If you’re looking for a naked Finnick Odair…

… you’ve got the wrong book. (There, that should garner me a couple bazillion hits, right?) Today I’m reviewing Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig – not that other book with “mocking” in its title and a picture of a bird on its cover. And even despite the absence of naked Finnick Odair, this book will rock your socks off.

I wish the picture above was bigger, because yet again, Joey HiFi, the brilliant artist responsible for this and the previous book’s cover, has created something that makes me want to fist-pump for hours on end. And I never fist-pump. Ever. Anyway, you’ll just have to buy it for yourself and revel in the glory of this awesome cover art.

Synopsisize me!

Miriam Black is back and as miserable, wise-cracking, mean and bad-ass as ever. She’s also still rocking that I-can-see-how-you’re-gonna-die psychic ability, but she’s trying to live with it instead of by it. No more hustling the imminently deceased. She’s got a little place with Louis and is working as a grocery store, and keeps the visions in check with a pair of gloves. As long as she doesn’t touch anyone, the details of demises don’t trouble her. Miriam’s not quite content in this new life, but determined to ride it out… until one day, all hell breaks loose, and she finds herself back on the road, chasing the unsettling but undeniable high of those morbid visions. But then Miriam sees something she can’t allow to happen, and she has to race against the clock to once again try and change what fate has already ordained.

Good God, Wendig. I think I want to crack open your head and live there.

This book may be even better than its predecessor (Blackbirds, reviewed below). The plot is more tightly constructed, and the pace benefits greatly. The stakes were higher, which led to even more tension and suspense, and horrible puffy red eyes because I stayed up way too late reading the damn book that just would let me close it already and go to sleep. Most of the backstory, always unwieldy, had already been dealt with in book one, so there was more time to explore the nuances of Miriam’s ability and its potential ramifications. Wendig’s writing is delightfully unique. He has a strong voice, as I noted in my previous review, and manages to balance dark and often (deliciously) profane humour with some genuine “chills and thrills.”

One great scene in particular stands out: Louis being suddenly surrounded by an army of birds, blackbirds, starlings, grackles (whatever that is), and crows, one of whom proceeds (spoiler spoiler spoiler) to speak to him in Miriam’s voice. Damn. It was like the Birds/Game of Thrones mash-up of my nerdiest dreams.

The characters are just as delightful as they were in Blackbirds. Miriam becomes even more complex as she tries, yet again, to change the fate she saw in her visions. She’s an unlikely hero, but a hero she is, and all the more interesting because she’s got a streak of villain in her, too. And Louis, my beloved Louis, is a perfect foil for her, and also my new book-husband. There are some new characters introduced, including a kind of junior Miriam named Lauren – Wren for short (ha ha – birds). I felt the villain in the first book was more fascinating, but the assortment of baddies in Mockingbird are definitely creepy and get the job done.

All in all, this book is hella good. I won’t fall into raptures like I did for Blackbirds, though it’s dificult restraining myself, people. Cuz everything I said last time? MULTIPLY IT BY  10 TO THE POWER OF HELL YEAH. Trust me. Read these books. They are the antidote to that book with the number and the colour in its title (and that reference, even as oblique as it was, now makes me shudder and crave a brain bleaching).

Best line(s): It’s a fool’s errand trying to pick out a favourite line – there’s too damn many – but here’s one I loved. “Louis, I think I telepathically commanded a bird to do my bidding.” (p. 360).

Rating: Five out of five naked Finnick Odairs. (What? All’s fair in love and blogging. READ ME, INTERNET. LOVE ME.)

Sequel alert: The author bio informs us that the next book will be Cormorant, and the day I hold it in my greedy hands cannot come soon enough. Also, huzzah for keeping the bird theme going. I guess I can’t help loving these books… it’s fate. (Har har, geddit? Cuz my name’s ROBYN. Lol.)

And now, Book Cat would like to contribute his thoughts, but begs that you refrain from any harsh sartorial critiques, as the smoking jacket with the Elvis collar was purely my idea.

I’d rather catch a bird and then play with it until it has a heart attack from my chillingly soulless yet endearingly innocent feline instinct for torture and bloodthirstiness, but then, I am a cat. If you must read a bird, by all means, make it Mockingbird.

Put a cussing bird on it

Still enjoying my, erm, “gainful employment furlough” (YES, that is what this is. JEEZ). Meanwhile, the kiddies are back at school tomorrow. Ha ha ha ha haaaaa ha, suck it, kiddies – aw, damn, never mind. My heart’s just not in it. Shameful confession: I am kind of envious of the school-bound young ‘uns. So many things to miss… the intricate politics of the classroom, the bitter feuds and fierce rivalries and intense passions, “O Canada” over the P.A., finding new and perverse ways to chip away at the teacher’s mental well-being, the sense of purpose, afternoon recess (always better than morning recess, am I right?), and the grades, dear sweet baby Thor, the grades.

“Grade me…look at me…evaluate and rank me! Oh, I’m good, good, good and oh so smart! Grade me!” – Lisa Simpson

Yeah, um, I think I need to get out of my house a little bit more.

This week, my joes, it’s Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig.

