With a premise and voice just strange enough to attract more dangerous readers and a distinctly literary story about familial strife, Parnucklian for...moreWith a premise and voice just strange enough to attract more dangerous readers and a distinctly literary story about familial strife, Parnucklian for Chocolate by B.H. James offers an interesting take on the YA story. I don't know if it has been marketed that way, but make no mistake, Parnucklian for Chocolate is YA (which, incidentally, is a complement). The book, stuck somewhere between absurdist and traditional literature, is about Josiah, a 16-year-old boy raised to believe his father is from the planet Parnuckle. Hilarity ensues. As does heartbreak. In short, James offers a twisted, ironic, sad, and comedic take on the concept of growing up and finding a place in a world Josiah doesn't feel he belongs in, a concept we all have to battle at one time or another.
After this outing, I'm curious to see what James does next.(less)
Described by the Cat Dixon herself as 'confessional poetry,' Too Heavy To Carry can be, at times, uncomfortable to read.
Stop a beat now. I'm not sayi...moreDescribed by the Cat Dixon herself as 'confessional poetry,' Too Heavy To Carry can be, at times, uncomfortable to read.
Stop a beat now. I'm not saying this is bad. In fact, it's the exact opposite. I'm saying Dixon lets her readers see a side of her the rest of us normally keep caged and hidden away. She is unafraid to show the moments of weakness, the moments of anger, the moments of hate, and the moments of self-loathing that pop up for everyone.
But the poetry is written so well, with an eye toward the specific, that Dixon is not only exposing readers to all of her inner doubts and struggles, she is also exposing readers to their own. For in specificity, universality is born. In other words, the collection is a mirror. We all have moments like the ones described in this collection. Parents claim, at least internally, a favorite child. People who see they are being left behind, refuse to admit it. Dreams can scar.
We all suffer the same feelings of doubt, the same worries that Dixon does. We've all loved and lost. We've all pondered what lies beyond and whether or not it's a better alternative. We've all wondered if this thing called life is "too heavy to carry."
So yes, this collection can be uncomfortable to read but in the best way possible. Not only do readers learn more about Dixon than they may have bargained for, but they learn more about themselves.
I make no bones about my utter infatuation with Barbara Schmitz's ability with words. She possesses a simple, powerful technique that is nothing short...moreI make no bones about my utter infatuation with Barbara Schmitz's ability with words. She possesses a simple, powerful technique that is nothing short of moving. In her latest collection of poetry, Always the Deatail, she proves, once again, she is a modern master.
Referencing Alice in Wonderland, a child's first realization of death, a Turkish taxi driver's favorite English word (splendor), old age, marriage, religion, spirituality, loss, love, and everything in between, Schmitz makes it clear that in the ordinary there is magic. Also, she proves that paradox that hate comes with love and joy comes with sadness. In fact, in "Trying," she proves living is a form of meditation: And now I'm writing. I have 10 minutes left. What am I supposed to be doing? Meditating. . .Whatever that is Breathing Noticing Letting it go Not holding on Letting it all float up Letting it all flow away Big sky, thought clouds floating by Trucks north, motorcycle south Sun's out Five more minutes Not now I'm meditating Who am I? Who is she? Schmitz is a writer with the wonton wisdom of the beats and the stoic intelligence of academia. She is a living, breathing representation of the paradoxes she writes about.
All this aside though, what is most appealing in this collection is Schmitz's use of language as an art. Her words must be read aloud to truly appreciate them. The flow of the letters and the sounds they make washing over the tongue must be heard to be appreciated.
So find this book, search for the grounded paradox of Schmitz's words. Wander through the sound they make as they dance across your tongue. But mostly, enjoy.(less)
I feel I must step back. I am unable to give a conventional review of this book. It is so good I am still picking up the pieces of my mind. You see, i...moreI feel I must step back. I am unable to give a conventional review of this book. It is so good I am still picking up the pieces of my mind. You see, it exploded all over the wall behind me. My face also melted. Yes, this book blew my mind I am left reconstructing it and my face. Therefore I can offer no review in any traditional sense.
I will say this though, many people are comparing Shoemaker to Willa Cather. While I understand that, after all, Cather and Shoemaker are both women who write about life in Nebraska (my favorite state ever). However, in my humble opinion, that's the easy comparison. I am a fan of Cather. Being a citizen of Nebraska, it's required by law I think. But her prose is more . . . I don't know . . . stoic than Shoemaker's. In all seriousness, Cather is a good writer. Shoemaker though, Shoemaker's work reminds me more of Ray Bradbury in that the prose is also poetry. I don't mean that in some sort of ethereal, writing teacher sort of way. I mean that Shoemaker's prose is poetic in the same way Bradbury's is.
