What it is: I will read and write reviews as I go, all day, for a period of up to two days. (Probably non-consecutive.) I can usually read 4-7 books per day, depending on length and complexity.

I apologize for being a flake: As some of you may recall, I attempted to hold a read-a-thon a while back for the floods in Pakistan, but was foiled by getting slammed by so much work that I literally did not have a single day entirely free for the next several months. My schedule is much easier now, but since circumstances may have changed for those who offered, I'd like to just start from scratch and have people re-offer.

How to donate: If you want to participate, please make your non-earmarked donations to Medicins san Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. They are in Japan, they are in Pakistan, they are in Libya, they are everywhere that help is needed.

ETA: Or, to the Japanese Red Cross, which has a much larger presence in Japan. http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html. Note that donations must be made in yen, so check your exchange rates!

How it works: You offer an amount of money per book read and blogged. You may put a cap on the amount. (ie, "I offer $15/book, with a cap of $150.) If you sponsor me, you may propose a book for me to read. Please give me several options, in case what you suggest is hard to obtain, already blogged, etc.

Click on the "read-a-thon" tag to see the sort of reviews you're likely to get. Please check my author, comic, and manga tags (yes, I'll accept comic and manga requests) to see if I've already reviewed something. Please don't nominate anything extremely long, hard to obtain in the US, or extremely complex and difficult. No restrictions on content or quality.

Dates: It will be on 1-2 of the following days, depending on my availability and the number of my sponsors: March 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, or 31.

I apologize for being a flake, Part II. [personal profile] telophase, I have not forgotten Enemy Glory. It has so far defeated my efforts to get past the first two chapters, but I will prevail! Eventually! Before the end of April! But separately from this.

ETA: If you want to promote this, please feel free!

Note that despite the prevalence of the "nice people don't write negative reviews" meme, I am either not nice or not swayed, and will say exactly what I think. So what I'm offering will not only be entertaining, but may be hard to obtain elsewhere, depending on my honest feelings. Last go round, I did enjoy most of the books I read. And then there was Walpurgis III. Click on my "hilarious satanism" tag for my honest feelings about that.
Cover copy: In Jim’s revealing journal, which is the substance of this moving book, we share the experience of that terrible summer – the LSD and marijuana, the hippies, the disillusionment, the helpless confusion and fear. It is all recorded frankly, to the final horror of Kevin’s freaking out and the shaky beginnings of his redemption.



The freaking out silhouette is even more detailed and hilarious in real life.

Written in 1968 by a very square author determined to plumb the horrifying depths of drugs she clearly never tried herself, this novel is regrettably only intermittently amusing: one part Reefer Madness to three parts unconvincing teen angst.

Sixteen-year-old Jim idolizes his nineteen-year-old brother Kevin to a rather disturbing degree. This is how the novel opens:

One day I ought to find out how it is with other kids. I don’t think I’m abnormal or anything for sixteen, but I don’t think that there are many guys my age who are still crazy about their older brothers. They might actually love them, but I just don’t think they are crazy about them. […] It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or anything like that, but how do you explain that Kevin is not just a brother to me? Besides being the greatest guy I know, he’s someone I’ve got to have. I mean it’s very important to me to have him.

Fandom! Stop making me go to the bad incest place!

Jim goes on and on and ON about Kevin for the entire rest of the chapter. He offers to be Kevin’s “Boswell” and follows him around writing down everything Kevin says to preserve it for posterity.

He is important.For one thing he never says ordinary, cruddy things. When he speaks he almost always says something really brilliant.

[…]

I really want his opinions on these things so they can become my opinions too.

Then, at the end of an entire chapter of that: I’ve been re-reading these last couple of pages, and I do sound sort of creepy.

Yes. Yes, you do. I’m going to go out on a limb and surmise that the author wrote this entire thing as a first draft and never re-wrote, but rather added in stuff like that as she went along.

Kevin comes home from college, and he’s become a marijuana fiend! He giggles maniacally, flaps his hands, hallucinates evil circles, and demands that Jim smoke pot (“You know. Tea. Grass. Marijuana.”) with him. Jim does so, despite his a Public Service Announcement’s worth of reservations. What follows is certainly the most unique pot high I’ve ever come across in fiction. While Kevin freaks out over the circles, Jim experiences ecstasy, hilarity, and then is visited by a devil who is out to get Kevin’s soul and an angel who urges Jim to save him. The angel-devil-Jim dialogue goes on for pages and pages and pages. Then Jim comes down and pukes his guts out. But lo! The angel is still there! The angel is real! Jim’s soul really is in danger from the Demon Marijuana!

