L’Année du loup-garou/The Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

lannee-du-loupgarou

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Horror, supernatural, mystery

Medium: French paperback

Synopsis: In the town of Tarker Mills, Maine, a werewolf is running rampant.  Killing people, killing livestock, and destroying property.  Each month’s full moon casts a darker shadow on this small town.  But who is the werewolf, and who will stop him?

Review: I feel so privileged to be able to read a novella written by my favorite author in French!  And, it’s been a while since I’ve read some of his older work.  So, that being said, this review is likely going to be a little bit biased.

First things first: the structure.  The structure (12 chapters for 12 months of the year) made this novella so nice and easy to read.  By breaking it down in an evident way, we didn’t need to spend part of the chapter wondering where we were in the year, or who was killed when.  However, King does take liberties with the moon’s cycle, as some full moons in this novella happen at key points of the year such as Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July and Halloween, but he’s already written a note acknowledging this liberty and his reasoning behind it.

Next, the illustrations.  My copy has illustrations, which only make the aesthetic of this novella even more incredible!  It’s the perfect style, and while it can be gory, it never gets outrageously so.  Here’s my favorite illustration, done for Valentine’s Day:

nice

Thirdly–and this is why Stephen King is my favorite author–is that Stephen King is just so dang inclusive.  We have a variety of characters.  We have characters of various sizes, beliefs, and ability.  And, SPOILER ALERT, the person who makes the biggest difference in this story is Marty, a teenage boy in a wheelchair.  You’d think that the person to eventually figure out who the werewolf is and then kill him would be able-bodied, right?  Wrong!  And boy, am I glad.  Making Marty the town’s hero gave him much more agency than I feel like you’d normally see in a paraplegic boy in fictional media.  And you know what?  He wasn’t a martyr either–he lived to tell the tale.  END SPOILER ALERT.

Honestly, all of these things together–the well-structured story-line, the illustrations, and the inclusiveness are all what make Stephen King’s works such a pleasure to read.  So, if you’ve never read Stephen King, but you’re thinking about it, this would be a good place to start.

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Neko Cafe by Elsa Boyer

neko-cafeRating: ★★★1/2

Genre: Adult lit, fiction

Medium: French paperback

Synopsis: Neko Cafe is situated in a city that has many, many earthquakes.  Robots litter the beaches, and ghosts of the past haunt people.  The boss of said cafe begins to dream of a space where cats could take control.

Review: This is one of those books where I have to start off by saying that French isn’t my first language.  So, my review ultimately affects that because I’m sure that there were some things I didn’t quite understand despite the use of a French-English dictionary.

Firstly, if you’re debating whether you should read this in French, you should!  It’s a great book to build animal vocabulary, and the language is honestly so flowy and figurative that it is the perfect book to delve into.

Secondly, the subject matter in itself is interesting, too.  When I first saw this book in the bookstore, I knew that I had to buy it. I mean, hello?  Neko Cafe?  That’s right up my alley–and then the blurb mentions ghosts and robots?  Sign me the h*ck up.  This is the kind of book that I wish I could have read on vacation beside the sea.  It was so pleasant and delightful that each chapter reminded me a little bit of the clouds in the sky.

If you’re into reading “contemporary hipster” books, or books for the aesthetic, THIS would be the book to choose.  It’s a quick read, and an enjoyable one.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

infinite-jest

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Adult lit, fiction

Medium: Paperback

Warnings: Suicide, drugs, alcohol, violence, animal violence, abusive relationships

Synopsis: A group of separatist Canadian wheelchair assassins have found proof that the movie Infinite Jest exists, and it’s somewhere in Boston, MA.  Infinite Jest is a movie rumored to render people so entertained that they die in a state of catatonic bliss.  Cue the Incandenza family: Jim, the late father who created Infinite Jest; Avril, the widow who is trying to hold herself–and the Enfield Tennis Academy–together; Orin, a collegiate football player who likes to woo women; Mario, a horribly disabled and disfigured person with a heart of gold; and Hal, the human dictionary with an incredible talent for tennis.  Down the hill from ETA is the Ennet House, a house for recovering addicts where Joelle van Dyne, otherwise known as Madame Psychosis, resides for the time being.  Joelle van Dyne, once Orin’s fiance, few times Jim’s subject of the films, and always wearing a veil to cover her either hideous or beautiful face (nobody really knows for sure).

This is only half of the rich cast in Infinite Jest, and they’re only the beginning.  With the help of these characters, can the separatist Canadian wheelchair assassins find Infinite Jest so they can begin their plot to render their enemies inutile, as they would say?

Review: Wow, where to even begin with this.  This book consumed a lot of my time: I read it between class periods, on the train, at home–anywhere I could possibly think of.  This is not a novel for the light-hearted.

I’ve seen people both love and hate this book, and for good reason.  However, I do have to suggest giving it a shot, even if you find out you hate it.  But, if you can get through it and you love it, that’s pretty dang cool, too!  David Foster Wallace (DFW) sets up his story with an intriguing set of characters: the wheelchair assassins, those residing in the Ennet House, the Incandenza family and their friends at ETA.  A human dictionary, a suicidal father, and many, many drug addicts.  None of these characters are stale or one-sided: DFW (sometimes painstakingly) takes great care in fleshing out their histories, their desires, and their everyday hobbies.  These characters help the novel feel well-rounded, though I must admit that at times, I was much more interested in their personal lives than the overarching plot itself.

