Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things that I Read:

This week: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Grade: G for Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!

Let it be known that I am not a fan of horror movies. It was with some trepidation that I picked up this book at all, because everything about it from the creepy ass cover to the description on the jacket flap just screams "Not a book with fluffy bunnies in it." However, I am a big fan of the macabre and I've been known to read my share of books full of graphic violence and generally nasty business, and this book came to my attention from positive reviews in various print journals, as well as's "Customers who bought this item also bought" feature which has lead me down many an interesting path before. This is nominally a Young Adult novel, which presumably means it was written with a teen audience in mind, though I have a hard time determining which teens I know would actually read it. The protagonist, Will Henry, is a boy of 12, so perhaps this was the motivation behind the designation. However, I read a book a few months ago, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti, which similarly featured a teenage character, yet that was considered "adult." Ah well, such things are peculiar even to this well-read librarian. On to the review in earnest then..

To say that this book is horrifying is putting it mildly. This book scared the crap out of me. There, I said it. Now what is interesting is not that this book was scary, but WHY it was scary. Was I frightened by the menacing Anthropophagi with their razor sharp teeth and gaping maws in the middle of their chests? Was I horrified by the gnashing of bones or the tearing of limbs? Eh. I mean, yeah it was gross. But for some reason, the only image I could keep in my mind was this guy.

There is just something about a non-specific blobby
monster that is profoundly un-scary to me. I mean, really? REALLY? I'm supposed to be afraid of this thing? There has to be some basis in reality. I guess I just can't suspend my disbelief enough to be genuinely frightened by something so silly.

So what
was it that horrified me so by this book? Well, I don't want to get too spoilery here, but lets just say that there are characters in this book infected with parasites. Horrible horrible parasites that worm their way out of one's skin and through their eyeballs. And THAT my friends, makes me pee my pants. Because monsters are monsters. No cryptozoologist is ever going to convince me that chupachabras are real or any other silly monsters of legend. But eyeball worms? Those exist, folks. There are hookworms and tapeworms and filarial worms that cause elphantitis and lets not even mention all the insects that can make your skin cave in or diseases like Ebola. That stuff is real. And holy, crap, gang, I am never going to go to the jungle ever. Much of my fear of being eaten from the inside out came after I finished The Lost City of Z which is the true story of Percy Fawcett's hopeless quest to find El Dorado. The Monstrumologist is just as graphic in its descriptions. While the parasites infecting the people in the story are imaginary, I couldn't help but bring to mind all the true cases of awful that really do exist in the world. Interestingly, the whole parasite thing is like a minor minor part of the actual story, but enough for me.

Plot-wise, overall I found it rather difficult to relate to any of the characters. The story is taken from the journals of the recently deceased Will Henry, an old eccentric who left the pages to a local museum. It relates his experiences as a child working with Pellinore Warthrop, a well-known monstrumologist, or monster hunter, in their investigation of a series of murders carried out by aforementioned beasties. **Spoiler Alert** guess what folks, the kid doesn't die in the book because he grows up to be this old man. I kind of hate when that happens. Its hard to imagine characters in mortal peril when you already know that they come out of their adventures relatively unscathed. As for everyone else in the story, I could really care less about them. You know from the get go that few if any of the secondary characters survive the outing. Then its just a matter of waiting for them to all die in varying, splashy ways.

I would, however, recommend this book to people who like gross out horror movies. The graphic descriptions of body parts being ripped apart, is somewhat comparable to the "Saw" movies. At times, it was more like a catalog of mayhem and destruction than an actual story. Really really gross, at times really really scary (parasites!!) but lacking a bit in its heart. Overally, I enjoyed it, though. Well written generally and quick to read. Would I read a sequel? Meh. Probably not. I "get" the conceit, I just don't need more of the same. Even in the last 60 pages I was sort of just waiting for them to get on with it already.

Final Word: You can read it in a dark room on a stormy night, but I wouldn't bring it on the plane ride for your trip through the Amazon or Congo unless you aren't especially terrified of flesh eating horrible worms.

Final Word (Revised): The Monstrumologist is now a 2010 Printz Honor book. Congrats!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sherlock Holmes- a movie review
Grade: W for whacked out crazy awesome

If you are looking for serious cinema, then you probably don't want to go see Sherlock Holmes this weekend. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a fun adventure story with whacked out steampunk gadgets and a touch of guy love (#iswearwearentgay) then boy do I have a movie for you. Sherlock Holmes is an entertaining flick along the lines of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie... except better...and no boats.

*Spoiler alert: Actually there is one boat but they aren't exactly on it.

