Envy Rots the Bones: I admit it, I prejudge books tactilely

Every once in a while you find a novel and you really have no idea what you are getting into. It might have a strange physical quality or texture which throws you off; it looks like it went through a war zone but you still carried it home. The book blurb didn't mentally sell you, but on some DNA level it did and you kept it.

‘Envy Rots the Bones’ was one of those books for me. When I received it, I hated the texture of the book. It felt too new, clean, crisp, and absolutely too clinical. The sharp edges of the cut paper felt too smooth to go with a biblical title reference and the blurb on the rear cover. It sounded like a good book but felt.. wrong.

By the last page, every perception I had was flipped. The initial feel of the book changed from ‘Too clinical’ and sharp-edged, becoming ‘surgically clean and razor sharp’.

Buying books through this link will support this site but cost you no extra money.
Consider picking up a copy for personal use OR to donate to your local library.

  • Envy Rots the Bones (Nina Blakeman)
  • 422 pages
  • Outskirts Press
  • ISBN-10: 1478788410
  • ISBN-13: 978-1478788416

Faye Davis is working through emotional and physical trauma. Her husband Todd was married when they met. Love, lust, and professional respect brought them together. Todd’s ex-wife Annette almost broke them apart. Capturing Faye on a remote farm, Annette tortured and slowly damaged her mind and body.

Several years after the violent death of Annette, Faye is left to pick up the leftover gristle and put her life back together.

Faye’s twin step-daughters, Ella and Emma, are part of the collateral damage. They are impacted by the separation of their family, the psychosis of their mother, and the social stigmas of a teen with a family history. Emma’s pain goes deeper. Sharing some of the psychosis, she believes her mother was not evil. Todd and Faye need to be punished and destroyed.

This was a great Novel, best I have ever read? No. That is a reserved status that hasn’t been adjusted in 20 years (Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451). But I did really enjoy it and at no point consider shelving it unfinished. I have talked about it with friends and even offered my copy for reading. There were just the twists at just the right moments. This felt like it had been storyboarded and outlined to bring it to a succinct unwavering path.

While the book was not gory, there was a graphic scene which stood out. It has a toddler in a public park sandbox unearthing the head of a corpse. The nanny really should have been paying more attention. Check my YouTube channel if you would like to catch that paragraph in a preview. It is a short video, dedicated to the amazingness of one disturbing mental image.

This book was provided for review purposes by the author or publisher. The FTC has not explicitly stated that failing to disclose the source of this book will land me in a pit covered in Lye, I have heard stories of missing fingernails and torture rooms. Readers can trust my opinion is unswayed. I am allergic to Lye and do not want to risk being placed in the pit.

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Stack the Bones: Early learning game for corpse hoarders

Kikkerland's Stack the Bones is actually a pretty fun game, despite it's flaws. There is also a Carrot version that I kind of want to play as well, because I like cute crap :)
The Goth im me wants to pull out some Redrum spiced rum (coffin shaped red bottle) and get some late night game action going.

I did not pay full price for this, instead found it basically unused at Goodwill, but that doesnt mean it isn't worth the $20 it seems to normally retail for.. But let's be honest here.. $3.99 (or whatever it was) is far better.

Game looks fun? Buy a copy through this link! 
Supports me but will cost you no extra money.

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Tea Dragon Society: Not an 80’s toy commercial, just a cute comic

Many wonderful comics start off grassroots with a webcomic or small personal zine. It is hard to keep up with them all, even using the ever less relevant RSS, you could spend eight hours a day busting through updates and micro-releases.

Tea Dragon Society is one of those wonderful small releases that could have been lost in ebb and flow of the internet ocean. Picked up by OniPress, ‘The Tea Dragon Society’ officially moves multi-genre and can live on your bookshelf.

Pre-order for 10/31/17 release!
(Oct 18th for KindleEdition)

Buying books through these links will support this site but cost you no extra money.
Consider picking up a copy for personal use OR to donate to your local or school library.

The Tea Dragon Society (Katie O’Neill)
Age: 9 - 12 years / Grade: 4 - 7
72 pages
Oni Press
ISBN-10: 1620104415
ISBN-13: 978-1620104415

This is a short work of fiction. At only 72 pages, I will refrain from going to deeply into detail as the entire story could be spoiled very quickly. In this universe, tea can actually be magic. Normal tea tastes delicious and brings comfort, but those who care for Tea Dragons can make special tea (hah.. Specialty). On the heads and bodies of Tea Dragons, specific varieties of tea leaves and berries grow. Through the love for the creatures and the closeness of one’s bond, the tea grows and can be groomed.

Beverages made from this tea are infused with the memories and feelings of the Dragon caretakers.

In this unique story, a young blacksmith named Greta meets a Tea Dragon lost in the city. Getting to know it’s owner, she makes new friends and helps rebuild a lost social group centered on the love and care of the Dragons. Greta feels self-conscious but through her friendship with an even more awkward faun-friend, she seems to really grow as a character. The comic is split into four seasons of the year with a detailed appendix of Tead Dragon lore and species data in the tail end.

This is just cute!

