man behind Of Montreal) had been working on quieter, more personal work. And so we get these three songs which are, more or less, Barnes solo.

The first song, “Feminine Effects” has the assistance of singer Rebecca Cash and guitarist Bryan Poole.  Cash sings the entire song, and it’s quite lovely, if not a little dark.

The next two songs “Imbecile Rages” and “Amphibian Days” are Barnes by himself, strumming guitar and singing.  The music is fairly straightforward, although he does throw in some unexpected chords which makes the songs stand out. And, of course, his lyrics and delivery are quirky. His enunciation is peculiar and even more pronounced in this setting.

This is a real surprise for Of Montreal fans, and frankly almost a red herring for anyone new to the band.

[READ: December 31, 2016] The Impossible Fortress

Sarah received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from her friend Mary Lynn and thought I would like it.  And boy did I ever.  I read this book in half a day.  It’s a quick read and while not profound of life-changing, it was really fun and funny–with a fairly dark twist.

There are two major plots in this book and they intertwine very nicely.

The first–the “action” plot–involves the Vanna White Playboy issue.  The second–the main character plot–involves coding a video game on a Commodore 64.  For this book is set in 1987 in the suburban New Jersey town of Wetbridge.  Our protagonists are 14-year-old boys who never really fit into other cliques.

The story is about Billy Marvin.  He never knew his father and his mother has started working the overnight shift at the Food Mart to make an extra dollar an hour.  Billy’s mom has really high hopes for Billy.  But his school life is pretty dismal.  His mom believes that Billy is really smart and she tries to get Billy into honors classes.  But his grades indicate remedial classes.  If he can succeed in these classes he can get moved up.  But he does not succeed. At all. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED TO: August 2016] Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

warren-13I had grabbed this book for C. because it looked kind of interesting.  He said he wanted to read it but hadn’t gotten around to it before we left for vacation. So instead, I grabbed the audio book for us to listen to.

The book itself had a lot of interesting illustrations by Will Staehle which were obviously not present in the audio book.  Often times the audio book version of a book is a bit more fun because of the delivery, but I feel like we really missed out without the pictures.  Indeed, the blurb for the book really talks up the design of it:

The first volume in a delightful new series, this middle grade adventure features an oversized hardcover format, gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page, and a lavish two-column turn-of-the-century design. We guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like it!

And I still haven’t. (more…)

Read Full Post »

regretSOUNDTRACK: ANA TIJOUX-Tiny Desk Concert #77 (August 30, 2010).

Atiojouxna Tijoux was born in France.  Her parents moved there to escape the Chilean dictatorship.  She returned to Chile as a teenager and started rapping first in French and then in Spanish,

This Tiny Desk Concert is just her and a percussionist (Names Thompson) who is playing nothing but a modified tambourine (it’s an impressive variety of sounds he’s getting out of that).

Ana raps in Spanish.  I don’t really know anything that she’s saying.  And I have to admit that many times hearing someone speak quickly in Spanish sounds melodic anyway.  But she seems to be rapping with a great flow. It’s especially noticeable in the final song “Go!” when her speed increases exponentially.  And she is still very clear in her delivery.

I really enjoyed how in “La Rosa de los Vientos” she had sung a chorus at the end (her singing voice is lovely).

[READ: September 4, 2015] The League of Regrettable Superheroes

I received this book with my Loot Crate (this is the Loot Crate edition, which as far as I can tell just means it is smaller).  It is yet another wonderful book from Quirk Books.

This is a collection of superheroes who actually existed in comic book form–forgotten heroes, also-rans and all around second-tier superheroes.  The introduction is quick to point out that none of these superheroes is inherently bad.  Perhaps they had bad timing or got lost in the crowd.  He assures us that every character here has the potential to be great. In fact several have been revamped and revived

Each listed superhero has a brief synopsis which includes a Created By blurb, a Debuted in (giving the comic and the date of first publication) and an amusing commentary to accompany it.  There is a one page summary of the superhero and then a sample page from the comic (sometimes a cover, but more often a page of dialogue–which is always more fun).