It's not something to be explained or even reviewed. It's something to be read.(less)
I find it fascinating how many similarities The House of the Dead has with Orange is the New Black. To be sure, one is darker--though not by much, but...moreI find it fascinating how many similarities The House of the Dead has with Orange is the New Black. To be sure, one is darker--though not by much, but the sad fact that prison life hasn't changed much in a few hundred years and a few thousand miles is clear when you compare Dostoyevsky's semi-autobiographical tale of a man's prison term with Piper Kerman's semi-autobiographical Netflix television series (I haven't read the book--though it is on my list). While Dostoyevsky's book is less narrative and more journal, it's (obviously) well-written and compelling in its stark and honest presentation of prison. Is it a fun book to read? No. Not really. Not at all. Is it worth the time? Absolutely.(less)
I spent the last couple of weeks reading this with my daughter. It was time well spent. It's a good book for kids. It teaches a lesson about the power...moreI spent the last couple of weeks reading this with my daughter. It was time well spent. It's a good book for kids. It teaches a lesson about the power of names and perception and a lesson about one's ability to control his own destiny. It isn't complex. It isn't life altering. But it is good. It is something my daughter and I enjoyed together. As she gets older those things seem to pop up less and less. I recommend RUMP to anyone with a child who has a fondness for fairy tales. Read it together like we did and maybe it will help you and your child hold on to that slippery beast we call childhood, at least for a few more days.(less)
As managing editor at EAB Publishing, I am going to explain the thought process behind my decision to choose David S. Atkinson's The Garden of Good an...moreAs managing editor at EAB Publishing, I am going to explain the thought process behind my decision to choose David S. Atkinson's The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes as EAB's first novel. If you've been paying attention, you know that EAB has already released some anthologies. So we got our feet wet with those.
Atkinson's book came across my desk with a handful of others that were all possible choices for EAB's first novel-sized outing. I was immediately drawn to his book though based solely on the audacity of the concept. An entire novel set in a Village Inn intrigued and amused me. Further, the idea that the characters--Cassandra (our witty--if self-absorbed--narrator), her ex-boyfriend, and his current girlfriend (Cassandra's ex-best friend)--are all stuck in said Village Inn, only added to my interest. Taken at face value, I thought the book would amuse, if nothing else. And what's wrong with being amused?
The more I read this book though, the more I saw it is not only amusing. It is cleverly disguised societal introspection. It is at times cathartic, at other times, pulse-pounding. Though it can be exciting, it somehow manages to meander here and chatter there, slowly revealing what is really going on and still weighing heavily on me. It keeps me in the moment. And for the record, I think I've read this book 20 times.
Cassandra is a fully realized narrator whose flaws are actually some of the driving factors in the narrative. I don't want to give anything more away, other than to say, Cassandra's stories are more than stories. They have layers and layers--like a stack of pancakes. They mean something to Cassandra, to the characters they are about, to me, and once you read it, to you. It's a twist of dramatic irony. We can see what's wrong. We can see what is to come. Cassandra, God bless her, can't. Once Atkinson adds the creative asides and anecdotes that reflect, not only Cassandra's life, but the life of anyone who is unable to see the err of his or her ways really, Pancakes (as we grew accustomed to calling it during the editorial process) explodes into a book I won't soon forget. In other words, it is a great first book for EAB.
"But why is this so great specifically for EAB?" you ask.
Well, for one, it cannot easily be shoved into a category. It cannot be labeled 'literary fiction.' It has elves and trolls for God's sake. It cannot be labeled 'fantasy' either. It takes place predominately in a Village Inn. Is it magical realism? After all, the characters are trapped inside an eating establishment for what feels like eternity, right? Well . . . perhaps you should just read it to get a clearer understanding.
I like it because It can't be explained easily. It is a feel I'd like for EAB. I want to publish good writing, not genre specific writing. Writing that can't be "pinned" is appealing to me as an editor. The most important thing about The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes isn't any of this though. The most important thing is that this book is Good Literature. It is well-written. It is comfortable. It is fun. It makes readers think and understand the world and/or themselves in a new and different way (at least me anyway).
