Listened 7/29/14 - 8/10/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, you gotta listen to it, you just gotta Approx. 11 hours Publisher: Podium Publishing Released:...moreListened 7/29/14 - 8/10/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, you gotta listen to it, you just gotta Approx. 11 hours Publisher: Podium Publishing Released: 2013
You know I have no shame. None whatsoever. And that's ok. Because my shamelessness landed me the audio-review copy of Andy Weir's The Martian and it was awesome. And yeah, I know what you're thinking. Lori.. you think, you're always so far behind with the bigger books. What gives? We already knew this was a hot one, we've read it already. It's old news.
Hey, I never claimed to read the books from the "Big 5" and their imprint arms first. Heck, I kind of go out of my way to not read them. You'll find me curling up on the couch with a small press book in my hands, or its digital equivalent, instead of one that's been read and reviewed by over 4600 other people (that's how many people have reviewed The Martian on Goodreads right now). I'm not knocking the bigger boys, by any means. It's just that my heart belongs to the underdogs of literature. And there's very little that will sway me away from them....
Unless. If I find out that a "Big 5-er" has an interesting looking book released in audio (see The Three, The Troop, and Authority as recent examples), well, that's a different story. I've got a pretty long work commute, and I don't know about you, but I get tired of listening to music after awhile. Audiobooks offer me a great opportunity to escape. They help distract me from the fact that I'm heading into work again (sigh) for another 14 hour shift (double sigh) and make that long drive disappear almost completely.
You should know, though, that I was totally going to let The Martian pass me by. I really had no interest in it at all until one of the TNBBC goodreads members nominated it for our August sci-fi group read. When it won, I figured, what the heck... lemme see if it's been released in audio. And that's when I discovered something really cool.
Did you know Andy Weir initially self-published The Martian? Yup. He did. He was giving it away for free on his website and selling it online for only a buck. Podium Publishing got their hands on it, recorded the audio, and then helped Andy get a publishing contract for the print copy. IN. YOUR. FACE. all you self-pub haters! I told you there's some golden nuggets in them there hills.
The Martian has been referred to "Castaway" on Mars, and I can't come up with a better comparison so we'll stick with that. Stranded on the red planet after a worse-than-anticipated dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the mission and leave him stranded (don't blame them, they thought he was dead), Mark has to face the facts - he is stuck on Mars, with only a few months of supplies and no way to communicate with Earth. He's fucked.
But the good humored astronaut doesn't let that get him down. He's a botanist and a mechanical engineer and he's got some tricks up his sleeve to at least EXTEND his life, even if it is for just a few more months. Through daily audio-logs, Mark records his thoughts and survival progress for whoever ends up recovering them after he's long dead-and-gone. Heck, I'd do the same thing. If for no other reason than to feel like you're still connected to someone, somehow, somewhere, right?!
Turns out our pal Mark is quite the little MacGyver. Give him some martian soil, human feces, flammable gas, and a few fresh potatoes, and this dude can cultivate quite the little garden. Seriously. And he doesn't stop there. He's the coolest nerd to ever leave Earth and he's determined to get back there, at all costs. He was trained well before being dispatched into space. He's patient and extremely savvy. And typical of a book whose entire premise is set on building tension and dragging out the inevitable, every time Mark overcomes one obstacle, it seems Mars is prepared and ready to hit him with another.
But that good ole Mark, he just won't be stopped. Cool-headed and capable of thinking his way through just about any situation, Mark Watney's got my vote as the man I'd most like by my side when the world comes to a halting and apocalyptic end! I don't care that I can't understand half the science mumbo-jumbo that comes out of his mouth, the man knows his shit, and I'd trust him with my life a hundred times over.
Podium Publishing did a great job matching the narrator (RC Ray) with the Weir's writing. He nailed the balance between witty sarcasm and hopeful hopelessness... And don't listen to those reviewers who poo-poo the upbeat and charming personality of our fearless astronaut. The cheeky and refreshing humor was exactly what the book needed to keep it moving along and keep its readers engaged. I'm not sure any of us would have been able to handle a cranky, blubbering account of man's attempt to survive the unsurvivable.