The angel takes off, having convinced Jim that pot is bad. Kevin then hauls Jim out to score LSD, which Kevin has never tried before. They meet naked, dirty hippie chicks in a filthy squat, and nice adults who warn them of the terrors of “freaking out.” Kevin trips and – all together now – “freaks out.” This is disappointingly tame: he thinks the circles are attacking him, breaks a mirror and goes catatonic.

Kevin is taking to a mental hospital, where a nice psychiatrist fixes him up. He and Jim swear off drugs, and Jim resolves to try to get some of his own opinions. And then he goes and gets himself killed in Vietnam. The end!

Oh, forgot to mention: No one in the history of humanity has ever taken heroin and not become addicted, and it is impossible to ever get off it. If you take heroin, you are DOOOOMED.

View boggled reviews on Amazon: Tuned out; a novel
These are preliminary notes. I have only read the first three volumes, so please do not spoil me.

Gorgeous, gorgeous art and bishounen Cesare Borgia would probably be enough to addict me to this awesome quasi-historical manga; however, it also has accurate historical details interspersed with actual historical myths presented as facts, or at least I think it was a real legend that Cesare Borgia's father sold his son's soul to Satan so he (Borgia Senior) could become Pope. Oh, and it has an evil Pope! And Niccolo Machiavelli as a talking moth with a human head, or, as I like to call him, Mothiavelli.

And that's not all! There is incestuous longing between Cesare and his angelic blonde sister Lucrezia! (Yes, that Lucrezia Borgia.) Cesare's blood is a deadly poison! He has an extremely slashy relationship with the extremely pretty and surprisingly sweet boy Chiaro, who has a possibly magic mask which turns him into the deadly assassin Michelotto! Double-crossing, poisons, assassinations, and demonic magic abounds!

And by the end of volume 3...!!! )

Really, there are not enough exclamation points for this series. And I'm told that it gets even better.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Cantarella Volume 1 (Cantarella (Graphic Novel)) (v. 1)
The opening page of Holland's thriller Grenelle is so bad in so many different ways that I feel compelled to quote the entire thing:

The scandal, a typhoon in a thimble, broke one windy autumn morning and caused, at the beginning, and before anyone connected it with that sad, unexplained death, far more raucous and ribald amusement than it did concern.

"Who the hell does he think would want the damn thing?" Father Spaeth roared at me, trying to control his cloak, which was whipping around his jeans like a sail in the fresh breeze blowing east across this part of Virginia from the Blue Ridge Mountains. "He must think he's back in the days when a lost relic would call out the armies of the Pope and the Emperor to wrest it away from the unbeliever. Christ!"

The father, who fancied himself as being, as he put it, a very Now priest, brought out the last word with emphasis, as though, I couldn't help thinking, he had laid a particularly challenging egg.


Susan Grenelle is the daughter of the dead dean of an undistinguished religious college recently shaken by an old priest's controversial claim to possess a splinter of the True Cross. It is an example of the clumsy craftsmanship of this book, so much less fun than Holland's Trelawny, Tower Abbey, or leprous Dracourt, that not only did I get through the entire book without knowing what Susan did for a living, but the origin of the cross fragment, earlier a huge source of mystery, was never revealed. I am also still not sure why the "sad, unexplained death" (the murder of a local boy) happened.

The Now Father Spaeth is spearheading Resist Relics (anti-splinter), against the more traditional pro-splinter faction. The splinter is stolen, then plastic imitations are hidden around the school. The dean's office is trashed. "Obscene, blasphemous" notes are sent (but sadly not quoted.) A group of drugged-out, criminal, Satanic and pagan hippies show up, drug Susan's niece Samantha's dog, kidnap Samantha, and lay her out for a ritual Satanic sacrifice in front of the real splinter.

There's also a romantic subplot about Susan and the former priest who jilted her in favor of her now-dead evil twin sister (now conveniently the local police chief-- the former fiancee, not the dead sister). In a desperate attempt to tie the way more interesting past family drama into the lame current cross shenanigans, the chief villain is revealed to be responsible for the deaths of Susan's father, sister, and sister's husband by hooking them all on drugs. He is also a psychotic Satanist.

Overall, this novel confirmed my theory that no book containing Satanists has ever been good.

