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  • Writer's pictureChristina Pfeiffer

Christina Critiques

I have some bangers this weekend. Morrison, Ito, and more! Add these to your summer TBR for sure! Let’s get into them.


 

AMERICAN NARCISSUS

By Chandler Morrison


“Don’t take me hostage.”


Chandler Morrison needs to heed his own dang writing because friends, he held this old lady hostage and in her emotions for hours. Welcome to the wonderful whimsy that is AMERICAN NARCISSUS.


At its core, it’s about four twenty-somethings looking for their way in this ever-changing society. Simple enough. But when we dig deeper (and most will because this is NOT Splatterpunk or extreme horror in anyway), we find so much more.


Baxter needs perfection in his partner. Literal perfection because he will find your flaw and not be able to perform. So when he finds his dad’s sex doll, he finds his HEA at least for a while, right?


Tess is a nerd for Chandler Eastridge and his writing. To the point of highlighting the texts… (hm… side eyes self). When she meets Chandler and pretends to not know him, it sets off a year long love affair. “‘ Don’t meet your heroes’, the saying went. ‘Don’t fuck your heroes’, Tess thought, would have been more appropriate.”


Arden, Tess’s brother, is the most listless character I have ever read. He is introspective, drug addled 24/7, and finds love in Rebecca. The problem is, Rebecca refuses to be brought into the drug world again after losing people close to her. (See Morrison’s previous works.)


Ryland, oh Ryland. Always a day late and a dollar short, eh kid? As much as I want to hate him, I found myself wanting to save him from himself as a reader. Give him the ol’ Mom talk and then a cookie to fatten him up. But between his past haunting him, never answering his phone, and putting his dick in crazy, there isn’t much time for a good heart to heart.


It’s funny when you listen to Morrison, he states he’s a satirist and I believe him to a point. But this novel, this has too much to say about love, life, societal pressures, escapism, loss, and just being too late sometimes. It’s brilliant and it’s going to take a miracle to find a novel that tops this one in 2024.


Here are two more of my favorites quotes:


“You’re a nobody. Nobodies are harmless. Only the somebodies can hurt you.”

“Go fuck a poet if you’re looking for romance.”


A DOUBLE HIGHLY RECOMMEND 10/5. (And there are the typical Morrison Easter Eggs.)


 

VAMPIRESLAYER (Gotrek and Felix #6)

By William King


Gotrek and Felix, along with Snorri, Ulrika, and Max may have met their match in this installment with Adolphus Krieger. Someone is in search of the Eye of Khemri and it’s Adolphus along with his assistant Roche. When Ulrika gets kidnapped and whisked away to Sylvania, the boys must follow the blood sucker and hope for the best.


I can’t lie. This one started out a bit slower. Now, I’m usually a gal loving a slow burn but I was so used to constant fighting and action that this one threw me for a loop. But hold on. Let me explain. We get more back story on many characters as well as a fantastic build to the action. There is still action, don’t get me wrong but it is mostly at the end. We also get a bit of information about other series in the 40k universe so it’s kinda neat. The ending pissed me off but I wanted someone to die so damn bad.


Still a 5/5 for me. King will have to do better than that to get less.


 

GIANTSLAYER (Gotrek and Felix #7)

By William King


Well, well, well. We have come to the end of the William King novels (there are some short stories but those will come much later.)


Gotrek and Felix are separated from their companions, Snorri Nosebiter and Max Scrieber. Where do they go you ask, let me tell you. To Albion. There they must help an elf (if you know Gotrek you know he “hates trees almost as much as elves” and he HATES trees.) But all of that must be set aside to battle the albino twins from the Chaos battle as well as a giant. I know … that was probably shocking. Who lives? Who dies?


I LOVED this novel. I read it in under 24 hours. I had to. The banter between Teclis and Gotrek had me cackling so loud. The absolute disdain that dripped from the dialogue was too perfect. Then add in the descriptions of the world and it’s a gotdamn win.


I want to say this, if you are not into fantasy at all like I was, I HIGHLY recommend this. There is something about King’s writing that just hooks you. I didn’t believe I would enjoy it at all and I’m on book 8 in two weeks. Plus, I thought it was a boys club kinda deal. While it does feel written for men, it isn’t in anyway sexist or demeaning to the female characters. They are strong and intelligent when in scenes… even Ulrika. spits on the ground (Ifkyk)


Still recommending this one to anyone who will listen to me. 5/5.


 

FOR THE BETTER

By Daniel Volpe


Josef is a dick. Plain and simple.


This “midquel” as Volpe states, is the time between his killing of the characters from LEFT TO YOU to his passing the albatross off to it’s new, reluctant owner. MAKE SURE TO READ LEFT TO YOU FIRST! It won’t really make a lot of sense if you don’t… well, at least not everything.