Beginning in the Golden Age 1938-1949 (when every Super-Tom, Wonder-Dick, and Amazing-Harry could throw on a cape and a cowl and give Hitler the Business).  Superman debuted in 1938 and soon after everyone was making a superhero. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FLEET FOXES-Live at The Black Cat, Washington, DC, July 7, 2008 (2008).

I still love the Fleet Foxes debut album, and I listen to it quite often.  One of the most impressive aspects of the band is their amazing harmonies.  So how does a band that is so vocal-centric perform live?

In an interview included with the concert, Bob Boilen asks that question.  They explain that the bigger venues are a bit harder because they have to crank up their monitors.  They also try to stay close to each other to be able to hear the harmonies clearly.  Well, they did something right because the harmonies sound very impressive here.

The main problem comes because lead singer Robin Pecknold is sick.  As in, just getting over a major cold, sick. As in, he admits that their last few shows were something of a rip off for the attendees.  Tonight’s show, he says is half a ripoff.  And that is most evident in my favorite Fleet Foxes song, “Mykonos” in which Pecknold’s voice cracks with abandon.  I would feel bad for the audience if the band wasn’t so personable and friendly and generally cool.  They make the best of a rough situation, and again, the backing vocals sound fantastic.

There are also a ton of delays in this show.  Most of them seem technical, although there seems to be a lot of tending to Pecknold’s voice, too.  But as I said, the band is engaged with the audience, telling stories (someone in the band is from DC and he asks if anyone went to high school there), and generally keeping everyone entertained.  It’s probably not their best show ever, but it still sounds great.  You can listen and download at NPR.

[READ: March 27, 2011] Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Quirk Books, publishers of mash-ups like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (as well as many other, well, quirky, titles) has published this fantastically exciting novel.

The cover depicts a creepy girl who is hovering off the ground.  But the girl herself is SO creepy that I didn’t even notice the hovering part.  She is just one of the peculiar children within the book.  And this picture is one of 50 included within the book (I’m only bummed that two pictures were not available in my copy).

So the story opens with Jacob Portman talking about his grandfather.  His grandfather (Abe) was a young boy in Poland during the 1940s.  When the Nazi’s invaded, his family was killed and he was sent to Wales, to the titular Miss Peregrine’s Orphanage (not widely known as a home for peculiar children).  But as details emerge from his grandfather’s version of the tale, things seem not right.

Abe talks about the monsters that chased him out of Poland–but he wasn’t describing Nazis, he was describing actual monsters, with multiple tongues and horrifying faces.  They followed him to Wales and were actually chasing him to that very day, in America.  And when he talked about Miss Peregrine’s house, he talked about the special kids who live there: the girl who could call forth fire out of thin air, the girl who could levitate, and the boy who had bees living inside of him.

Of course, that was all nonsense, just post traumatic stress from being attacked by Nazis, right?

That explanation works until the night that Abe is murdered.  He calls Jacob for help (they think he is going senile).  When Jacob gets to his house, he finds the screen door torn open and Abe missing.  The follow a trail and find Abe, bleeding in the woods.  Jacob thinks he can see the same kind of monster that Abe had always described lurking right nearby in the woods.  Although Jacob’s friend (who drove them to Abe’s house), didn’t see anything.

And now, Jacob’s dreams are plagued by scary monsters.  And he can’t get his grandfather’s cryptic last words out of his head.  Time to see a therapist, obviously. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ANGST-“The Weather’s Fine” (1988).

I recently rediscovered the band Angst.  They were part of the second wave of SST bands (the ones who never went anywhere and were summarily dropped with no forwarding address).  I know of Angst from their song on The Blasting Concept Volume II (which I love).  I decided to investigate Angst a little further and my good friends at YouTube came through with a number of Angst tracks that I’d never heard.

Like this one.

Angst is a kind of jangly pop band.  This song in particular would not be out of place on the radio in 1992 or indeed now.  It has an early R.E.M. feel, but I think what makes it stand out somewhat is that the chorus feels kind of short–you kind of expect Peter Buck to sing a second part of the chorus, but that never materializes.

