(3.75 / 5)
The self-effacing, chaotic, past-his-prime, doubtful, ambivalent, awkward, sometimes arrogant, but usually humorous main character in Zach Boddicker’s novel The Essential Carl Mahogany, is at the proverbial crossroads. What direction should he go in his life? And besides the van named Percy who should Carl bring with him? Carl’s mission is to figure out how to get his shit together and to find his soul which he lost working in the country music industry, except Carl perpetually gets sidetracked by…pick something. Anything. This is why Carl isn’t all that famous of a musician. Sometimes life just happens.
There is no dire conflict within the story. No swashbuckling. No hero action. All of the conflict is the soul-sucking daily kind, but Boddicker tells his tale with so much broken self-awareness that you are drawn in by the prose. The story is an oddball, misfit kind of thing that is difficult to categorize as other than a fictional memoir, but the moodiness of the setting and the narrative tickles your ear like a beloved old country song you forgot you knew.
(4.5 / 5)
Freelance writer Hannah has a predilection for the unwanted and for distancing herself from others (with the exception of her cat), so when she comes across a Victorian era house for sale located in the wilderness outside of Calgary, she knows she’s found the perfect place. Tucked an hour away from everyone she knows, she soon discovers that it is someone else’s place as well—the resident ghost, who has scared off all previous owners of the beautiful, lovingly crafted home. But Hannah is as intransigent as the ghost and refuses to leave her newfound sanctuary. The two battle for control; all changes to the home are met with door-slamming and the knocking over of lamps, and even her cat starts behaving strangely. When Hannah’s journalistic drive leads her to discover what motivates her spooky companion, she finds a commonality between the two of them—and wonders if the ghost’s fate may also be hers.
Judith Docken paints the small town of Spruce Valley and its denizens as well as the quiet beauty and solitude of the woods outside Calgary in a way that makes the reader visualize it all perfectly. She possesses a strong voice as a writer, as shown by the subtle details of her characters, all who feel like distinct personalities. Hannah, the protagonist, is an independent, stubborn, and completely relatable woman in her early thirties with a penchant for wine and an equally independent and stubborn cat named Jimi (for Jimi Hendrix, whose black hair the cat resembles, which I found to be a nice touch). Any cat owner will chuckle knowingly at Jimi’s antics, as well as Docken’s deadpan humor, which contrasts perfectly with the heavier aspects of tragedy and loss that pervade the story. Ghosted is a strong debut novel from Docken, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
(4 / 5)
“It’s the end of the word as we know it, and I feel fine.”
Sometime in the near future the world has become a dystopian society where apocalypses of all sizes and magnitude are a normal part of life’s routine. Unlike other post-apocalyptic fiction, the world of Apocalypse All the Time is collapsing from every kind of imaginable horror – impact apocalypses, nuclear, climate change, zombie, and even alien invasion apocalypses. Marshall is sick of it. Life is constantly in danger and continually disrupted by one apocalypse or another, but nothing significant ever changes and no one seems to die. Ever. The emergencies are always handled by the Apocalypse Amelioration Agency and their Wizard of Oz-like leader, Malcolm. Like the best heroes of fiction, Marshall is out to change that. But instead of saving the world, he sets out to stop the reign of apocalypses.
Quirky and entertaining, Apocalypse All The Time paints a vivid picture of a world gone weird and one man’s daily struggle to manage while life crumbles around him on a regular basis. What makes Apocalypse All The Time unique isn’t the subject matter. The end of the world has been coming in literature for years, and America as we know it has been decimated and destroyed repeatedly by plagues, disease, explosions, and the un-dead. What makes this book different is that while Doomsday keeps coming, the world averts disaster over and over until one man decides he has had enough. In Not Quite So Stories, Atkinson examined society’s need to explain and demystify the world through short stories that concluded that life is so absurd, it is beyond our comprehension. In Apocalypse All the Time he explores the impact an allure with apocalypticism can have on the way we live our lives and the effect it has on us. It is an absurdly funny exploration of society’s fascination with the end of the world and the trend of endless apocalypse predictions.