Books

FEARFUL Scary Stories of the Evil App by Christian Nava

Mr. Nava offered me an opportunity to review his juvenile novel, FEARFUL Scary Stories of the Evil App after noticing my review for Max Braillier’s The Last Kids on Earth. Let me make clear that I received no monetary payment for reviewing this book. Mr. Nava only provided me with a free Kindle-edition copy of his novel. The rating provided is my own, and it is honest.

Book Details:

  • Format: Kindle
  • Author: Christian Nava with illustrations by Jesús Duke
  • Publisher: Independently published
  • Genre: Juvenile Fiction; Juvenile Horror
  • Release Date: September 2, 2021
  • Length: 107 pages
  • Rating: 4-stars

Product Description:

Esau “S” Bryant is a twelve-year-old boy desperate to become an influencer to help his family. And when he finds a strange phone in an abandoned mall, it seems he finally got a lucky break, until he realizes his new mobile device is cursed.

Now he will have to face his worst fears and fight an online evil spirit to save himself, his family, and—the world.

Review:

Christian Nava’s FEAFUL is one part Goosebumps nostalgia, one part Stephen King’s aversion toward technology – in this case phones and live-streaming – and two parts entertainingly fun. Nava breathes life into a diverse cast of characters and molds a spooky-literary universe that will surely spawn a great series that both middle-graders and their parents will enjoy.

Nava introduces twin brother Esau and Jake in the midst of the Squall – an electrical storm that sparks up strange activity in the small town of Quiet Falls. The brothers are vastly different – or so says, Esau, our narrator. Jake is a prodigy, while Esau is an aspiring social media influencer. (As a father of a middle-grader who aspires to be a YouTuber, Esau hits close to home.)

Esau wants to win the Playoffs, an online competition with a money prize. His goal isn’t just to make it big, but to use the money to put his family back together again. These plans are derailed when Jake finds a mysterious phone in an abandoned mall. Using the phone, Jake’s online popularity rises while Esau’s fails.

However, something isn’t right in Quiet Falls. Rumors of strange happenings are spreading. Strange sightings are seen. And Esau is certain that his brother’s phone is at the center of it all.

I love the characters Nava breathes life into. There’s CJ, Esau’s best friend and next-door neighbor, whose geeky sensibility brings extra nerdom to the story – she named her cats after The Fellowship of the Ring! Not to mention CJ’s cousin, Kara, who was sent to live with her uncle for the summer after an incident at her old school. And while they play a small part, parents do have a role in this story. The twins’ parents are human. We see that their mom is having troubles of her own when Esau notes a bottle of sleeping pills by her beside table. And their father is chasing a dream that may have caused the riff in the family.

Nava engages the audience by using the current slang. He incorporates folklore into his story, digging deep into the Native American mythologies. My hopes is that this stirs some interest in his young readers to research the matter; although, I hope they have a better experience than Esau when he visited the public library (see Afterthought).

Afterthought:

While the story does keep the reader’s attention, there are some things that I frowned upon as an adult – surely the targeted audience will ignore these “faults.”

The first is, of course, the use of current lingo. The problem with trying to relate to much with youths today is their ever growing and altering vocabulary. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow.

Nava also leaves so many branches in his novel – untied strings that aren’t resolved by the story’s end. However, it is clear what he is doing – this is just the beginning of Nava’s literary universe which will surely span throughout several novels (something I look forward to reading).

The one thing that really got me is the library scene. Mr. Nava did you really ask me to read your novel without knowing that I’ve worked within the library world for the last decade of my life? Can we stop with the age-old, redundant library tropes?

Nava writes: “Instead of googling what I needed, I ventured into the local book cemetery (AKA the public library) to remain off the grid” (emphasis mine). Nava continues by writing: “…the librarian, a little bald man with glasses, kicked me out for being too loud” (emphasis mine).

Libraries aren’t the quiet, dusty-book filled chambers conjured up on popular culture. Instead, libraries are filled to the brim with public activities – not all of them quiet. Painting them as unwelcoming toward children only damages the work we’ve done thus far in trying to prove otherwise. So please – Mr. Nava – and all writers of juvenile literature – it’s time to end this library trope.

