Book Review: Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Christopher Golden (Illustrated by Mike Mignola)

I can easily get “lost” in a store with a book section (woe to the soul that accompanies me to a book store or, worst, library). There you’ll find me gazing at book covers, reading enticing blurbs, and sampling the first pages (okay, first CHAPTER) of an interesting novel.

The aisle where I found Joe Golem and the Drowning City, written by Christopher Golden and illustrated by Mike Mignola, looked like the aftermath of a Black Friday sale. Books were pulled from their proper places and thrown on shelves where they didn’t belong (I found Fifty Shades of Gray in the middle grade section). I unearthed Joe Golem and the Drowning City from a pile of books in the romance section and bought it.

I really intended to read it, but the spring semester started and…you know how that song and dance goes. I picked it up in June (or July) and finished it in three days!

It’s an amazing read filled with occultists, steampunk machinery, otherworldly gods, and dark illustrations to boot.

Synopsis

The inhabitants of the “Drowning City,” formally Lower Manhattan before the sea flooded the streets in 1925, do whatever they can to survive the city’s watery slums. Molly McHugh use to be just like them. She lived a life of fear and poverty until Orlov the Conjurer, a powerful magician hindered by age, pulled her from the streets and employed her as his assistant.

Things change when Orlov is abducted and his capturers try to kill Molly. She runs into the mysterious detective, Joe Golem, who promises to help save Orlov.

But neither are prepared for the world that lies ahead of them.

Blurb from Amazon:

In 1925, earthquakes and a rising sea level left Lower Manhattan submerged under more than thirty feet of water, so that its residents began to call it the Drowning City. Those unwilling to abandon their homes created a new life on streets turned to canals and in buildings whose first three stories were underwater. Fifty years have passed since then, and the Drowning City is full of scavengers and water rats, poor people trying to eke out an existence, and those too proud or stubborn to be defeated by circumstance.

 

Among them are fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh and her friend and employer, Felix Orlov. Once upon a time Orlov the Conjurer was a celebrated stage magician, but now he is an old man, a psychic medium, contacting the spirits of the departed for the grieving loved ones left behind. When a seance goes horribly wrong, Felix Orlov is abducted by strange men wearing gas masks and rubber suits, and Molly soon finds herself on the run.

 

Her flight will lead her into the company of a mysterious man, and his stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, whose own past is a mystery to him, but who walks his own dreams as a man of stone and clay, brought to life for the sole purpose of hunting witches.

My Overall Thoughts

Since I respect those who haven’t read the book, spoiler text will be in GREEN from this point forward.

The bleak atmosphere of the Drowning City drew me in. Its inhabitants occupy the tops of skyscrapers and use makeshift bridges to get around. Beat-up boats transverse waterways that snake around abandoned buildings. To make matters worst, those who live in the city are essentially abandoned because no one is willing to help them rebuild.

There’s also a supernatural element with staeampunk undertones that makes the setting even more wild: Church (Joe’s partner) uses alchemy and a mechanical heart to prolong his life, Joe is an ancient stone golem meant to protect the world from witches, and Orlov is the son of an interdimensional god.

In my opinion, the interior format of the print book is amazing. It’s about the size of an adult coloring book with Mike Mignola’s shadow-heavy illustrations displayed in the margins. They aren’t prominent (there’s a few full page illustrations), but they’re detailed enough to pull you further into the story. You may be more familiar with Mignola’s work than you think, since he wrote and illustrated Hellboy (check out his work here).

The characters were also interesting; however, I didn’t like Molly very much. She wasn’t a bad character: she’s decisive and abrasive (definitely not a damsel in distress). The only problem is that she’s a normal character amongst extraordinary ones (Joe is an ancient golem, Orlov is a magician, and Church is basically a cyborg).

Even the antagonist was oddly charming. He has this jolly santa clause vibe…right up to the moment when he starts explaining his evil plan to open a up a parallel dimension that’ll throw the world into eternal damnation.

Things I loved!

The illustrations! Beautiful.

Joe’s gruff, stoic, attitude.

The scene where Joe saved Molly from the possessed tree that tried to eat her.