And you've heard that a movie is in the works, right? I hear Matt Damon has signed on to play Mark... and I can't wait to see the book come to life on the big screen!(less)
Read 7/15/14 - 7/17/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of "memory loss and love" stories, because lord knows this stuff's been done before Pages: 326 Publi...moreRead 7/15/14 - 7/17/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of "memory loss and love" stories, because lord knows this stuff's been done before Pages: 326 Publisher: Gallery Books Released: (in paperback) January 2014
I'm going to come clean and state that Love Water Memory is not my usual fare. But you know this already. You're scratching your head as you look at this and you're probably wondering what prompted me to pick this up. I know. I know. And you're right. You are absolutely right. It's much too mainstream and the plot is just way too common to have caught my attention on its own.
So a disclaimer: the publicist for this book had reached out to me back in February and after discussing the premise, I felt it had a lot of promise as a group read for TNBBC. For that monthly Author/Reader Discussion series I host. I know juicy, conversation-sparking content when I hear it. So I planned to have the book and its author featured in the group in September. Can you believe September is only two months away? Where the hell has this year gone?! And so, based on my freak-out about the year passing by in a blink of an eye, and because I like to read what TNBBC will be discussing during these author events, I felt that now would probably be a good time to get my read on. And what a read it was.
So many things went through my head as I read it.
First. That title. Love Water Memory. It's got to go. I don't know why, but it really irks me. Maybe it's too much like Eat Pray Love? It just doesn't seem to fit the book well. And it feels waaaay too oversimplified. As if everyone who worked on the book decided "Fuck it. What three words will communicate to the audience exactly what this book is about?" Over on Twitter, I mentioned two alternative titles - "What Water Makes Us Forget" and "The Weight of Water" (that second one is pulled directly from text found within the book, and is actual my favorite of the two). Either of those are preferable to me over its current title.
Second. That cover. What is it with floating, wispy, watery lady images lately? Is this a new thing? Is it something that's got staying power? It's been done. A lot. And ok, so I think I get what they're trying to do - see, the book opens with Lucie, our leading lady, suddenly becoming aware that she is standing knee-deep in the ocean, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or why she is there. So if you want the cover to play off of that moment, play off of it. But don't have this wispy white dress floating off of a girl half submerged, who appears to be walking deeper into the water. It's just too, I don't know, YA-looking? Maybe that's what's bothering me?
So I call the cover "been-there-done-that". And now I have to call out the plot for the same exact thing. Please keep in mind, I don't read these kind of books on the norm so if I'm saying I know it's been done, isn't that kind of telling?
Not that I'm knocking the story. Listen, I admit to sitting down and reading the entire book in two days. It's engaging and kept me turning the pages. Not because I HAD to turn them, but because I wanted to. I enjoyed being taking on Lucie's journey of self-re-discovery, uncovering who she was and how she had changed after coming out of the disassociative fugue state that day she "awoke" alone and confused standing in the San Francisco Bay. It was interesting, the way we were led along by Lucie as she began to piece together what triggered her mental collapse, learning the secrets her aunt, fiancee, and even she herself had been harboring.
I thought the strangeness, the tension-filled awkwardness between Lucie and her fiancee Grady, who came to collect her from the hospital once she was "found" and of whom she had no recollection, was well written and also quite frustrating. All of the internal talk - the concern and worry they both had but failed to put into words, the tip-toeing around each other for fear of pushing too hard or being rejected - seemed so unnecessary and yet, it was that very tension that Jennie Shortridge built her entire novel around. There were moments where you thought... ok, here we go, finally, some conflict, some "get it all out of your system and feel better for it later" head-on conversation, but every single time, Lucie and Grady, or Lucy and Helen backed off... waaaay off, and defaulted back to their internalization, rationalizing that the timing was not good, or just flat out chickening out. Now, the sadist in me was upset to see all of those opportunities go passing by, but the emotional me could see why Shortridge took that approach. It forced her to flesh the characters out more. It helped you connect with them as their individual stories slowly came to light.
Looking back on it all, Love Water Memory was a pleasant, kick-back-and-just-get-lost-in-the-story read. It required little more than just simply letting go and going with the flow.
Does the story eventually come to a nice, happy, satisfying close? Does Lucie get her memories back? Does she find out what triggered her disassociative fugue and get the closure she so desperately needs and longs for? Do things work out between the new her and her fiancee? Well, you're just going to have to pick up a copy and find out!