Angst is a band that could have been huge (SST was not much for marketing).  And as far as I can tell all of their discs are utterly out of print.  Pity.  This is some good stuff.

Tap your feet along!

[READ: March 22, 2011] The Meowmorphosis

I received this book as an Advance Reader’s Copy.  I absolutely loved Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.  I didn’t read Quirk Classics’ other mash-ups: Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters or Android Karenina (although I love the title of that one).  Nor did I read any of the other mash-ups that Quirk Press did not print.  It became rather passe after one great idea.

But this one seemed different somehow….  In part, Kafka.  But also, it’s not a classic novel plus horror.  It’s more horror plus…cats.  And the opening line is wonderful:

One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.

Anyone who has read The Metamorphosis knows that it’s about 85 pages long.  So, how did Coleridge Cook (which is a pseudonym, FYI) get 200 pages out of it?  Well, it’s not simply The Metamorphosis.  It incorporates aspects of  The Trial and the short story “Little Woman” (and quite possible some other things as well).

And in that respect, it’s pretty neat.  He takes these three separate Kafka stories and interweaves them, all keeping with the same basic structure of The Metamorphosis with Gregor as a cat.

And so, as in the original, Gregor is abused by his family.  But unlike the original, he eventually escapes outside where he meets Josef K. and is put on trial.  He is eventually let go and returns home where he imagines the tearful return he will have with his sister.

But here’s the problem.  Unlike P&P&Z which made a whole new plot and added so much excitement to the original story, all that this mash-up does is to change him from a cockroach into a kitten.  So really, the story is exactly the same but instead of scenes with creepy, gross cockroach detail, we get scenes with cute and cuddly kitten details.  And as such, it’s hard to understand exactly why the family is so creeped out by him. (more…)

Read Full Post »

pride-zombiesSOUNDTRACK: The Core: WVPH, 90.3 FM.

coreThe Core is also from Rutgers University.  How do they have two radio stations?  Interestingly, the station is shared with Piscataway High School.  For several hours a day Piscataway High School takes over the airwaves.  Although I admit that I have not listened to any of the PHS stuff because the first block is at 6 in the morning, and the other block is from 1- 3PM.

The college folks, however, play a pretty excellent selection of alternative music.  They’re not quite as indie and out there as WRSU, but they’re not commercial either.  To me, they’re more of the kind of college station I’m used to from my days as music director at the University of Scranton.

In the few days that I listened, I heard a lot of familiar alternative artists, with a nice focus on new bands.  What I especially liked about the station was that they didn’t play too much in the way of commercial alternative (your U2s and R.E.Ms who were once alternative but are now mainstream).  Rather, they played bands like Art Brut, The Decemberists, Portishead and Neutral Milk Hotel: bands that many people have at least heard of, but that you won’t find anywhere else on the dial.

This is the station that I would turn to most if my CD player busted permanently.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, but which also reminded me of my days as a DJ, was that college DJs tend to talk A LOT.  We all think that we are imparting precious wisdom to the masses.  And often, that is true.  Although in this one case, the DJ said that the name of the band was Art Brut Vs Satan, which is in fact just the album name.  (See, I’m still a pretentious music snob!).   However, when I’m having dinner and reading a book, I don’t need a seven minute update about that last concert that you went to.

[READ: May 19, 2009] Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

When I first heard about this book (as a punchline on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me at my brother-in-law Tim’s house), I couldn’t believe it was real.  I was so intrigued by the concept, and then so impressed by the reviews, that I couldn’t wait to read it.

And this book does not disappoint.

For those out of the loop: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, as the title suggests, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with good old zombie action thrown in.  Elizabeth and Darcy… What?

Yes.  Zombies.

Seth Grahame-Smith has taken Pride and Prejudice, changed a few details and then added an entire…well, subplot is not right…more like an underlying condition to the story.  It turns it from a story of love and marriage into a story of love and marriage amidst zombie brain-lust. (more…)

Read Full Post »