The part where Orlov finally becomes the freakish god he’s destined to be in the climax of the story. His metamorphoses causes tsunamis that ruin upper Manhattan (where the wealthy live) and a parallel dimension to bleed into our world. It’s a touching moment because Orlov is confused and doesn’t want to be this thing he’s becoming. At the same time, he has to leave to the parallel dimension or risk destroying the world Molly lives in. No matter which decision he chooses, Molly will be left alone (so sad).

Things I Tolerated.

I’m not kidding when I say this book was awesome. I also don’t finish books that I don’t like (and I finished this in three days!). With that said, there were a few places in the book that were a bit drawn out. The scene with Molly being chased by the gas man for example, could have been shorter.

The story’s climax was spectacular, but I was a bummed when Joe bailed at the end. When Molly asked where he was going, he simply told her he was going to hunt witches (keep in mind that Joe’s witch hunting days were over centuries ago…he just doesn’t remember). Molly didn’t want him to leave just as much as I didn’t, but he did anyway. Boo! I can’t say this is a bad thing, it’s actually good writing on Golden’s part. Makes me want to buy the sequel.

My Recommendations

If you’re someone who likes steampunk, supernatural thrillers (bordering on occult), or you’re a fan of the Hellboy series, then you may just like this one.

Links:

Christopher Golden’s Website

Mike Mignola’s Website

Book Review: Choices by K.W. McCabe

12979425“It was the Choice. Always the Choice—and it had to be given.

‘Who will the forfeit be?’ She asked slowly.

I shook my head. They always wanted to know although they knew they wouldn’t be told. She had known the conditions when she accepted the return of her life for a period of time.”

In K.W. McCabe’s Choices, a dark lord gives souls the opportunity to come back to life. However, he will come and collect payment. After a period of time, his messenger, Thomas, will appear and give them one doozy of a choice:

Return to the world of the dead OR have someone else take their place.

The narrative doesn’t say outright, but it seems as if Thomas has been doing this for a long time. Though he appears to just be “following orders” he also has his own feelings and opinions about his “job.” For instance, he harbors a bit of disdain for the souls around him—especially for the soul he has to collect.

 

Useful Links:

Book Review: Fine Wine by Scott Marlowe

Fine_Wine_200x320“Abelard ate a lot. That was why, after I’d slashed my knife across his belly, I half-expected his bulbous stomach, chock full of tender roast, broccoli, soft rolls, and the most delicate shiraz I’d ever sampled—all served just an hour before by his fat merchantship’s very staff—to come tumbling out like a too swollen jellyfish. But something about the cut didn’t feel right, and though Abelard clenched his hands to his gut and fell to his knees as I expected he would, there wasn’t even a single, glistening trickle of gastric juice seeping out from between his fat fingers.”

Imagine that you invited a guest over to your house and, after showering them with your best hospitality, they suddenly reveal that they’re there to kill you. A situation like that would make anyone desperate!

In a nutshell, this is Abelard’s situation in Scott Marlowe’s short, Fine Wine. The main character, who’s unnamed, is hired to kill Abelard for reasons unknown. The story starts off with Abelard being “assassinated” but something just isn’t right…

What’s wrong? Since this a very short tale I don’t want to ruin anything. BUT you can go find out for yourself, here.

One thing that I want to assure you is that Fine Wine isn’t as dark and gritty as it may seem. Marlowe uses humor to temper the grim aspects of the story, keeping it interesting and easy to digest. In fact, I found the main character to be hilarious!

Sound interesting?

 

Useful Links

Bookshelf Tag!

S.E. Stone from Paper, Pen, and No Plan “bookshelf tagged” me earlier this week. I thought it would be fun to do (not to mention that I am way behind with my posts) so here’s the rules:

“Answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five other bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.”

– S.E. Stone

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

I haven’t came across such a book yet. So no 😦

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre?

If it wasn’t for The Strange Case of Finely Jane by Kady Cross, I wouldn’t have discovered the mechanical world of steampunk.

3. Find a book that you want to reread.

The Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan! This book was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes high fantasy stories.

4. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?