Aspects of this book drove were disappointing as an adult reader - For example, Greta has a pet who appears to be some form of fire entity. This is called out by her mother as a point of interest, but we never learn more.either there was a point or there wasn't. There is definite room for plot expansion in several similar areas, but as a fun story, these holes do not detract from the experience. Hopefully, we see followup releases.

Read the entire work on the original web-comic page (http://teadragonsociety.com). If you enjoy it, consider picking up an official copy and supporting the author. Use this as a teaser to see if you need it on your shelf or in your local school.

This book was supplied for review purposes by the publisher. I drank some tea once that was terrible. Seriously terrible. I over steeped it in coffee from a robot and forgot about it for a couple hours. That was bad, this was good. While I make mistakes, I don’t drink mistakes. I pour mistakes out and then cry a little because I ruined coffee and tea simultaneously.

Additional Art samples:

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Crecent City Monsters: Pay attention to this!!


I stumbled into a new time sink last night: a new web comic that has the trifecta- compelling story, vivid characters, deep and astounding inkwork.

Dream Fury Comics is producing Crecent City Monsters. Releasing pages in a serialized format, there are only 17 currently published. Perfect time to get in on the ground floor of an up and coming ‘before it was cool’- though I can promise it is already cool.

It is difficult to go into detail this early in a series without just spoiling every page. Jonas, deep south magic user and band frontman heads to a gig, axe in hand (nice metaphor), and is accosted by dozens of some bizarre creatures. The Owl and Crow outside his ma’s house warn him of evil entering our dimension. Jonas has the hunger of a teenager to get out and kick any asses keeping him from his band or girl.

I look forward to where this will go.

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Lighter than my Shadow: A quiet and beautiful punch to the heart

Some novels have to be broken into pieces in order to remain emotionally healthy. I remember reading a Henry Rollin's poetry book called 'To see a grown man cry', which tore at me a bit and I could only read a handful of pages at a time before taking a break; it was raw and impacting. Katie Green's graphic novel 'Lighter than my Shadow' held the same impact. It was well drawn and emotionally charged, fairly depressing but honest and real.

As with Rollin's poetry, 'Lighter than my Shadow' was immensely beautiful, worth the pain and effort to consume. They were both a punch to the heart that I had to consume in sections to refrain from being bruised.

  • Lighter than my Shadow (Katie Green)
  • 516 pages
  • Lion Forge
  • ISBN-10: 1941302416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941302415

Buying books through these links will support this site but cost you no extra money.
Pick up a copy and donate it to your local or school library.

The graphic memoir genre has been growing in size over the last few years as very talented people with very interesting histories recognize the value of the presentation. Green's 'Lighter than my Shadow' fits easily into the accepting graphic format and discusses very candidly the topics of Anorexia, Binge eating, and abuse.

As memoir alludes, the point of view in this work is that of a younger Katie Green, starting with her early school years and following her through college. She battles confusing body perceptions, social pressures, and the impact of these things on her personal perception of self. She is frequently told her view of the world is inferior by people who do not try to understand.

The story hurt to read. It was concise and as outsiders looking in, we can see problems removed from emotion. We are able to pick up on the social queues and foreshadowing that time muffles and blurs when someone is experiencing it first hand.

Green's artwork was stunning, keeping several elements simplistic yet emotive (such as facial features), focusing instead on the depth of universe and backgrounds. Katie has a solid representation of her internal struggles in the form of a looming black cloud over her head. The cloud begins to form when she dwells on mean phrases yelled at her by schoolboys. The internal monologue gets louder and more forceful as she gets older and further into troubling habits, splitting her in two in jagged rips. The black cloud gets larger and louder as well, blotting out all other things. Her insatiable compensating Binge hunger is represented by an ever-growing mouth in her stomach which consumes the universe at one point.

The book is not without fault, though to be clear the the faults are NOT with the artwork or the story. There is an element of the written descriptions which were sometimes a bit confusing. Mental thoughts that are unspoken are presented exactly the same as speech bubbles for vocal conversations. The difference is only a slightly dotted line rather than a curved solid. If not precisely viewed, these sometimes are missed or easily read as solid. Because of this, there was a minor amount of re-reading needed to ensure that complex sections were fully understood.

While the subject matter of this book requires some nudity, it should be noted that the story and art might not be appropriate for all age groups. 

Highly recommended!

This graphic novel was presented for review purposes by the publisher. I can actually see them in my mind's eye sitting in dark rooms with bright futuristic antigravity chairs and legal pads, plotting how to earn extra airline miles by putting office donut purchases on their personal credit cards. The folks in marketing and order fulfillment are surely grateful for the pastries, but they know they are pawns in a 1% gain scheme. I am not influenced by such schemes and can advise that this review was likewise not influenced. I do love free donuts though.

Additional Art samples (pages 156-159 of the book)

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Ramses The Damned, The Passion of Cleopatra: Great for fans, other buyers.. maybe not as much

In the mid-1990's, I was an adolescent mess. I wore a studded dog collar and wallowed (happily) in angst. I listened to a lot of Joy Division and Nine Inch Nails; I had eyeliner tattooed on and wrote shitty poetry I believed was groundbreaking. I was young and frequently drunk off cheap liquor; pumped full of testosterone and teenage idiocy.