Not one of Holland's better efforts.
[livejournal.com profile] yhlee and I visited the YA section of Vroman's Bookshop in a quest for the ultimately awesomely angsty YA novel.

She proposed that single-syllable, single-word titles often predict great and melodramatic angst. For example, the oevre of Ellen Hopkins-- in verse-- Crank (meth addiction), Burned (child abuse), and Impulse (suicide). (I see that her upcoming book, Identical, is about "a father's twisted obsession for one of his twin daughters," no I am not kidding.) By other authors, Safe (mother is murdered, daughter is raped), Tweak (drug addiction), Cut (cutting), and Sold (child prostitution). The lone exceptions were Hoop, about basketball, and Prom, about the prom.

But then I found Jay's Journal, by the same woman who wrote Go Ask Alice, purportedly the diary of a teenager who gets slipped LSD at a party, then becomes an addict and dies, and another one, It Happened to Nancy: By an Anonymous Teenager, A True Story from Her Diary, which was purportedly the diary of a teenager who gets AIDS from being raped. The latter has an appendix claiming that condoms are unreliable and "renegade sperm" can charge your vagina and get you pregnant even if there was no penetration.

Jay's Journal is purportedly the diary of a boy who commits suicide after getting involved in the occult. The introduction warns, The voice of every kid hooked on drugs, alcohol, or the occult joins the sad chorus, "Not me! I didn't think it could happen to me. I WAS SURE I COULD HANDLE IT.

The back cover promised animal sacrifice and Ouijia Boards, and the contents did not disappoint. It was awesome. It had orgies, psychic powers, rape, channelling, tarot cards, LSD, homophobia, cutting (that was when I literally fell to the floor), wangas (occult objects from "Haiti, land of voodoo"), racism, chanting, and pot.

Other highlights included Bootan worship (I think that was Satan spelled with a B. And an O.) and the sacrifice in a graveyard of a "teeny mewing kitten" after a Bootanic wedding ceremony.

And then the real fun begins! Jay and his cult fiend Satanic druggie friends begin writing in white on black paper. They find a bull and electrocute it with a stun gun. Each organ was immediately sealed in a fruit jar. (Paging Drs. Muraki and Jezebel Disraeli.) They drink the blood and puke.

Then Satan comes after them, and two of them die in Mysterious Car Crashes, and Jay shoots himself in the head. The afterword says, apparently not sarcastically, We feel that Jay lived a pretty full life in his short 16 1/2 years. I'll say!

In conclusion, I leave you with this immortal line of Jay's, and no, it does not make any more sense in context:

The saber-toothed crotch crickets are leaving their abode.

I feel those words of wisdom embody a sentiment we all could live by.
I read this manga a while ago, but while culling my bookshelves recently I re-read it to see if it was as insane and incoherent as I remembered. Indeed, it was! I will now recount the plot for posterity before placing it on Book Mooch.

ETA: I forgot about the incest. See comments.

The manga begins with this narration: “My older brother was a kind, generous man. One day, he said, ‘I want to be like Cain.’ Later I realized he was talking about Cain, the model.”

Splash page of Shun, our hero and narrator, looking at a poster of blonde, beautiful CAIN.

One page later, Shun randomly blunders into a Satanic Mass. “Our Dark Lord, Lucifer, will join us tonight!”

The hysterical Shun, who is about to get sacrificed as a virgin, muses, “I can feel Lucifer taking over my body to accept his gift!”

But who should rescue him but… Cain! The golden beast! He leaps in and says, “I am the devil,” before carrying Shun away. "Jesus!" exclaims a Satanist. Shun flashes back to his brother giving him an expository lump regarding the Biblical Cain. This is followed by an expository lump on the mysterious model Cain. (“Three years ago, he appeared in a cosmetics ad…")

Cain explains that he is half Japanese but was raised in Vietnam, which explains why he will periodically murmur endearments in Vietnamese. “My income provides medicine and education for the poor,” he adds, lest Shun think him a worthless parasite. Then he gives Shun a blow job and vanishes.

Cain then appears as a student at Shun’s high school. This contradicts the note at the beginning of the manga informing us that all characters depicted in sexual situations are at least nineteen. Uh-huh. Shun flashes back to his brother’s horrible death in a car crash, which he feels very guilty about—so guilty that he must have more sex with Cain! “Shred me with your fangs,” says Shun. “Em yeu qui cua anh,” says Cain.

From foreign lands, he has come… to wield the sword of revenge )
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