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’.


Blog Resolutions

My last post detailed personal hopes and goals for the new year. This post details blog hopes and goals for 2017. And while I know that my blog resolutions (blogolutions?) in the past crashed and burned before they got started, I remain semi-hopeful that this year will be different.

As most of you know, I have never found a niche for Chapin City Blues. While A Book Hunter’s Journal chronicled book finds, reviews, and opinions, I’ve managed to keep this blog as a journal left lying open on the dining room table. And while my readership is low, I don’t expect any changes I make to boost my numbers. And who cares? This blog’s sole purpose was to keep me writing.

However, adding new features never hurts—right? In addition to tapping into my book hunting roots—something that died with Hastings and several book thrift shops—I want to talk about movies. Not in the film criticism sense, but in a film fan sense. I remember a time in my life where my world revolved around books and movies, sometimes combining the two when a film adaptation was released.

The idea for Film 365  came about at work one day after watching a wide variety of movies, most of them I wouldn’t have touched otherwise. Now Film 365 is the idea title. I’m sure better minds have already trademarked the phrase. In fact, a quick Google search could confirm this.

While I won’t have time to watch 365 cinematic titles—no parent does, right?—the idea is to watch at least one movie a week. So why not Film 52? Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Another idea that comes to mind is listening to new music. Not brand spanking new, but new-to-me songs, bands, and albums. There might have been a time where Chapin City Blues wasn’t already music heavy, but it’s a time I cannot remember. With music streaming services (I use Google Play’s) at our fingertips, why confine ourselves within our comfort zones?

I’ve never been photo savvy with this blog. Personal pics have been used before, but mostly they’re borrowed from other websites or stills taken from videos. I want that to change. Not that anyone out there is dying to see my fat face plastered all over this blog, but using my own pictures (when I can) would give it a more personal atmosphere. Maybe.

More posts by Shaun. I promise this every year, but nothing has come of it. Shaun’s a complicated child. He’s almost five, by the way. And his personality has blossomed beautifully. He started pre-K last August, a milestone that Jeanna and I were both nervous and proud of.

More talk about games. Tabletop RPG, board, and card game reviews are still a long way from my expertise. But writing about my nerd nights with friends and coworkers might add more fluff to the blog. And with the Book of Malor on the horizon, there might be recordings as well.

And that wraps up the first post of 2017. I’ll be back later with the first movie of the year, 200 Cigarettes.


The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy

“Woo-hoo! It’s revolution time!”

Hero's Guide to being an outlawThe League of Princes is back in their third (and final?) book. Like the first two, The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw shows us the power of wit and wisdom of writer Christopher Healy. Fast paced and fun the whole way through, Healy shows us sides of our heroes that he hasn’t before. Gustav has a soft side? Duncan kingly? A compromising Liam? Frederic as…well, let’s not give away too much.

After last year’s release of The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, I asked Healy whether the series would end as a trilogy. His response broke my heart and left me with hope all the same. Three was the magic number, but after that we’ll see where it goes. (I wish I screen capped this Twitter conversation so I could cite it correctly.) After reading the third book, I’m left with hope again. It’s as open-ended as the first and second book.

If anyone could inspire children to read, it’s Christopher Healy. Several children have shied away when I suggest The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The book is a children’s literature tome. A brick. Added weight in the backpack. However, they fall in love with the characters and Healy’s uproarishly hilarious writing style. Several writers have taken the helm of writing about old, well-known characters found in fairy tales. No one’s carried them the way Christopher Healy has, though. And as an adult reader, he’s inspired me to write again. Hopefully, that means that there are future writers in his audience as well.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Healy is racing towards mastering his craft. With this final book in the League of Princes, it’s clear that whatever he does in the future will excel among his peers. I look forward to what the future holds.

Product description from Amazon:

The League of Princes returns in the hilariously epic conclusion to the hit series that began with Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the more clever, hilariously successful incarnations of the current literary rage to rip apart and rewrite fairy tales.”

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don’t you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they’re on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar’s murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.

Product Details:
A Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy
Walden Pond Press (29 April 2014)
ISBN: 978-0062118486

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for Kindle and Nook. Until next time, keep on huntin’.


Reading Harry Potter at 30

I must confess something. This might come to some of you as surprise, but I’ve never read a single Harry Potter book before. Ever. I’ve also never seen a single one of the films in completion—Jessica, when we were together, convinced me twice to see the first movie after it came out on DVD and both times I fell asleep. I saw the three-headed dog and enough of the ending to learn that Snape wasn’t the one trying to kill Harry. I know. You’re all probably reeling right now. I’ll give you a moment.


Done? Okay. Let’s move on.

Now I didn’t not read Harry Potter (and, subsequently, not watch the movies) because of my “academic” background like my BFF (best frenemies forever), Eddie, has suggested several times. Like with Stephen King and Anne Rice (both writers whose works I’ve read, mine you), I decided in high school—two years before any college English professor could sully me with his bias on trendy lit—that I didn’t like the character.