And oh the fun we are going to have discussing the ins and outs of it all when we host the book and its author in September! You'll come join us, won't you? Watch out for the giveaway, which will run during the first week of August. Land yourself a free copy so you can read it for yourself and then hit us up come discussion time! I wanna know what you think!(less)
Read 6/29/14 - 6/30/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who believe you can never go home again but say fuck it and do it anyway Pages: 120 Publis...moreRead 6/29/14 - 6/30/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who believe you can never go home again but say fuck it and do it anyway Pages: 120 Publisher: Calamari Press Released: March 2014
No one comes from a perfect family, no matter what those cheesy 80's tv sitcoms would have you believe. The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Family Matters - pah-lease. Whose family actually sits around the kitchen table bemoaning what's fair and what's not? Who has parents that are skilled in not only talking you out of doing something stupid, but could do so in a way that utterly convinced you, all nice and clean-like, without any yelling or cursing or throwing of things or verbal humiliation, like those god-awful shows managed, in a swift half-hour segment?
We are not the results of a happy, healthy, normal household. We are children of divorce or mentally and physically abusive parents. We are the unappreciated, unwanted offspring of dope-heads and meth-heads and alcoholics. We raised ourselves while our depressed, unemployed or underpaid, unhappy mothers and fathers struggled to make ends meet, children of parents who constantly reminded us of the hardship our needs and wants had placed upon them.
We got ourselves off to school every morning and relied on our older siblings to make sure we had some food in our stomachs and scrubbed under our armpits and behind our ears. We hung out with friends until late at night, hoping to sneak in unnoticed as our parents lie there on the couch, passed out in front of the television. We were one teeny tiny misstep away from becoming one of the wild, caged animals you see in the zoo, pacing back and forth across our small, familiar bit of land, puffing out our chests and snarling and snapping if strangers circled too close.
Brian Hobson's Deep Ellum is very much a sentimental look back at that broken childhood, at family relationships gone bad (and getting worse), at why they say "you can't go home again", and rightly, who the fuck wants to? It also details, more specifically, a reluctant last-gasp attempt to pull the pieces back together when three siblings are called back home after their mother's most recent failed suicide.
Gideon, our narrator and middle child, leaves his Chicago life behind and crashes at his older sister Meg's apartment to be closer to his mother and step-father in their time of need. Though he finds, within the very first day, that this is going to require a heck of a lot more energy than he is willing to expend. Meg, for her part, appears to do everything she can to avoid being around, preferring to lose herself in whatever dark and drug-induced corners of Dallas she can tuck herself into while Basille, the youngest and most conscientious of the threesome (though that's not saying a whole lot), is relied on for the day-to-day hang outs at the parents' place. Family obligation, freedom, and the fucking aggravation that goes along with all of it, right? Someone always gets to disappear while the other(s) are left, grudgingly, to pick up the slack.
Hobson is at his best when creating wholly uncomfortable familial situations - the Flowers-in-the-Attic wrongness to Meg and Gideon's relationship, the unspoken mounting tension between Gideon and his step-father, the increasing drug abuse of all three siblings, and the overall disinterest they show towards their mother and her current state of mind. What's the saying? The family that incessantly picks at each other's wounds stays together? Hobson is also a master at word economy, expressing only what's necessary and trusting, or simply allowing, his readers to infer the rest. He isn't afraid to hold a mirror up to all the ugly shit families are famous for pulling on each other, either. Whether you've lived a similarly messed up life or not, you certainly know someone who has, or can relate to some of the circumstances here.
Deep Ellum is one of those books you happily, unexpectedly, fall into. I'd been meaning to read it for awhile now, ever since the publisher sent along the digital file, quite a way's back. And for some reason it just kept getting pushed farther and farther down the review pile. Until, two days ago, when I was caught out and about without my current (paper) read, and pulled this up on my phone. Within minutes, Hobson's writing sucked me in and refused to spit me out until I'd read every last word. And as I read, every so often, I bent over and kicked myself in the ass, wondering what the hell took me so long to get started on it. But then again, I always feel the right books come to you at just the right times. I think Deep Ellum knew it was time. And I'm glad that I listened.
Listened 6/4/14 - 6/18/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of non-linear, non-main-character driven fiction Approx. 14 hours Publisher: Little, Brown, &...moreListened 6/4/14 - 6/18/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of non-linear, non-main-character driven fiction Approx. 14 hours Publisher: Little, Brown, & Co. Released: May 2014
Where to start... where to start.