Also See:

Books

You’re Not That Great (but Neither is Anyone Else) by Elan Gale

Elan Gale wants to remind you that you’re not that great. Then again, neither is his book. In the same vein as Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mr. Gale provides a no holds barred anti-self-help book for people who are tired of being coddled while self-help gurus rip them off.You're Not That Great

There’s just one problem: there’s nothing Elan Gale in You’re Not That Great (but Neither is Anyone Else) that Manson’s book didn’t already offer. Well, nothing useful. Because, aside from the obviously useful slice of humble pie, the book only offers stale jokes and condescension.

Mr. Gale is right—we’re not great. Several people ooze with undeserved self-confidence, but can never amount to anything but ordinary. He notes that all the negative emotions we’re trained to ignore are useful tools to pull us out of the mundane. And even when we achieve greatness, we’re still not that great. Because you should always want to continue growing, continue reaching for the goddamn stars. He just wants us to know that we can always do better, be better, fuck better (yep, that’s also in the book). That’s what I love about the book. Sadly, it’s not enough to carry it.

Somewhere around page 100, it seemed like Mr. Gale ran out of things to talk about. The book becomes repetitive. And in an effort to cover up that fact, his descent into egotism begins. It began to feel that Mr. Gale began to shit on us not to help out, but for the sake of shitting on people who bought his book. He started fluffing up the chapters with anecdotes. Some of these were eye openers, sure. But several were just weird to the point where it was difficult to discern if he was trying to make a joke.

Could be that Mr. Gale was working against the clock, reaching a deadline. Or maybe he just ran out of nuggets of wisdom. It’s a fun book to read if you haven’t already done so. But as far as the genre goes, read Mark Manson’s book instead.

Until next time, keep on huntin’.

Books

Last Sext by Melissa Broder

What was I supposed to take from this book? I’ve never read anything by Melissa Broder. Not completely, anyway. I thumbed through So Sad Today and found the content somewhat entertaining. And I heard about Last Sext, but never realized the two books shared an author. When I connected the two, I got interested. What finally pushed me into buying the thin volume of poetry was an awkward conversation with a guy who recognized me after all these years. The book was already in my hand, why not just buy it to get out of this situation?Last Sext

I made a mistake.

In the quick glances, the book seemed interesting. Albeit a forced teenage, edginess. I could handle that irony. Except, after tackling the first pages, I learned that it wasn’t an ironic edge.

The poetry echoes nothing. It doesn’t strike a chord of thought. Doesn’t paint pictures. There’s almost no imagery present in the 81-paged collection. And the little that there is, paints an incoherent portrait. A lot of cocks. A lot of fucking. No poetic orgasm. So sad indeed.

I do plan on reading her collection of essays. I’ll give her another chance. Just not with this medium.

Until next time, keep on huntin’.

Books

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

We’re always trying to better ourselves. Hell, a year doesn’t go by without hearing the mantra New Year, New Me splattered on every Facebook timeline across the western hemisphere. We’re obsessed with chasing happiness, chasing the new dietary trend, chasing dreams. We’ve created a religion out of the self-help genre. We created altars (albeit, we call them “vision boards”) to self-help. And the only people profiting from these books are the writers.The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

I stayed away from reading any self-help novel book. Sure, I thumbed through a few chapters in the past, scanned the table of contents, read the blurbs. But I never took them seriously. And I never met a person who came out on top after reading one of these books. In fact, if anything, they’re more miserable after extrapolating the advice into their daily lives. Who knew that the search for happiness would lead to such misery?

Because that’s what the advice genre leads to: unhappiness. Because we’re giving standards to live by and feel like failures when we can’t achieve them. And if we do achieve them, we begin to feel miserable because we’ve become stagnant—we become stuck in our ways. Then we return to the self-help tab on Amazon and buy another book. Rinse and repeat.

Enter Mark Manson. I wouldn’t know this man from Adam. Never read his blog. Never heard of his name before. I chuckled a bit when I first saw his book at Barnes and Noble. (The dude’s surname is Manson, after all.)

But the book title intrigued me. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. What’s not to love? Surely, the man’s done his homework about getting a skeptic’s attention. Three months later, I bought the damn book.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill self-help guide. Manson offers no support for your feelings. He slings the truth at you like Paul Bunyan swings his axe: your forest of security is destroyed. Your illusions, burned. Because this is the book that will actually put you on the right path toward happiness. He gives you no mantras. Doesn’t promise you a get-rich-scheme for happiness. And he most definitely won’t sugarcoat it for you. This is as real as it’s going to get for you.

And it’s o.k. that throughout the book you’re going to feel as if Mr. Manson was once a fedora-wearing brotard. Because he might have been, but who gives a fuck. If you’re so deterred about this style of writing, then you’re dealing with too much nothing in your life.