And just for the record, the image above does not even come close to the doing that cover justice. I mean, you hold this book in your hands and your lexicon is limited to Bill-and-Ted monosyllables. I even broke my e-book rule and bought the book-book version just so I could salivate over that cover art.

Alrighty, let’s lindy hop the shizz outta this plot!

Miriam Black has many talents: she’s smart and witty, pragmatic, an excellent judge of character, and she uses obscenities with as much genius as Picasso did oils. These are good talents. Alas, not all of Miriam’s talents are enviable. Namely, that whole being business of being able to see how a person will die when she touches them. Except Miriam’s making it work for her, as best as she can… until Louis, a kindly trucker, enters her life and throws a block of concrete into the rusty gears of the mechanism that is her life. Because when Miriam lets her hand brush against his, she sees that Louis is going to die soon – within a fortnight – and just before he gets done for in a nasty way, he’s going to look up and see Miriam standing just behind his murderer. Now Miriam is determined to find out how she can do what she never could before: unravel the ugly, rotting tapestry of miserable fate and change what has been foretold.

I almost didn’t review this book. In fact, the blog silence of the past weeks has been due not entirely to my personal emotional cocktail of depression, self-pity, and creative lassitude in conjunction with an epic Tolstoy re-read. Some of it was due to my despair of ever adequately summing up the unspeakable awesomeness of this book. This book is BAD. ASS. Like, the baddest, assiest bad ass ever. Like Al Swearengen on blue meth.

Miriam is utterly delightful. She is bitter, angry, heartless, witty, and tough. She lies, cheats, and steals. She carries around a mysterious, battered notebook filled with inscrutable notes. (Second shameful confession: I identify a little too much with Miriam.) She feels like a very real character, even with her unusual ability, and I think that Wendig did an excellent job creating a female character that is very clearly damaged, but certainly not broken. Actually, Miriam reminded me a lot of Lisbeth from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy – a character whom I liked, but did not fall utterly in love with and fangirl over the way some people did. (What was with that?) Miriam is, dare I say, a better Lisbeth. Yes, she’s unlikable. That’s partly why I liked her so damn much. If you’d gone through what Miriam had, you wouldn’t be a cuddly koala bear either.

The supporting characters were brilliant, too – Ashley the skeevey grifter, the murderous Laurel and Hardy duo, the Villain, and Louis, dear, sweet Louis, who kindled a smouldering book-crush in my cold, cold heart – but it’s Miriam that drives this amazing novel.

I mean, why isn’t this book on ALL THE LISTS? Seriously, I’m a librarian (albeit unemployed – SO?) and I just stumbled on it. By accident. In the bookstore. That utterly terrifies me. It is my business to know about books like this. Why didn’t I? WHY???

The thing about Blackbirds is that it’s so different from anything else I’ve read in a long time. It’s a game-changer. It’s… Ziggy Stardust.

Wendig, like his heroine, has a bewitching way with words. If you don’t mind the cussing (and the gods know I sure don’t), it’s transcendent. The writer in me was so envious, I looked like She-Hulk; reader-Robyn, however, wanted to sink to her knees and gaze in adoring awe at the wonder of the rapid, present-tense, bizarrely inventive prose. As for the story itself, another win. Kind of urban fantasy, kind of horror, lots of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and I loved every minute of it.

I don’t – I can’t even – listen, just read this book. I know, I know. I say this a lot. Maybe I’m just a terrible reviewer of books. Who cares? The brats are in school, so the library parking lot will finally be empty and you can get a damn space without having to engage in parking lot fisticuffs. So tomorrow morning, send the brats packing, queue up outside your book depository, shuffle in with olds when the doors finally open a minute late because librarians are sadists who enjoy power trips, and tread lightly over the worn, dirt-coloured carpet until you find yourselves in the curiously woebegone section of fiction that is the W’s. With any luck, the mouth-watering cover porn of this book will be staring back at you. And then, because of the miracle of government funding and the far-reaching influence of notorious union suppressor Mr. Andrew Carnegie, you can actually just slip that little gem of a book off the shelf, press it to your bosom like a heroine in a nickelodeon, and strut up to the checkout desk like you’re Tom Hardy (cor, that man’s got swagger). Then you can smirk at the librarian, content in the knowledge that you found a book she and her bookish comrades did not include on any lists. No, you found this one yourself – with a little help from moi, of course.

Best Line(s): For Miriam, choosing life is nothing so grand as seeing the vast reservoir of potential that a continued existence would allow. Her mind’s eye does not play movies of kids on swings and a dog in a yard and the warm glow coming off a golden pond. No, as it is so often with Miriam, her decision to live is based on spite and anger – a mouth full of vinegar that drives her once more to sabotage her own plans.”  (p. 323)

Rating: Five out of five cussing, peripatetic prophetesses. (Even Idiot Boy liked this book. See, I’m not playing.)

Sequel alert: Just came out last week! Mockingbird. I’m halfway through it and so far, so good.

BONUS! If you want to see a video of Chuck Wendig reading all of the profanity from Blackbirds and its sequel, go here. And if you want to see a very effective book trailer for the two books, go here. And Chuck Wendig runs a blog both entertaining and informative at terribleminds.com