And, speaking of plot, I must tell you that if you’re reading this novel: do not skip the footnotes!  While yes, some of them are so stuffy that you just know that they’re from Hal’s perspective, there are entire chapters in there, entire backstories, entire explanations for one character’s offhanded expression–and for that, they’re all extremely important to the story as a whole.

With books as long as this one, it’s easy to get discouraged, especially in the beginning.  Typically, with books longer than 500 pages, the expositions tends to be rather long–and rightfully so.  You  have a huge plot, a plethora of sub-plots, and a cast of probably at least 20 characters to flesh out.  But, there are some hidden gems in here that make this book worth reading.  My personal favorite is around page 250, when Orin rings up Hal to discuss their father’s (‘Himself’ is their nickname for him) death, since Hal was the first one to find his dead body.  I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite as shocking before.  It left me bereft, stunned.  For some authors, it takes entire novels for their characters to be fleshed out, but it only takes a few pages of Hal’s shouting and ranting and describing the day of his father’s death to really understand just why Hal is the way he is.

This brings me to something about Infinite Jest that I really, truly appreciated, and I think others should appreciate as well, even if the book wasn’t their cup of tea.  DFW treats the subject of death and addiction with great care.  No character is safe from something traumatizing happening in their lives, but DFW doesn’t romanticize it.  He shows the gritty details, the screaming matches, the abuse, the depression that comes from such horrific topics.  Characters struggle to go to AA or NA, they struggle to resist the “Disease” one day at a time.  Some find themselves locked up in library bathrooms with bottles of cough medicine trying to get a fix.  Others have had whiskey since they were eleven.  Some have to buy urine off of others to ensure that they won’t be kicked off the tennis team.  Others land themselves in the hospital, beaten to a pulp.  DFW makes these topics interesting to read, but he makes them hard.  And cold.  They’re not fun to read.  They’re harrowing depictions of what surely has happened to hundreds of people, if not thousands, around the world.

But, in any case, I’m saying this all as a recent college graduate who hasn’t touched hard drugs in their life.  In all honesty, I’ll probably reread this in 10 years, once I’m in a different place in life.  I think then, I’ll be able to get even more out of it.  And what I’ve already gotten is quite a lot.

Dis-moi si tu souris/Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

dis-moi-si-tu-souris

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: YA Lit

Medium: French paperback

Synopsis: Parker Grant is going through quite a lot.  She’s living with her aunt, uncle, and cousin after the death of her father just 3 months ago.  She’s trying out for the track team.  She now has to confront the problem of her past–not her blindness, but the boy who broke her heart years ago.

Parker also has rules.  Let her know when you’re there.  Don’t touch her without permission.  Don’t treat her as if she’s stupid.  The most important one being that she doesn’t give you any second chances.  That last one’s too bad for Scott Kilpatrick, who only wants to make amends.

Review: This book was great for quite a few reasons.  Firstly, I’ve never read a book about a blind person before.  The second I saw the braille on the cover, I knew I had to buy it.  While I wish Lindstrom had given us more description of smells and touch, I think he pulled it off very well.  I was still able to imagine the locations Parker was at thanks to the descriptions he provided us with.

Secondly, this book also discusses very “adult” topics.  Parker’s been blind for years now, so her character growth has little to do with that.  Instead, she must deal with the recent death of her father.  She dreams about him, thinks often of him, and makes a gold star for every day she doesn’t cry.  Her aunt’s family moved to her town so that she wouldn’t have to get used to a new place–which was nice, really, but now she has to get used to a whole new way of living.

Thirdly, there is a dash of romance, but it’s not overpowering.  While I believe it’s obvious that there’ll be a reconciliation between Parker and Scott from the beginning, she has other things on her mind.  Like the cute shoe sales guy.  And running.  Going out with her friends.  Giving advice.  Ultimately, this book is filled with high school drama, which might be overdone if it wasn’t for the fact that our protagonist is so underrepresented in literature.

However, I do have to  point out that Parker’s character growth is pretty dang good.  She starts off as sympathetic to the reader.  I mean, dead parents, blind, ex-best friend/boyfriend returning after years of being gone……that’s a lot to handle.  But, Parker is prickly, she has rules, and she sticks to them like no other.  She’s smart, but she’s also rather unobservant.  While it’s great that Parker literally can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s also a little frustrating when it comes to her friends.  Her friends are great and supportive, and do what they can to help Parker.  But Parker has no idea what her friends are like–what do they like to wear?  Are they tall, short, skinny, fat?  Black, white, Asian, Latinx, and so on?  Parker has no idea and doesn’t seem to be rather curious about the visual things that also largely affect her friends.  But, her character growth saves the day, and ultimately, I like Parker as a character.  Besides, maybe it’s just me, but I do rather like a prickly protagonist who has to learn a lesson or two.

I’d recommend this to anybody who felt the need to break out of what they normally read, or if they wanted to read about more diverse people.  Representation and diversity really make the books that we’re all reading much more interesting, in my opinion, and Dis-moi si tu souris/Not If I See You First is a great starting place.