The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick

“Almost everyone has an inborn need to create; in most people this is thwarted and forgotten, and the drive is pushed into other activities that are less threatening, less difficult, and less rewarding. In some people, that need to create is transmuted into the need to destroy.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 145 pages.
March 10, 2019 to March 11, 2019.

This book is one of those delightful Goodreads finds. A reviewer I follow gushed about how brilliant this book is and after reading the description I was hooked.

A horror writer is staying in a remote cabin in the French Alps to finish a book he is struggling to write. The author is drawn to the classic horror novel, Frankenstein, but not because he enjoys the book, in fact, he despises it. As the narrator draws his own conclusions about the horror genre in an attempt to write his own book he discusses the weak points of Frankenstein, details of the author, Mary Shelley’s history and life, all the while making philosophical remarks about how we create our own monsters along with the nuances of the reading and writing processes.

“Orwell’s vision of our terrible future was that world– the world in which books are banned or burned. Yet it is not the most terrifying world I can think of. I think instead of Huxley– …I think of his Brave New World. His vision was the more terrible, especially because now it appears to be rapidly coming true, whereas the world of 1984 did not. What’s Huxley’s horrific vision? It is a world where there is no need for books to be banned, because no one can be bothered to read one.”

As the story progresses the narrator begins to be visited by ghosts, first by Mary Shelley herself and then by the characters in her book. As the narrator navigates this dreamlike horror, he realizes that he is going to have to face the monster of Shelley’s creation and of his own.

This short novel leaves the reader wondering what actually happens to the narrator and how much of this tense story is real or metaphorical. The writing is smart, highly creative and very well paced making for an engaging read. The story reads like a diary or an essay that focuses on the unique writing process of a horror story, the act of creation itself, and of course, our own personal monsters. I particularly enjoyed the author’s comments on the creative process and how he looks at writing in general as they’re bookmark worthy spots if you need help breaking up a writer’s block.

“The binary colour of words on a page give the sense of simplicity and clarity. But life doesn’t work like that. And neither should a good story. A good story ought to leave a little grey behind, I think.”

This book may not be for everyone however as its approach and topics are slightly unusual. The story is a quick read so its a good candidate if you’re looking to catch up on your reading goal or even if you’re looking for something exceptionally different than your usual reads. If you love horror, are familiar with the author, or are a writer yourself, you may find this book is perfect for you.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

“When your innocence is stripped from you, when your people are denigrated, when the family you came from is denounced and your tribal ways and rituals are pronounced backward, primitive, savage, you come to see yourself as less than human. That is hell on earth, that sense of unworthiness. That’s what they inflicted on us.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 191 pages
Read from January 1, 2019 to January 2, 2019

I picked up this book on a recommendation by a friend, though if I had started reading all the Canada Reads books just one year earlier I would have come across this moving story sooner. Indian Horse made the Canada Reads 2013 shortlist but was unfortunately voted off in the first round.

Indian Horse is an all-encompassing story that touches tragic issues related to the indigenous people in Canada. The story also has wide-reaching themes with its integral connection to hockey and the protagonist’s, Saul Indian Horse, struggles with childhood trauma and alcoholism. Saul’s past starts with his indigenous roots as a young child trying to escape the prying arms of the white man trying to forcefully place him and siblings in residential schooling. His family knows the woods and has this advantage but their luck does not last forever. After being pried away from the frozen and dead grip of his grandmother he is forced into a residential school where endures severe abuse. His only reprieve from the misery and loneliness of the school is through hockey. Saul shows promise as a talented hockey player at a young age but his native roots make him an outcast against the white hockey teams he plays against, despite being better than them. As Saul grows, hockey carries him through the toughest moments in his life but things start to turn sour as Saul becomes an adult and the hockey realm becomes more abusive and physical. Unable to deal with his past traumas and personal failures Saul turns to drink. The story opens with Saul at rock bottom with him coming to an understanding that if he wants peace he needs to tell his story.

Saul’s childhood is nothing short of traumatizing as the author details how Saul and many real indigenous people in Canada were treated during the horrific era of residential schooling in Canada. Physical and sexual abuse was rampant, leaving many of the children with irreparable trauma in which its no surprise that many did turn substance abuse as an outlet. Saul’s story is tragic but the ending is nothing short of inspiring. The writing is easy to read yet remarkably crafted. Richard Wagamese is a talented author that writes from the heart, his characters are dynamic and engaging and his plot and storylines are thoughtful and concise.

This book is for every Canadian, especially those who enjoy inspirational stories on overcoming adversity, hockey, or anything related to Canadian history. What makes this story all the more poignant is that Saul’s story represents so many indigenous children in Canada with the tragedy being that so many of them don’t get the peaceful ending that Saul did making it all the more important that their stories get shared.

The Psychology of Zelda by Anthony Bean

Can we talk about how gorgeous the cover art is for this book? Made me want to read this book even more.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 256 pages.
Read from March 12, 2019 to March 20, 2019.

Ocarina of Time was it for me, the magical game that got me hooked on gaming forever. It’s a game that I still play to this day and the reason I will never part with my trusty N64 console or my 3DS. I’ve gone on to play a large portion of the Legend of Zelda series since Ocarina of Time and these games have forever become a part of who I am. Each game has marked different moments in my life while also helping to keep my imagination alive and provide a safe space for me to relax. It’s a reliable world that I can always lose myself in no matter what’s going on. Many fans of the series feel the same so it’s no surprise that there would be interesting psychology behind this beloved series.

legend-zelda-breath-wild-gold
Breath of the Wild, Released March 2017

I saw this book being promoted on one of the Zelda fan pages I follow on Facebook and was immediately captivated by the cover art. It’s absolutely stunning. Having always wanted to dive into the psychology of this game and explore my own intense interests in the game, I made a frantic search and request for this book on Netgalley.

This book is a collection of essays by psychologists and similar professionals who also have a passion and academic interesting in video gaming. Each essay broaches a different topic in the game. From the analysis of Link’s hero archetype, the reason why Link never speaks a word, the role of the notorious Dark Link, the structure of the music in the game and how it affects gamers, and the changing role of Zelda over the years, to themes of grief and depression present in Majora’s Mask, this collaboration of essays touches every aspect of the game despite its short length.

The essays are quite academic in nature but I wasn’t expecting anything less, though it seems some readers were a bit put off by this. I think it would have been disappointing if the essays didn’t have enough factual references. I particularly enjoyed the section on Majora’s Mask and the different stages of grief. This one essay alone stands out and is worth getting this book for this essay alone. Majora’s Mask was and still is unique from the rest of the Zelda games for its approach to these darker themes and the fact that it is the only game that has been made as a direct sequel (Ocarina of Time). There are some repetitive facts in relation to Carl Jung as he is discussed in at least 2 or 3 different essays. There is also some repetition with the game quote selection used in the essays as well.

You don’t need to be a psychology major to appreciate this book as the analysis is laid out in a straight-forward and easy to understand manner. Overall this was a quality read and if you love Zelda and are interested in an academic analysis of the games and their themes this is a worthwhile little read.