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Book Review: The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner by Francis J. Flynn

Janus Publishing Company Ltd
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Booktasters (check them out their website and Twitter) and the author for a fair and honest review. All of my thoughts, opinions, and ramblings are my own]

Book: The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner
Author: Francis J. Flynn
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Satire, horror

My Review and Thoughts: In Francis J. Flynn's humorous and witty satirical novel, The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner, the Devil is alive and well- and this modern world of sin and texting is diverting our attention away from the presence of the Prince of Darkness. At least it is, according to the Archbishop presiding over Gateway City, MO where Saint Anthony's parish is located. After an incident of the Archbishop witnessing a teenage boy texting during the homily he was saying (an incident that would be hereby be known by the Archbishop's colleagues and followers as "L'Affaire Texting"), his resolve to face that evil head on as a way for people to understand the evils the modern world has brought upon it while we're all too distracted with our electronic devices.

His opportunity comes in the form of (not so) little Billy Wagner, a rather large twelve year old boy, whose parents, Mary and Bill Wagner, are desperate for help from the Catholic Church. Little Billy has caused disturbance after disturbance at his school (the book begins with "the knife incident), and now he won't leave his room, just growing gaunt and playing video games all day. Not to mention his rage, speaking in tongues, drawing pentagrams on his walls, and superhuman strength. The Archbishop sees this as a golden opportunity to warn the world that Satan is upon us. What better way to show the world that the evil must be fought by exorcising a supposed demonically possessed tween boy?

From there the Archbishop assigns various priests to investigate and assess little Billy Wagner, but it all eventually falls on Father Leo, a young, level-headed, and likable priest, who is determined to see if Little Billy is indeed demonically possessed or just a spoiled, entitled modern twelve year old on too many ADHD pills. But the bureaucracy and zeal of the Catholic Church gets in the way and with a growing list of colorful Church clergyman, a religious medical "expert," Saint Anthony's parish's overworked Hispanic landscaper/line cook/artist/jack of all trades, and a Wiccan stripper thrown into the mix, the exorcism (and book, in general) comes to a climactic boiling point that no one could anticipate or expect (least of all the reader!).

Flynn write a sharp, hilarious satire that not only makes us laugh at the bureaucracy, chain of command, and fanaticism of the Catholic Church (which is only too familiar with people who have grown up in the Church), but also humanizes what could have been cartoon-ish caricatures of the characters of the book. While we still scoff and chuckle at the ridiculousness of some of the thoughts and actions of the characters, we do feel for them, like Mary Wagner (worried about her son and if she made him this way, by ignoring him and watching too many of her Lifetime-esque based on a true story TV movies) and especially the unsung hero and scapegoat, Father Leo. Struggling with his growing feelings for the beguiling Veronica, a woman he met in the religious conversion class he was teaching, and missing the small parish in Bolivia, where he truly felt he was doing God's work by helping the people there, his confusion and sadness feels real and true, despite all of the amusing absurdity surrounding the multiple characters and story-lines.

Flynn's writing style is quick and witty with gems of wry, humorous one-liners, quips, and back stories that fill page after page. While some of said back stories may go on for longer than necessary and tend to get dull at times, it's quite remarkable that Flynn is able to fit so many different character's thoughts, perspectives, and information into one 200 plus page book. But the overall humor and surprising amount of emotion involved in this novel makes this a surprising and impressive read.

Should You Read It: A horror novel this is not, so if that's what you want to read, you'll most likely be disappointed at the lack of gore, demonic entities, and seriously creepy moments. But if you like satirical novels, or like horror novels and just want to give satire about the genre a try, I would definitely recommend The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner. I had never read a satirical novel before and I'm a big horror fan, so reading this one was the perfect introduction to the genre. Plus, as a big fan of The Exorcist and the whole exorcism/possession subject in general, this was a fantastic and funny take on a subject I love.

