Wanderers by Chuck Wendig


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Let’s Talk About It:

I first read Wanderers in 2019, the year of its release. At the time, I felt that maybe Chuck Wendig might have gone over the top with his description of right-wing militia types. Sure, they’re stoked in paranoia and racism in real life, but would they really try to overthrow the government during a pandemic?* Despite all the things that happened in the years leading up to that summer, 2019-me was still full of naivete.

Continue reading “Wanderers by Chuck Wendig”

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.


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).


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:


The Stand

Let’s talk about The Stand, shall we?

I am not a Stephen King aficionado. And while I love the movies based on his works, I am not even his #1 fan. I have read a few short stories, a couple of his Kindle singles, a novella, and an amazing audiobook narrated by Michael C. Hall.1 In fact, the only novel-length book I’ve read by Stephen King was his post-apocalyptic book, The Stand.

My first encounter with story came from the 1994 miniseries which aired on ABC. It starred Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, and a whole bunch of actors that I’d see on TV and movies throughout my adolescent years. While it didn’t have the best production value – it was a made-for-TV miniseries, after all – it still captivated my 11-year-old imagination. It became my gold standard for post-apocalyptic tales, especially those revolving around pandemics that wipe out humanity.

I didn’t read the book until 2009, when I found a copy at a used bookstore. This copy was a 1980, mass-market paperback which mirrored the 1978 hardcover; the only difference between the books – other than the obvious – were the date changes. In the 1978 edition, the apocalypse happed in 1980; in the paperback, the apocalypse was moved to 1985. For those not in-the-know, the 1978 edition was meant to be a much larger work; Doubleday had warned King that a book of such size would be too much for the market to bear. It wasn’t until 1990 that King’s original vision for the book came to fruition.

Continue reading “The Stand”

Mediocre Me

"The high heavens were full of shrunken deaf ears instead of stars."

I was eight when my maternal grandfather died. No one explicitly told me, they just assumed I understood the rituals of one’s passing. As Catholics, my family held rosaries before and after the funeral. It might have been the first rosary that I learned the truth about my grandfather’s death. A younger cousin – possibly a second or third cousin, I’m still not sure – noted that her elder uncle had died. No sugar-coating there. Naively, I muttered my grandfather was in the hospital. That he’d probably get out any day now. The memories are vague. Shattered images of the mirror upon the wall. Shards of the past, reminding me of who I once was. My brother corrected me, or maybe it was an uncle or a cousin. Maybe none of this really happened. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. It doesn’t matter. When my paternal grandfather passed away, I was told first thing in the morning. This was three years after the fact.

Weltschmerz [velt-shmerts]

Somewhere along the way, I became cynical. Maybe it was always ingrained in my fiber. Encoded in my DNA. I want to imagine myself as a happy kid. As someone adventurous. I never climbed a tree, though. And I never dared cross the street without looking both ways or seeking out a cross walk. Erase that. I was a happy kid. I was content in my isolation. I never went to friends’ houses because I never knew what to do at them. And when I did, I’d fritter away the time wanting to go home. It was more of proof that I could go to people’s houses. I guess in short, I wasn’t the friend type of person. Even though I went, I only did it so I wouldn’t be the weird kid out. Because when I boiled it down, everyone was a moron. Sometimes, I suppose, don’t change.

The world was never a pretty place. I had little hope that anything good could come out of the Valley. It’s a desert masquerading as paradise. That’s how people got suckers to move here in the first place, isn’t it? Promised a paradise and they got stranded in the buttfuck of a desert somewhere between Texas and Mexico. So I can’t call myself a disappointed idealist. I’m far from an idealist. Ideals are insignificant. Sure, it’s one thing to believe humans should be one way, but to believe they can? That’s asking too much. Essentially, everyone’s a moron until proven otherwise.

Ramblings of an Asshole

Pardon me for being a snob. No scratch that. If there’s one thing I want to pass down to my child, it’s not to apologize for being who you are. If you hurt someone’s feelings, sure. Apologize for hurting their feelings, but do not apologize for who you are. The truth of the matter is, I think the majority of people are idiots. If you sole ideal of literature are the books of Dan Brown and Stephen King, you’re an idiot. If you’re sole source of cinematic entertainment are films by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, you’re cinematically retarded – for lack of a better term. And if you find the Paranormal Activity film franchise as the scariest movies you ever seen and are responsible for their high gross in money during opening night, not only are you  a flaming moron, but you should be barred from watching any horror movie ever again.

And hey, I can be wrong. Most instances, I probably am wrong. Why? Because none of these things hold any merit. There isn’t any fiber of what I just said as fact because I have no supporting material to back it up. That’s why it’s my personal goddamn opinion. And goddamn you for trying to take that away from me. It’s not in your right to stifle my thoughts, but it is in your right to disagree with me. And I’ll allow it. Will it sway me? Possibly not. Will you be a hero for it? Possibly not.