This, dear readers, is why Atkinson's The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes is EAB Publishing's first novel-length release. I hope you read it and agree it is a good choice.(less)
Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a great book with interesting characters doing crazy things. On the downside, I have a hard time liking any of...moreSemple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a great book with interesting characters doing crazy things. On the downside, I have a hard time liking any of them except for Bee. Bee is, ostensibly, the main character, a precocious girl transitioning into young adulthood. Unfortunately, for the bulk of the book she is overshadowed by her dysfunctional mother, absentee father, and irritating neighbors. There are several reasons I find these characters distasteful, most importantly though is how they treat their children. Bee's parents, specifically, are awful. Yes, there are excuses and some are even legitimate such as mental instability. However--and maybe this is my father/teacher side coming out stronger than it normally does when I review--I find the parents presented in these pages to be horrible on a level I don't want to empathize with, even though at times I can. Don't get me wrong. It isn't abuse or lack of love Bee's parents show, it is an irresponsible lack of parenting skills I see too regularly in upperclass parents in the real world that bothers me.
By the end, everything looks as though it is cleaned up nicely, but I feel alarm bells somewhere inside me warning that things are otherwise. It's like a spider-sense, I guess. I fear for Bee's future because I feel like a bandage has been placed on the torn femoral artery of this family and these adults' relationships. Bee, poor, poor Bee will, I'm sure, be left to pick up the pieces again, if not in a sequel, then in my nightmares.
Taking this into consideration I realize Semple is a genius. She has placed a lovable character in an insufferable situation and shown her strive through the mess. She has created a character I find myself concerned with and surrounded her with characters I find almost universally unlikable (emphasis on 'almost'). She has created a world so real it is scary. I fear for Bee, though she is fictional and I'm finished with her book, unlike I fear for many fictional characters. Is this a good thing? As a writer, I scream, "Yes. Yes. Semple is amazing." As a reader my shouts of approval aren't as strong but they are still there and more importantly they are clamoring for a sequel because Bee deserves a sequel.
No other self-absorbed character in this book does though.(less)
I read this book a little over a year ago and never got around to reviewing it, which is unfortunate because it is a very, very good book. I like this...moreI read this book a little over a year ago and never got around to reviewing it, which is unfortunate because it is a very, very good book. I like this book so much in fact I want to publish this author's next release. With that idea in mind, I re-read Bones Buried in the Dirt and decided to finally review it. What attracts me so much to David Atkinson's voice is its authenticity. This book's narrator, a young boy named Peter, is such a strong personality, such a real personality that it is easy to lose yourself in his stories. In a collection of short stories with a shared narrative readers are given a taste, or rather, a reminder, of what it was like being a child, what it was really like. With a brutal innocence you don't want to believe is true (because who wants to believe innocence is brutal?) Peter shows us his world and all of its magical, ugly, disturbing, comical beauty. That's right, if you were reading closely you noticed I wrote "ugly beauty."
It is a paradox. Nothing I like better than a paradox. Using Peter's voice, Atkinson points out that childhood may be innocent but if we scrutinize it a little bit we see its innocence isn't always a joyous thing. It is confused, angry, and longing for more, longing for adulthood and the secret knowledge that comes with it.
Atkinson, using Peter the way we adults tend to use children, shows his readers that youth is not wasted on the youth, innocence is.(less)
I haven't been able to read a book for about a week and a half. I had eye surgery. It's been rough. Now that I'm back in the reading game I decided to...moreI haven't been able to read a book for about a week and a half. I had eye surgery. It's been rough. Now that I'm back in the reading game I decided to start slowly and read this book my 8-year-old daughter recommended. I don't read a lot of children's literature these days beyond the classics. This isn't because of any dislike of the genre. In fact, I have nothing but appreciation for good children's lit. I just keep myself busy with more adult stuff. When your child thinks you'll like a book she is reading though, it's very hard to say no. The Year of the Book follows Anna Wang as she maneuvers through fourth grade. It is told in a simple, straightforward manner that is simultaneously literal and figurative. It's a true work of art in that regard. I find myself, while reading, able to relate--on one level or another--to the many incidents that take place in Anna's life. I also find myself in utter disbelief about the deep level of living Andrea Cheng represents in Anna's story. Anna's world is inhabited by real people with issues of their own. There is little glossing over of the bad side of life. Though, it is a balanced piece, fitting snugly in the hopeful hands of any child wise enough to know the world isn't all gumdrops and lollipops. This book, with its large print (easy to read for my on-the-mend eyes), graceful storytelling, and solid narration is a great representation of what children's literature should be. If my daughter brings me another by this writer, I will surely read it up as quickly as I did this one.(less)
Bluntly, Cruise of the Undead is a good book. First time author, Laura Hansen comes out of the corner swinging with a self-published novel that reads...moreBluntly, Cruise of the Undead is a good book. First time author, Laura Hansen comes out of the corner swinging with a self-published novel that reads like a New York Times bestseller. It's a fast-paced YA thriller that many preteens, adolescents, teenagers, and I have trouble putting down. Hansen is clearly a writer who has been masquerading as a scientist for far too long. Bring on the sequel! I hear it's even better than the first . . . .(less)