😈

What did you think of my book review? Does the subject and style of book sound interesting to you? Have you read any satirical novels? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Weird,
Emily

Are you ready to ready to read about the exorcism of "little" Billy in this fun, satirical take on the horror genre? Pick up a copy and get reading!

Throwback: 10 Movies I Loved as a Kid!


Do you ever feel when life is getting you down, you just want to revisit your childhood? You know, a more simple time, when Lunchables and gummy snacks were acceptable forms of food, you ran outside barefoot (no wonder I had so many ant bites as a kid), rode your bike around the neighborhood (but not too far away), climbed trees for no reason at all (and spied on the neighbors. What? We all did that! Right...?), getting the exact toy you wanted in your Happy Meal (or another fast food restaurant chain that offered a toy in the kids meals), and could play with toys without judgement (because now only collectibles are acceptable for an adult to own. WRONG! I still want all five Spice Girls dolls. And I'm not ashamed!)- because you were a kid and that's what kids do! They have fun!

Life as an adult doesn't seem fun at all at certain times. Fun has been replaced by stress, and then stress takes over your life. But I've found there's a way to go back to a happier time, when life wasn't (that) stressful and it was the little things that delighted you (like stickers! Remember when you got a cool set of stickers and were just so stoked??). Just thinking about some of my favorite childhood movies brings a smile to my face and relaxes me. There must be some magic combination of animation, music, happy memories, and Disney that soothes the stressful soul of an adult- even for just 90 minutes (or less). Sometimes that's all you need to take a break from your current stress (rent, job, house payments, student loans, bills, existence). Then after that you go right back to stressing, but hey, at least you took a mini vacation for an hour or so, singing songs you've known since childhood, and laughed at the jokes you never noticed were actually dirty as a kid, all thanks to some of these classic (or not so classic) movies. Let the childhood favorite movie marathon begin! (While I hide from my problems under a blanket, eating fruit roll ups, and singing "A Whole New World.")

Spoiler Alert: I may have gone on a rant about how great The Chipmunk Adventure is (it. Holds. UP). I would apologize, but I feel very strongly that it didn't get enough attention and that everyone should watch it. So, sorry not sorry.

1. Bambi


Disney
I know, I know. This is a weird one to start with. But believe it or not, this was my FAVORITE movie as a little kid. Like, I mean little. Like two, three, or four. I literally would watch it over and over. I have no idea why I wasn't scarred by this movie as a child, like everyone else was. Bambi's mom got SHOT by a hunter! Literally died, leaving poor Bambi on his own. But I loved Bambi, his skunk companion Flower, and the ever precocious Thumper the bunny ("Eating greens is a special treat, it makes long ears and great big feet! But it sure is awful to eat- I made that part up myself." I still quote Thumper the rabbit to this day). One thing though- knowing now what "twitterpated" really means now is slightly disturbing. Especially about adorable cartoon animals! (They don't DO that! They DON'T!!)

2. The Sound of Music

20th Century Fox 
Apart from Bambi, this may have been the first movie I ever saw. This movie was played routinely in our house. My parents love musicals, my grandmother loved musicals, so musicals were always playing in my house (the movies AND the soundtracks), but The Sound of Music was the reigning musical monarch in our eyes. Nothing could beat a movie about a novice nun turned governess, a single dad with seven kids (and now that I'm older, I can now appreciate Christopher Plummer's hotness. Like, damn Captain Von Trapp!), and Nazis. It's literally the perfect movie. Julie Andrews' voice is angelic and lovely, the songs and music are iconic, and if there was ever a movie that made you want to visit Austria, it's The Sound of Music (fun fact: my sisters and I want to take The Sound of Music bicycle tour in Austria. Yes, that's a thing. And yes, we literally love the movie that much). And guess what: there's an official The Sound of Music singalong every year in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl. And shocker, I've been. And it was AMAZING.