There isn’t a single book that I’ve read that I didn’t like. However, I do wish that I would have finished Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest series before watching the anime.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Omigosh a fire!!! I would grab my laptop—hands down. It has everything on it…including my digital library. 🙂

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

The City of Towers by Keith Baker. My parents gave this book to me on my 13th birthday. It was a book of “firsts”: 1st book I ever owned, 1st fantasy book I ever enjoyed, and the 1st longest book I ever read.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. This is a book I would recommend to anyone trying to start any sort of creative project. Pressfield taught me to ignore resistance and just get things done.

8. Do you have any autographed books?

No…I don’t 😦

I’ll have to make a point to get one just for the heck of it!

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest. 

Bram Stokers Dracula and a Webster Thesaurus that my dad gave me.

I know—that’s two books!

Thing is, I’ve had them both for such a long time that I can’t remember which came first.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey. This series was the rave during gradeschool! However, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about until I read one myself.

Here are my five tags:

  1. Lizzy Baldwin from My Little Book Blog
  2. Nirvana from Nirvana’s Pocket Full
  3. Sabrina Wolfheart from Books and Bark
  4. Taylor Grace
  5. Vik Tory Arch

I suggest that you—

*points at you*

YOU should check out those five awesome bloggers.

Book Review: The New World by Patrick Ness

“Don’t open it until you’ve landed.”

“’Til we’ve landed?” I said. “That’s five months from now.”

He smiled and lowered his voice. “Do you know what separates us from the beasts, Viola?”

I frowned, sensing a lesson. “The ability to wait to open a present?”

He laughed. “Fire,” he said. “The ability to make fire at will. It allowed us light to see in the darkness, warmth against the cold, a tool to cook our food.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the Delta’s engines. “Fire is what eventually led to travel across the black beyond, the ability to start a new life on a New World.

 

9412471Viola’s family is given a mission to prepare The New World for human colonization. It’s
a honorable mission because no one else on ships Delta and Alpha have lived on a real planet. In fact, humans haven’t lived on an actual planet since Old Earth was poisoned generations ago.

However, Viola doesn’t care how “honorable” the mission is. Deep down, she’s actually afraid. And why not? The last settlers didn’t come back. It’s disheartening! But everyone wants her to have hope.

Approaching their destination…something happens…

 

Overall I enjoyed this short read! The ending of this prequel makes me want to check out the rest of the Chaos Walking trilogy. Another thing that I really enjoyed was the theme of hope.

You can find The New World at Amazon for FREE, enjoy!

Basing Your Reading Habits off of Reviews is so…Grade School!

reviewsThe following conversation actually took place. Names have been changed to protect the Innocent:

Elf: My gawd, you’re just now reading that!

Alien: …yeah…

Elf: Even after the movie came out? Didn’t it spoil everything for you?

Alien: I didn’t read the book when it first came out.

Elf: Why?

Alien: Because the reviews were so bad.

Elf: …You base your reading habits off the opinions of others?

Alien: …Well…yeah.

Elf: Dude…that’s so grade school.


 

I’ve noticed a trend in the digital book market. It goes something like this:

  • 5 out of 5 (overall stars) – gets a book a lot of attention.
  • 4 out of 5 – almost the same as 5/5
  • 3 out of 5 – Makes people uncomfortable. They have to check the reviews!
  • 2 out of 5 – automatic skip
  • 1 out of 5 – You’re basically invisible
  • 0 out of 5 – You’d be lucky if someone accidentally clicked on the cover

Am I wrong? You’re free to disagree.

One day I was browsing through Amazon looking for a decent book to read. I found one, sampled it, liked it, and bought it.

Then I noticed it had a poor overall star rating.

One reader wrote a long review on how the author’s writing style was amateurish, that their characters were cardboard, and the manuscript was in need of a professional editor. The icing on the cake was this last part, “don’t waste your money on this rubbish.”

This reader’s review was declared the “most helpful” and one user thanked the reviewer for saving them money and time. I doubt they even looked at the sample…

Ok, the reviewer is entitled to their opinion. But the commenter…

Reviews are opinions of another reader. I’m not suggesting that we should do away with the starring/review system like some totalitarian regime. However–we (as mature readers, budding authors, and authors) should be adult enough to form our own opinions / decisions based on our own judgments.