Why is Josef a dick? I mean, he went through the Holocaust and survived, right? What Volpe does with this story is forces the reader to see maybe he isn’t the best gent out and should he get a pass for what he endured? I’m saying no. Josef becomes as bad as many he met at the concentration camp and it’s very difficult to wrestle with that. And that’s the brilliance of this follow up. It’s uncomfortable to face the truth of Josef while trying to not make him the monster.


It’s an interesting book for a character study and the evolution of a God complex. A definite recommend 4/5.


 

ALLEY: Ito Story Collection

By Junji Ito

Release: July 23, 2024


FINALLY! After years of trying to get an ARC of Ito, I wore them down with my annoyance. And I’m glad it was this one. There are ten stories in all let’s look at each one:


Alley - Shinobu’s mother has taken in Ishida, a new boarder. While Shinobu is meek, she holds secrets that call to Ishida from the alley at night. (5 star)


Descent - After a string of suicides, the MC’s wife, Erika, attempts to hang herself. The note reads, “A change is coming to this town.” As victim after victim return in a sinister way, Erika finds she cannot descend because she hasn’t ascended. (5 star)


The Ward - Hashimoto and Susie were in a car accident and both end up in the hospital. The other patients seem a bit off. Who will make it out alive and healed? (5 star)


The Inn - Mitsuyo’s parents open an inn. Well, her dad does and starts digging for a hot spring told to him in a dream. But does the spring hide more than steam? (5 star)


Blessing - Misuzu and Kyosuke want to be married but damned old Dad won’t give his blessing. How long will Kyosuke try to win favor for a happily ever after? (5 star)


Smokers Club - Don’t smoke cigarettes kids. Especially ones that are black and come from weird places. (3 star)


Mold - Akasaka reluctantly leases his house to his former teacher and his family. Old Moldy and his family leave a disaster in the house for when Akasaka returns. (4.5 star)


Town of No Roads - Saiko is getting Aristotled. It’s creepy, trust me. But then her family starts acting weird, she starts dreaming of the Ripper, and her aunt is naked. … then it gets even weirder. (5 star)


Memory - Rie starts remembering suppressed memories of when she was younger. The problem is… she was ugly. But can all memories be trusted? (4.5 star)


Ice Cream Bus - A bunch of kids, an ice cream truck, and a ride on the truck without adults. What could possibly go wrong? (4 star)


This isn’t typical Ito. Now, hold on and let me explain. He still gives us vividly oppressive drawings, chill inducing stories, and creepy af characters but it’s as though he’s telling us bedtime stories. Stories that seem a bit scary but we giggle going to sleep then BAM! Nightmares. Personally, this is my favorite kind of Ito; lull me into my nightmares, friend. I’m more than ready.


10/5. I can see this being on the Stoker ballot next year.


 

SPLATTERPUNK AWARD NOMINEE

SMOKEY ELVIS AND DANZICK BATTLE SWAMP ASS

By Lance Loot


WTF did I read? Seriously, I was laughing at the pure dumb in it.


Now, the author isn’t dumb, don’t twist my words. The story, characters, plot, all dumb but somehow it works. Simply put, a black Elvis impersonator and a balding twenty year old Danzig cover band have a beef with each other until this swamp ass thing that judges Elvis impersonators challenges them in a battle of the bands. And the swamp ass thing can kill people.


I mean… there are some clever lines and somehow Loot describes the characters so vividly. Hambone is my favorite without a doubt.


I will read more Loot for sure but this was just…a lot. If you like super weird, poop, and skullets this is your book. 3/5.




 

STOKER AWARD NOMINEE

(Superior Achievement in a Middle Grade Novel)

FRANCES AND THE WEREWOLVES OF THE BLACK FOREST

By Refe Tuma


This is the second in a series and there are references to the first novel


Frances FINALLY is invited to the European Society of Science and Invention! Traveling with her mother, assistant lab assistant, and a stowaway, she takes her first train ride… until it’s hijacked by a group that is dead set on taking something that isn’t theirs. Frances has so much going on for a twelve year old; running from Germans, meeting orphans, attempting to steal back her missing journal AND she’s on a time crunch. One that could be deadly.


There is a looooooot going on in this novel. It’s a thick boy at 404 pages and it feels like it. With that I mean, you live a lifetime in this story and it’s fun. Werewolves, golden stags, the play on Frankenstein, friendship, trust, loyalty, betrayal, catches breath, Nazis, mortality, and a ton of other plot points. It may seem like it is overload but Tuma takes his time and explores the characters and world brilliantly.


It’s 100% impressive and 110% immersive. A HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND 5/5.


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