And what is most commonly thrown in my face is the fact that I graduated college. That I studied English. That my humanities courses have made me this way. Anyone who’s known me for years know that the asshole went into college as an asshole and emerged as an asshole. So no, I don’t like Harry Potter because my literature teachers told me what is popular isn’t good. I don’t like Harry Potter because I don’t fucking like Harry fucking Potter. I didn’t like it in high school when the books first popped up in American culture. Same thing with Stephen King. It has nothing to do with their popularity – I like Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series, for fuck’s sake. And why is that? Because it doesn’t bore me. Not because I believe her as the fantastic writer in the world – that’s Philip Roth‘s title.

While we’re on the subject, stating “in my opinion” or “IMO” is pointless. I know it’s your opinion, there’s no need for it. Of course, what do I know? My composition courses jaded me.

How does this connect with your intro?

It doesn’t. Not really. Or maybe. I do remember being upset with my mother for not telling me the truth, for pussy-footing around it. And I do remember that I was an asshole to her even though her father had just died. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

Fuck it. I’m a snob. I’m an asshole. I’m everything label you want to throw at me. If I wasn’t, would you even bother to read what I have to say?


The Ten-Year Stint

Let me correct myself. I am a misanthrope, despite what I might have suggested earlier. While I still think I hate myself, clearly I hate several of you more. And it’s not that you’re bad people. I’m sure several of you are good at heart, but you’re all just very annoying. Humanity is annoying. Hell, I’m annoying. I’ll admit that. I’m too old to be whining like a high school bitch, but that’s what I do best. Whine about the way things are and sit in front of my computer an do nothing to fix the world. Truth is, the world doesn’t want fixing. Fixing what we broke is far too hard, so we’d rather just break and fuck shit up and hope that somehow the physics of Futurama – or K-Pax – works out.

Life’s turning out to be less like an Offspring song and more like something from Placebo or Eels. Maybe even an Everclear – “oh well, so much for the afterglow.” This weekend happened to be the ten-year anniversary celebration for the class of 2001 – are these things even supposed to be this earlier, by the way, or am I missing something entirely? Because considering that this year only marks the anniversary of the beginning of our final year in high school – and I partook in the activities the exact way I would’ve in high school: By not partaking at all.

Instead, I spent the weekend reading The Stand by Stephen King, watching movies and picking up the fourth season of Weeds at Target because it was on sale and I deserve materialistic items. I’ll admit that curiosity got the best of me, so I stalked the reunion’s Facebook page and caught up with my old class chums in a way I’m most comfortable with. Two things became clear to me automatically. The first, while I might have gained a lot of weight since high school, some of these  people have become complete and total fat-asses (thank you karma!).


*like this one


Second, and probably the most important, thing I noticed was skimming through the “memory” photos. First of all, I wasn’t in them. Secondly, neither were any of my friends*. That’s not much of a surprise considering that my friends in high school were the type who hated everyone. Isn’t strange how misanthropic people can tolerate each other, but not the rest of the world? Still, as I’m looking at these pictures, I get the sense that I missed something. Maybe something vital. I can’t get my head around the idea. I just begin to self-doubt, pushing thought after thought that maybe the reason I’m so bitter about the whole reunion thing is because in the last ten years, the only thing that’s changed about me is my age.

I’m beginning to think I’m Dante, stuck in his place because he doesn’t allow himself any growth. But if I’m Dante, who the fuck is my Randal, and where the fuck is my Jay and Silent Bob to cope with these insane ideas? Well, really, I just need Silent Bob as Jay isn’t much help in any of the situations. In the movies, anyway. I’m certain Jason Mewes is an awesome guy.

But it isn’t just my age that’s changed; that idea is too unfair. There was also a girlfriend change – a joke I didn’t make, but Jyg did. The fact that I managed to survive college and earn a degree – which hangs uselessly above my philosophy book shelf. My friends are still very awesome, even though I can count them with one hand. But that’s just me; I’ve never been a big fan of friends.

Come to think of it, life isn’t like a Placebo song. Or something penned by Eels or Everclear. It’s more of a Smashing Pumpkins’ song. The old Smashing Pumpkins, not that new shit that’s being passed off as Smashing Pumpkins. Sorry, Corgan, but retire the name before you drag it even deeper into the muck.

Fuck it, life is just life. It’s not a song. It’s not a story. It’s a series of miscalculations and misadventures with bouts of happiness here and there. Am I right? And before you wonder, the whole realizing I am a misanthrope has nothing to do with the reunion. It had to do with a very horrible shopping experience. People. What a bunch of bastards.