3. The Care Bears Movie


The Samuel Goldwyn Company
My two sisters are both older than me, so this classic was from the 80's (a little before my time. I'm the last year of the 80's baby), was one of their favorites, and so was obviously one of my favorites too (I was quite the little copycat). The movie is adorable, except for all the scary parts (there are many); the villain of the movie was literally an evil talking spellbook that had a creepy bald woman's head in the middle and literally terrified me. But the Care Bears and their bright dispositions and determination to cheer up the world, made up for that. Plus the songs are catchy (my sisters and I will still sing them randomly. We're adults, people), making this movie a very underrated animated kids movie. Also, they lived in the CLOUDS and it was called Care-A-Lot!! It's seriously stupid cute.

But seriously, look how terrifying this evil spellbook witch thing was:

The Samuel Goldwyn Company
TERRIFYING.

4. The Lion King

Disney
I remember when this movie CAME OUT. I was in grade school, and this was THE movie to see. Everyone saw it and my friends and I were obsessed with it. We knew the songs, the classic funny lines, we tried to laugh like the hyenas, and we literally rolled on the floor laughing when Timon and Pumbaa performed their Hula Song as a distraction. I don't think my family had it on VHS, but if one of my friends had a copy, I would always insist on watching it when I was over at their place. It is literally a classic Disney movie and I love that no matter how old you are when you watch it, pretty much everyone agrees it's a good movie. Not bad for a kids movie!

(I also remember that my mom got a Nala stuffed animal for me as a treat for finishing my school year, and it wasn't until a while later that I learned that that Nala toy came in a pair, which included Simba (they had magnets in their noses to make it look like they were kissing), but I didn't have the Simba one because my mom got Nala at a YARD SALE and didn't tell me they were supposed to come in pairs. I mean, I'm happy she saved a ton of money, but I always felt bad for my little Nala, magnet nosed and all alone. I would put her nose against the fridge and watch her sadly slide slowly down or randomly stick fridge magnets on her nose.)

5. Aladdin

Disney
I distinctly remember seeing Aladdin in theaters, even though I was pretty young at the time. My dad took me and my oldest sister, while my Mom took my other sister to see Dennis the Menace (which was a TERRIFYING movie, by the way). It enchanted me and I'm pretty sure I may have worn out our copy of the movie (or else the tape got eaten by the VCR. That happened a lot). I still love it to this day and watched it recently. If anyone disagrees that Aladdin isn't a diamond in the rough (see what I did there? Sorry, I'll stop), with incredible songs, timeless characters (Jasmine was my everything. She was a princess AND she had a pet tiger!), and the late, great Robin Williams, then I can't be friends with you. (Okay, we can still be friends even though you are wrong about your opinions on Disney movies)

6. Annie

Columbia Pictures
I think this movie may be the reason why I dyed my hair red later in my life (thankfully no perm though!). Annie was the coolest orphan ever, and she got to be adopted by the rich Daddy Warbucks, who was gruff at first, but obviously Annie won him over and then had him wrapped around her little finger. And Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan was inspiringly wicked and funny. But of course I didn't realize that until I was way older. Plus, there was nothing better than annoying my parents by singing all the songs from Annie over and over again (my father now has an unnatural hatred for Annie and the soundtrack. Go figure).

7. Little Women

Columbia Pictures
This one is a little out of the box when it comes to kids movies, but this was one of my favorite live action movies to watch as a youngin'. I don't think I could ever watch another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel because to me, Winona Ryder (probably my first ever girl crush) IS smart and feisty Jo March, Claire Danes is the sweet, kind Beth, and Kirsten Dunst is bratty youngest sister Amy (my apologies to the girl who played Meg, but I have no idea who she is. Besides, she was almost as uppity as Amy). It's such a wonderful tale of sisters and always makes me feel warm and cozy whenever I watch it (apart from the part where Beth dies. Spoiler alert: she dies and it's heartbreaking). But seriously, did anyone else want Jo to marry Laurie?? That part always upset me as a child, seeing poor Laurie so upset. Then he has to go and marry Amy (when she's played by a different, older actress, of course) which Jo was fine with because now he was part of the family and wouldn't Amy mind that she was second choice (I mean, I WOULD!!!) and Laurie grew that very unfortunate facial hair on his very pretty face and geez, I still can't wrap my head around that whole thing.