The main reason why this film succeeds is the chemistry between Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. While I think they could have played up Watson's role a bit more, and I did miss his narration (like in the books), overall I thought the two of them were just great. Anybody expecting a film in anyway resembling the original stories or novels will be somewhat disappointed, though. Some fans of both the books and the movie have mentioned that Arthur Conan Doyle did describe Holmes as an athletic man who was skilled in fighting as well as deduction, but let's be honest: they just took the essentials from the characters, added a little bit of name dropping (Mycroft!), and basically just went balls-out crazy with it. Ya know what? It was awesome. Just just deal with it purists. You probably didn't like the new Star Trek either.

As a side note, got to see the trailer for Iron Man 2 on the big screen and man, oh man, does that look sweet. I am somevut dis-toorbed by Mickey Rourke’s abominable Russian accent, but I’ll forgive it if they throw in a few extra splooooshy explosions.

Tales from the Gloop returns!

Yes, I am truly a fancy fancy lady. With my own blog and everything. Look at me. For a while now people have said that I am funny. Not in a “ha ha” way and not in a “funny looking” way, more like the “we find you mildly amusing enough to type you a perfunctory ‘lol’ when you comment on something" sort of way. And so I decided from that strong bit of encouragement to start up my old blog again in earnest so that I might share my mildly amusing comments with an ever dwindling number of people who tolerate me. As I have also succumbed to the twitter (sigh...) I figured I might as well get that on there also. Oh and look, there's a thingy with all the books I'm reading. You really care about this don't you. Anyway... so here's the new blog, same as the old blog, but more differenter. Look for reviews of stuff that I like, as well as humorous anecdotes. Stuff you won't find: day to day life sort of bitching. This won't be one of those kinds of blogs. Or at least I hope not.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Pursuit of Gloopiness

The Pursuit of Gloopiness

I decided to explain the whole "Gloop" thing. This blog is, after all, called "Tales from the Gloop" so it is only fair that I say, for the record, what the heck I'm talking about.

It started with a dream. No, actually, it started with a 1960s cartoon called the Herculoids. Actually, no, it started with a pillow.

A few years ago these new microbead pillows came on the market. The first were called Moshis and could only be found at Bed Bath and Beyond. You probably have seen them in the store, or seen people carrying them on airplanes. Today they come in all kinds of different shapes and things, but back then you could only get this basic little blobby thing. Well my brother and I both really liked our Moshi pillows because they were very snuggly and, because they made out of Lycra, you could bend them in all sorts of positions.

Well, in a car ride back home from the store, I realized that the pillows sort of looked like those little blobby guys Gloop and Gleep from the old cartoon the Herculoids.

For those of you who haven't seen the show, here's the title sequence that can give you some idea of what I'm talking about

There was also an episode of SeaLab 2021 that prominently featured Gloop.

Anyway, because there came to be so many brands of these microbead pillows (Moshis, Mooshmellows, Fooms, etc.) we decided for the sake of convenience to just call them all Gloops. After a while, "Gloop" came to mean what we did when we snuggled with our Gloops. Then "Glooping" came to mean any time we acted liked Gloops (i.e. lumpy and squishy). Then I started to call my cousins Gloops, because little kids are pretty gloopy. Then my family started to call me a Gloop. And then, then my friends, it grew out of control. I started to use "gloopy" as the Smurfs use "smurfy," as one of those universal words that negates all others. I honestly believe, really and truly, that because of Gloops my vocabulary has suffered significantly, but I'm not going to worry about it.

Now, I must put this into broader context. Growing up, particularly since my brother was born, my mom has used her own made up words. For her, Shtagey (Sht-ah-gee) meant something nice and happy, Dimbly meant much the same, a Figgity Bah was a mean person, and Shnuggly meant that you were snuggling in a particularly shtagey way. It never really struck me as particularly odd that a grown woman would frequently use made up words or that my family just accepted the use of them without question. Needless to say, after Gloop came along, it didn't take much time for it to pretty much replace all of my mom's words.

Anyway, so there you have it. My mom is nuts and so am I, I suppose. But really, am I so nuts? I really think this whole idea of glooping is something wonderful and good and that it should be shared with everyone. Really, I just think that too few of us put enough importance on just lying under the covers with a stuffed animal and a loved one and just being happy. It is something that is really endemic to our society. We are always moving, always going, always doing. Too infrequently do we just savor the joys of doing absolutely nothing, of glooping to our heart's content. Maybe I am obsessed with snuggling. But you know, at least I'm happy doing it.