The stereotype you are surely forming of me is probably spot on, so it is no surprise I also read a lot of Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite books. I distinctly remember picking up a copy of 'Interview with a Vampire' and was blown away by its existence, never realizing it was close to twenty-five years old at that point.

More relevant to today’s topic, During this same window I picked up a copy of 'The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned'. Unlike other Anne Rice novels, as I aged and my eyeliner faded, The Mummy stayed fresh in my mind. While still a fan, I grew out of my Anne Rice phase. Over the years, The Mummy showed staying power, sticking out in my longterm memory. It seemed to be underappreciated and infrequently read in my circles. This was a shameful fact as my opinion held it in high regard even as the vampire chronicles became passe and ignored.
  • Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra (Anne Rice, Christopher Rice)
  • 416 pages
  • Anchor publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1101970324
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101970324

Buying a copy through this link supports this site but cost you no extra money.
Put it in the closet for an awesome x-mas gift.

This book was pretty good, but I have to recognize that my brain is applying some of the enjoyment thanks to nostalgia. This novel is categorized as "Good not great". I am not sure as to the details regarding the co-authorship via Anne and her son Christopher. Were they equal partners in the writing? Was he writing and only simply using her as a data source/sounding board? Was she dictating the entire thing and he was simply a keyboard transcription monkey? Unfortunately, though enjoyed, this was probably one of the least successful Rice novels I have read. It had areas of clumsy prose and it was guided by repetition. Interesting regardless.

The Rice duo are still bound to make a killing on it from folks in my generation. Rice fans will find this to be on par with other novels and will find this to be readable/variations of worthwhile. It was deeply detailed and verbose. Per the norm, the novel spends a great deal of time talking about clothing, food, and backstory. I know this is how Anne writes and it was not a big deal, though this is one reason why I have stayed away from her works in general over time. I have never read Christopher and have no experience with him to judge against.

If you are not an Anne Rice fan, this book is probably not going to be a great choice for you. Reading the original novel should be a prerequisite for any new readers. The Passion of Cleopatra should not be considered standalone, you will probably be driven nuts if you have to work through the knowledge gap organically via the inline character conversations. These same conversations (included to help allow this to be standalone) added fuel to some contrived language and lead by the nose plotline. The combination left very little to the imagination and was instead a tourist guide to the Ramses world.

Some spoilers follow as there is context needed in reference to the original novel.

The Passion of Cleopatra picks up where the original leaves off. The difficult bit is that the original novel is 28 years old. The Passion of Cleopatra is intended to rebuild that world and take the reins dropped back in '89.

In the 1989 novel, Ramses the Great, immortal and in love, shares his secret elixir with Julie Stratford causing her to also become immortal. They both collect sunlight like plants and will live as long as the sun shines on our Earth.

An insane Cleopatra, raised from a corpse by Ramses during a moment of utter idiocy, has been immolated in a fireball caused when two trains heavy-handedly crush the car she is driving. Everything is wrapped in a semi-nicely wrapped package and we are all left annoyed by lack of continuation, but satisfied. None of us believed there would ever be a sequel to it, though we believed one would be awesome. A sequel was probably highly requested but not long-term in the planning.

This new book rekindles the universe, bringing a different tale and a potential for more books to follow. For better or worse, I will likely read them. I won’t be able to help it.
Several months after the train accident, Ramsey and friends find that Cleopatra has survived the train crash and continues to lose her mind. Her homicidal tendencies appear to be mellowing as she begins to more firmly root in the new century. She is a creature without a home, out of time, and failing to gain or retain a sense of identity.

Introduced in this novel are a couple new faces:
  1. Bektaten is an immortal queen of 6000 years and the elixir originator. She is what the Vampire novels "Queen of the damned" wishes she could have been. She is an imposing and regal character. -side note- Rice has named too many "damned" characters, this is not one of them, but there are tangential correlations and templatization that can be felt.
  2. Anne Rice herself seems to be making an appearance as a key character named Sybil Parker. She has several chapters dedicated to her. Sybil is an American author known for writing complex and deeply detailed stories about ancient Egypt. It is a bit Meta, but this seems to be a thing for authors these days, so climb aboard.
  3. Best characters, Bektaten's 6k-year-old servant/lovers. They are badasses, neither gets the page time they deserve.
Other characters in this novel are asinine at best. They could be deleted. In any follow-up novels, either Rice author may easily abstain from even mentioning them:
  1. Ramses spends the entire book chatting in circles and over explaining things. He fails to do anything of importance.
  2. Similarly, Julie Stratford is just scenery to help drive other story elements. The most fascinating thing about her is that she has fully adopted menswear against the turn of the century norms.
This book was provided for review purposes by the publisher. Similar to when the dentist asks what you do for a living while they are wrist deep in your mouth, the review process requires some drool and blood to communicate successfully. I am well brushed and cavity free, gently pushing the tools aside with my tongue to tell you that more nitrous is needed. If it hurts or feels good, I will advise. Remember to floss, kids.

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