8. The Chipmunk Adventure

Bagdasarian Productions/The Samuel Goldwyn Company
I'm sure at least 0% of those reading have probably heard of The Chipmunk Adventure, but about 100% of you have heard of the new-fangled CGI/live action Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Those modern day atrocities of children's movies can't even hold a cheap, tiny birthday candle to this 80's classic (in my family's eyes).

Filled with a massive treasure hunt competition via hot air balloons, the Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore) and their female counterparts the Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette, Eleanor), set off around the world, seeing if the Chipmunks or Chipettes can deliver all of their mini me dolls around the world first. But what they think is just a fun adventure is actually a ruse by criminal siblings, Klaus and Claudia, who want to smuggle diamonds to different countries, which are hidden inside the dolls. It literally is an adventure of a movie, plus there are some super catchy and fun songs (you'll want own the soundtrack once you're done watching). It's ridiculously 80's (the fashions! So many animated leg warmers!), but it's actually really entertaining and super adorable. Plus, it'll make you want to travel to these cartoony versions of real life places (and have a dance/singing battle on some temple ruins in Athens). I still watch it to this day occasionally as a full blown adult and I AM NOT ASHAMED.

And if my powerful soliloquy about a forgotten children's movie (as you can tell, I feel very passionate that more people know about The Chipmunk Adventure) doesn't convince you, maybe this adorable baby penguin that was gift to Brittany the Chipette by an Arabian prince who wanted to marry her (she doesn't by the way. She is literally a child and a chipmunk-girl-person) and then the Chipettes decide to return this adorable flightless bird to her family in Antarctica. It's seriously the cutest animated animal to ever be put in film and her reunion with her family always makes me teary eyed. WATCH IT.

Bagdasarian Productions/The Samuel Goldwyn Company
That little wave. *sobs*

9. Pocahontas

Disney
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind? This Disney movie asked the most philosophical questions and introduced us kids to the historical figure (but wildly inaccurate. Look it up) Pocahontas and her animal sidekicks Meeko the raccoon and Flit the hummingbird. And let's not forget the kind, talking willow tree, Grandmother Willow and there's a forbidden love story, with the handsome, blonde Englishman John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson, back when he was relevant and we didn't know he was racist). While this may not be the happiest of Disney movies (John Smith gets injured and goes back to England, leaving Pocahontas behind), but it does contain some very classic Disney songs, has a beautiful and emotional story-line, and finally portrays Native Americans in a positive light (I'm looking at you, Peter Pan!).

10. Anastasia

20th Century Fox
Ugggh, you guys, this movie! Who would have thought that the murder of the Romanov royal family by their own people and the conspiracy theory that the youngest daughter escaped the mass slaughter and lost her memory and was living out in the world could inspire such a wonderful children's movie?? Not me! But I loved it anyway. The song "Once Upon a December" still gives me chills, along with the scene in which it's played where Anastasia (voiced by 90's rom-com queen Meg Ryan) vaguely remembers the royal ball her family threw as a child (who didn't want that music box and "Together in Paris" necklace/key that opens it?? So beautiful and mysterious!). You also have one of the greatest evil/funny villains of all time, Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd, in possibly his best roll to date since the Back to the Future movies, in my unwanted opinion) and his talking bat sidekick, Bartok (adorable). Plus, the cartoon world's most dashingly handsome love interest, the con artist Dimitri (voice by John Cusack. *swoon*). With that 90's floppy hair with the center part and those thick, but defined eyebrows, he got my pre-tween (yeah, I was younger than a tween then) heart going pitter-patter. And Angela freakin' Lansbury is in it! I love this movie so much... Okay, time to listen to the soundtrack again because I can't go to NYC to see the Broadway musical version of it. *sigh*

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Thanks for reading my nostalgic throwback blog post! What were your favorite movies as a kid? Do you ever go back and watch your favorite childhood movies as a way to escape the lonely and stressful world that is adulthood? Also, should I do more of these throwback posts? This one was super fun to write! Let me know in the comments!