So take it from someone who doesn’t like self-help books. Someone who’s sworn against them. Someone who laughs at people who buy them in bulk: This is the book for you.

Until next time, keep on huntin’

Books

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

I tried reading Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath after it was added to the library’s collection some years ago. It didn’t work out too well. It was an awkward time in my life. The few books I read before Disney rebooted the Expanded Universe (now known as the Legends series) were still fresh in my mind. I wanted a universe where Sith zombies existed. Chuck Wendig’s book just didn’t cut it. Aftermath

Now that I have a few Disney-verse Star Wars novels under my belt, I felt ready to give Wendig’s novel another chance. And while it’s not my favorite of my collection, it’s definitely worth the read.

The second Death Star facility has been destroyed. Rumors of Emperor Palpatine’s and his enforcer’s, Darth Vader, death have spread across the galaxy, reaching as far as the outer rim planets. In an effort to recover from their crumbling empire, several Imperials are conducting a meeting on the planet of Akiva. When New Republic hero Wedge Antilles uncovers their meeting, he sends a message to the New Republic before getting captured. But it’s too late, on the planet’s surface, Norra Wexley has intercepted the message and bands together with her son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and an Imperial defector to save Wedge Antilles and take down these last remnants of the Empire.

That summary doesn’t do any justice to the storytelling prowess Chuck Wendig possesses. The story has its gripping moments that left me on the edge of my seat, but it also contain a few pitfalls that made me wish Wendig had focused on one of the other stories presented in his “interlude” chapters—namely the Han Solo & Chewbacca story. But it held my attention even as the interludes broke it—I’m guessing that was planned by the author as a pacing mechanism? Perhaps the repetition of imagery leads to bigger things in the second and third books of the Aftermath trilogy.

I loved how Wendig uses a diverse cast of characters, helping break the homo-normative and all-white cast that the sci-fi genre tends to keep. Not to mention, I loved Mister Bones, the revamped, reprogrammed B1 Battle Droid that acts as Temmin’s  bodyguard and best friend.

This tale is definitely something to consider before re-watching The Force Awakens for the umpteenth time. You won’t be disappointed.

I’m currently racing through a monster of a book before AMC releases the series. Hopefully I’ll get through it after all the hiccups I’ve had with the pacing. After that’s over with, I’ll get back to updating the few readers here about what I’m doing with my life.

In the meantime, know that I’m brainstorming two writing project—I’ve mentioned one already. And until next time, keep on huntin’.

Books

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

“That’s the horror, the most awful thing: to have a child the world wants to destroy and know that you’re helpless to help him. Nothing worse than that. Nothing worse,” writes Matt Ruff in “The Narrow House,” just one of the many interconnecting stories that make up his novel, Lovecraft Country. Set in Jim Crow era America, the novel tackles racism in a Lovecraftian way. It’s done so well, it can’t even be considered ironic—can it?Lovecraft Country

Unless you’re a delusional nutcase, there is no hiding the fact that H.P. Lovecraft had some unsavory opinions when it came to people who didn’t look like him (i.e. a white male). This can make it difficult for a person of color (or a woman, for that matter) to enjoy the book without the nagging realization that the author penned a poem called “On the Creation of Niggers.” Or that, in his story, “The Rats in the Walls,” the narrator’s cat is named Nigger Man.

There is no forgetting that the greatest monster this country has to offer isn’t some unknowable creature that lurks in the dark or some interplanetary beast with an insatiable appetite. In the title chapter/story, Atticus is pulled over by a state trooper for no other reason than being a black man in a predominately white county. In “The Narrow House,” Montrose remembers his father’s death during a race war. In “Jekyll in Hyde Park,” Ruby is given a job opportunity that allows her to shed her blackness in exchange for white skin and red hair. Amateur astronomer, Hippolyta Berry explores a planet only few humans have set foot upon in “Hippolyta Disturbs the Universe,” only to learn she’s been the pawn of a dead man’s game in order to further punish the black housekeeper he imprisoned there. And the interconnecting plot has Caleb Braithwhite using these African-American characters as pawns in his elaborate take over of natural philosophers.

The novel is reminiscent of the Lovecraftian tales mixed in with dark comedy within the pages. It’s a must read for those into weird tales and escapism. For those who loved the film Get Out, this is the book for you. And it’s not just because Jordan Peele is producing the TV treatment Lovecraft Country.

Well, until next time, keep on huntin’.