At least give the author the courtesy of reading their synopsis and a sample of their work. It’s free! Still want to read the reviews? Go for it! But don’t base your reading / buying decisions off of them.

…it’s so grade school!

 

That’s my opinion, what’s yours?

Famous Rejections #2

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick:9780553213119_custom-6967beeca1bb45f778224fd949b93c8b3049f459-s6-c30

“Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.”

 

F. Scott Gitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:TGG-orig

“You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”

 

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga:twilight_book_cover

“I didn’t plan to start a new career when I did this, and it took a lot of courage to send out those query letters. I sent 15, and I got nine rejection letters, five no responses and one person who wanted to see me. If it’s something you enjoy, put the determination and will behind it and see what happens.”

More to Come!

Click here for my last “Famous Rejection” post

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

“An alarm goes off as I burst through the stairwell door. There’s a chorus of clicks as all the doors in the stairwell lock from the inside. I’m trapped. The soldiers can still come through any door, but I won’t be able to get out. Shouts and footsteps echo from inside the laboratory. A voice yells out, ‘He’s hit!’

My eyes jump to the tiny windows in the stairwell’s plaster walls. They’re too far awayLegend_Marie_Lu_Book_cover for me to reach from the stairs themselves. I grit my teeth an pull out my second knife so that I now have one in each hand. I pray the plaster is soft enough, then leap off the stairs and throw myself towards the wall.”

June is a prodigy (meaning a high-ranking student) from a rich military family within the Republic. She’s the best of her class and she knows it! Her ego often gets her into trouble with her superiors or it may even elicit a lecture from Matias, her brother as well as her only family. However, once Matias is killed, June is pulled out of school and given the mission to find her brother’s killer. Her suspect? The Republic’s notorious fifteen year old criminal Day.

Legend‘s rich world building and backstory really adds to the dystopian feel of the novel. The setting is the United States which has been drastically changed by war, a flood, and a devastating plague. Ruled by the Elector Primo and his military, there is a broad line between the rich and the poor.

The pacing was nonstop and often had me staying up late at night trying to figure out whatimages (2) would happen to June and Day. Before I knew it…I turned the last page.

Are you someone who enjoys a good dystopian? Are you into military scifi with just a hint of romance? Yes?! This book is for you! 😀

 

Have you read Legend? What was your impression of it?

Famous Rejections

Rejection stinks worse then a cow in the summer. But, just like cow funk, they’re out there. Don’t be deterred! Stay strong. In fact, these authors were rejected by publishers. To bad for them…the publishers I mean…

 

Jules Verne’s rejection for his Paris in the Twentieth Century:

“…If you were to reread it one year from now, you would surely agree with me. It is tabloidish, and the topic is ill-chosen.

I was not expecting perfection–to repeat, I knew that you were attempting the impossible–but I was hoping for something better.”


 

Stephen King’s Carrie:

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”


 

William Golding’s Lord of Flies:

“…an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

 

More to come!

What’s Your Opinion: Is YA Fiction Becoming Repetitive?

Is young adult fiction becoming repetitive and unoriginal?

I stumbled onto an interesting debate about a week ago that deals with the above question. Initially I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to beimages appalled or intrigued. Then, after fifteen minutes of reading the debate and scratching my head, I eventually said, “Y’know, Desiree, this would make for a great discussion.”

The debate starts like this…

The first debater (the one who believes YA is repetitive) said:

“I love to read YA books, and young adult books such as the Hunger Games and the Fault in Our Stars aren’t just for young adults anymore. Everybody is experiencing the thrills and emotions of young adult fiction. However, it is hard to find good young adult books anymore. Why? Because every author has decided that writing a young adult book exactly like The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars is the best way to attract readers and make money (and if you’re lucky, get it made into a movie).”

Then a second debater challenges the first by stating:

“The authors of books such as Hunger Games, Divergent and Fault in our stars are writers of young adult books. Authors are writing the books with the same concepts, because young adults like these books. They are very popular and yes, high on demand. Young adults love to read these books because, what would happen if you always write about the perfect life? What is there to relate to? Even just simply reading these books, your mind enters a completely different world, of creativity.”

If you could participate in this debate, what would your opinion be?

*Click here to see how the debate turned out