Wizards? In the modern world? Without a ring of power and Hobbits? Please. No, thank you. Not even thank you. Just no. Get out of my room. How the fuck did you get in here, anyway? (At this point, I turn up the latest by Korn and start thrashing about my adolescent bedroom).

It took, however, two rather adorable Potter fans—one is Carol, my friend, and the other my coworker—to finally convince me to settle down and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or, for you British readers and purists, …and the Philosopher’s Stone—which is something that I sincerely dislike about being American when the very notion of a philosopher’s stone befuddles so much that an entire plot device is renamed so our feeble little minds can comprehend it—though, I guess, in a pre-Google era (though, not really pre-), we couldn’t just Google that shit).

There was some resistance, I’ll admit. The book flows marvelously, so it was easy to lose track of the time. It took longer than I would like to have read it—two weeks, because I only read at home and not at work or when Shaun was here and, often times, I’d get distracted with other books (I have an Alex Lemon book of poems I have to review, as well)—but I enjoyed more than I did the first time I picked up a Harry Potter book and skimmed through it—a copy belonging to a rather obnoxious blonde freshmen girl who happened to be in the same theatre arts class as me (or I just hung out in her class because the teacher and I were tight and I didn’t like feeling like a loser in lunch as I had zero friends who shared the lunch period with me). “Peh,” said I. “This will never catch on in America.” That’s right. I completely ignored the growing Pottermania that was bursting at the seams outside.

The thing that disturbed me the most, however, is the complete disregard for the magic a book can hold. A few people, after learning that a Potter-disliker was diving into the first book because he finally wanted to know what the hell his friend and coworker were going on about, told me something similar, “I don’t know how you’ll feel about it. The whole magic is growing up with it.”

Every reader is far from being finished with “growing up.” And no book loses its magic with age. If it does, then the magic wasn’t there in the first place. It doesn’t matter if you’re 13, 30, or 98—if a book is “magical,” it should be magical for whatever age its current audience is.

So was Harry Potter magical to me? Yes. In a way. I’m not about to give myself to the church of J.K. Rowling or set up a match of Quidditch at the park with my friends and random Craigslist finds, but I’m willing to replace my saved books—books thrown into the recycling bin at work—with newer copies of the series.


Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Outside of his Sandman comic books, I’ve never picked up anything by Neil Gaiman—I know: BAD BOOK HUNTER! BAD! However, the other day the Junior Library Guild sent us a shipment that contained a copy of Fortunately, The Milk, and admit laughter ensued.

fortunately the milk by neil gaimanAfter discovering that his kids don’t have any milk for their breakfast cereal—more importantly, any milk for his tea—one father takes a trip to the local corner store only to find himself on adventure of epic lengths.

A natural wordsmith, Neil Gaiman carved out a book that both parent and child will enjoy reading—preferably together as sneaking off with your kid’s books is frowned upon for some reason. Accompanied by the art work of Skottie Young, the story springs from the pages and takes you on a whirlwind of an adventure that’ll have you all in stitches.

You can buy Fortunately, The Milk at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’ll make the best last minute Christmas gift!!!


Another original story by Yukito Ayatsuji, art by Hiro Kiyohara

There’s just something chilling about Yukito Ayatsuji’s original story, brought to life with the art of Hiro Kiyohara. The tale pulls you in with the mention of a curse on a middle school class—specifically, third year class 3—and you’re enveloped by the sheer mystery of it. And when the main character—and, therefore, the reader—Koichi Sakakibara learn the origins and gravity of the curse, we’re taken for a ride on how it can be stopped.

Not since Doubt (and, to an extend, the first two volumes of its sequel, Judge) has a manga held so tightly to my attention that I couldn’t wait to finish it while all the time not wanting it to end.

Yen Press collects four volumes in one single book, leaving the reader no time to recover until the very end. Yukito Ayastsuji’s mastery of storytelling (yeah yeah, I know it’s translated) is incredible. And Hiro Kiyohara’s ability to breathe life into the horror novel is anything but sub-par.

Kiyohara_Another_TPAbout the book (from Yen Press):

In the spring of 1998, Koichi Sakakibara transfers into Class 3-3 at Yomiyama North Middle School. But little does he know…his new class has a horrible secret. When he takes his seat in class for the first day of school, Koichi is unsettled by his fearful classmates. Despite this atmosphere and warnings from fellow students, Koichi is drawn to the beautiful, distant Mei Misaki, another classmate. But the closer he tries to get to her, the more mysterious she and their class become. And when a fellow student dies a disturbing death—the first of a long chain of deaths—Koichi seeks to learn the truth behind the curse of Class 3-3. But can he get answers before the curse kills him?

original story by Yukito Ayatsuji
art by Hiro Kiyohara
Yen Press (October 2013)
ISBN: 978-0316245913

Another is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A Kindle and Nook also exists. The original Yukito Ayatsuji horror novel is available in two volumes for Kindle (vol. 1/vol. 2)  and Nook (vol 1./vol. 2), as well.