Stay Weird,
Emily

Book Review: Fellside by M.R. Carey

Orbit
Book: Fellside
Author: M.R. Carey
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Supernatural/paranormal, mystery, thriller

My Review and Thoughts: This is the second book of M.R. Carey's that I have read. The first, given to me by one of my best friends, was The Girl With All the Gifts, which was a fresh take on the dead and dying (get it? I'll go home) zombie genre. While I am not usually a zombie story fan, I really did love Carey's version of the undead epidemic and the characters were very real and the story and action incredibly compelling. So when I first saw that Carey had a new book out, entitled Fellside and featuring a voice (or voices) haunting a prisoner at a women's prison, I immediately thought YES: the supposed paranormal meets Orange Is the New Black. Maybe Carey could give a new spin on a genre that I love. And in a way, he did. I just didn't really care for it that much.

The story started out promising: Jess Moulson, heroin addict, wakes up in a hospital room, not remembering what's happened. The realization that she's been injured and convicted of starting a fire in a drug addled state, which, instead of injuring her boyfriend John, had actually killed the young, troubled boy, Alex, she had befriended and who lived in her building. Wracked with the guilt of something she cannot even remember, she is sent, after multiple surgeries to fix her facial burns from the fire, to the women's prison Fellside in York. Determined to kill herself via hunger strike, she begins to waste away until she hears a voice speaking to her, seemingly through the walls of the infirmary. Could this be the voice of Alex, back from the dead, ready to exact blame on her? Or does his restless spirit need help? In order to find out what truly happened to him on the night of the fire, the night she can't remember, she must commit to living and investigating that fateful night and if she really did hurt Alex- or if someone else was behind it.

Fellside (the book and the prison) is a web of people, lies, conspiracies, and dreams, all tangled up together. There, we get different characters perspectives, not just Jess's, from both authorities and prisoners. The various prisoners, whether newcomers or the lifers; a cunning crime lord, who from prison, runs drugs in and out of the prison with help from her lover aka the skeevy warden. The blubbering and frightened doctor runs the infirmary, and is terrified of the warden and the nurse working for the doctor, who wants to exact her own kind of vengeance on Jess for being a child killer. But instead of being an intricate web, it feels rather clunky switching back from character to character, when really all you care about is Jess's view, and what she discovers about that night, as passive and boring as it may be. (Though you do have to admire Carey's incredible work of describing so many, and different, characters with distinctive personalities and traits.)

I had extremely high hopes for Fellside, but it was less a paranormal read (which I was fine with) than a very strange and not very effective story about redemption, for more than a few characters. Nothing in the book that happened caught me off guard, or showed anything too original. As diverse as the characters (and their backstories) presented were, it didn't justify the books length to be over 400+ pages long and I felt myself having to drag myself to finish the book (which is never ever a good sign when reading a contemporary fiction book). A good effort, but overall it just felt uneven and fell flat.

Should You Read It: If you really love M.R. Carey's previous work, then you should probably try to give Fellside a chance. It is a different and unique story and setting, but for me, I was expecting something a bit more complex and emotional. And while the ending was somewhat satisfying and heartfelt, I couldn't help but be disappointed by one of the "twists," that I could pretty much guess from the moment the first clue was dropped. (The other, not so much, but the reveal was pretty anticlimactic and a little rushed.) All in all, I would probably only suggest it to another person, just to see if someone else saw something in the book that I just couldn't see.


Have you read Fellside? What did you think of it? Am I just missing something? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Weird,
Emily


Where to Buy:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Or, check out a copy from your local library! (Like I did)

Goodreads:
Fellside
Author Page

Check Out the Author:
Official Website
Twitter