When I requested a copy of the audiobook for review, I did so without fully understanding the style in which the book was written. In hindsight, had I known The Three was a non-linear, non-main-character driven story, composed entirely of conspiracy blog and book excerpts, tweets, emails, texts, and skype interviews, I definitely would have either requested the book in print, or shied away from it completely. I suppose I had expected the book to be something different than what it was.
That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Because I did. Once I got the hang of it - of the way the story was being laid out to us, of how the research was being conducted, of the two audiobook narrators and their ever-changing accents to depict the different characters - I became more comfortable with the format and felt myself, I don't know, sort of relaxing into it and trusting that the narration would make it all come together on its own.
So four planes crash on the same day, in different parts of the world, within hours of each other. The only survivors? Three children, found alive and mostly unharmed, among the wreckage. And the cause behind the crashes? Terrorism was ruled out almost immediately but that didn't stop the world from working itself up into a frenzy. UFO freaks crawled out of the woodwork, blaming aliens. Religious nutters, following the lead of one outspoken rapture fanatic, believe the simultaneous crashes to be the sign of the four horsemen - and they are adamant that a fourth child survivor still wanders out there, undiscovered. Not to mention that those children, once released and sent to live with their guardians, are somehow... different. Changed. They are themselves, but.... not. Is it the trauma of surviving the crash that has affected their personalities so drastically, or something else entirely?
Elspeth Martin, a journalist, has written a book about Black Thursday (the name given to the day of the crashes) and The Three (the name given to the three children survivors), entitled "From Crash to Conspiracy", and it is from this very book, and all of Elspeth's research, that we learn of the events that took place on and around those crashes.
So ultimately, Sarah Lotz's The Three is a book within a book. A fictional book within a fictional book composed of fictional research... I know it sounds clunky but it's actually smartly done.
Some may have a hard time sticking with it in the beginning. The story starts off terribly slow, but that's understandable because there is a lot of set-up that has to take place, so many 'characters' that have to be introduced and outlined - Bobby's grandmother (guardian of the child survivor of the Florida crash); Jess's uncle (guardian of the child survivor of the UK crash); and Hiro's cousin (guardian of the child survivor of the Japan crash), and all of those who have had contact with them; as well as Pastor Len - the man behind the four horsemen and rapture conspiracy, and a handful of his closest followers; along with taxi drivers, on-scene police and emergency personnel, and on and on...
But once the first pass is made, and details of the crash starting coming to light, we start getting to know everyone on a more intimate level, and we begin to learn more about their current situations, their interaction with and concerns regarding the survivors. We being to question their and Elspeth's ability to remain objective and honest with us. Are they sharing all of the facts? What are they hiding? Why does so much of what we're hearing not make sense?
If Sarah Lotz was going for a "scare you so bad you can't sleep at night" creeper of a story, it either (a) didn't come across well in the audiobook or (b) I'm immune to her style of creepy because it really didn't unsettle me in any of the ways some of the other reviewers claimed it had. And there's also the matter of the loosely open ending... one of my pet peeves, especially in a book that hinges itself specifically on the 'hook' factor. I couldn't help feeling kind of cheated right there at the very end.
I definitely would not classify this as a horror story. Though if pressed, I'm not sure what I would actually classify it as. And for anyone considering picking it up, I strongly suggest grabbing it in print. (less)
Read 6/9/14 - 6/11/14 3 Stars - Recommended to readers who prefer allegorical, non linear, reflective literature Pages: 168 Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press...moreRead 6/9/14 - 6/11/14 3 Stars - Recommended to readers who prefer allegorical, non linear, reflective literature Pages: 168 Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press Released: May 2014
Lazy Fascist, my friend, I love you, but sometimes your choice of literature confuses me. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this book. But. I mean. Well, there's something a little not-quite-you about it. It's definitely less bizarre than your usual fare and far more out-of-body than I'm used to from you. If that makes sense. To be honest, though, I do find it interesting that Michael J Seidlinger's writing shares similarities to the likes of Blake Butler and JA Tyler, both of whom you've published in the past. So maybe, now that I think about it, this type of book is more common to your catalog than I give you credit for? And I've just managed to read around it this whole time? Huh. Looks like I just talked myself into a big fat circle right there. Uhm. Ok. Moving on...
So I crack open The Fun We've Had - or, uhm, rather, I slide the pages from right to left on my smartphone - and begin to read about a 'he and she' who're paddling around the great wide ocean in a coffin. They are in love, were in love, will be in love once more, bicker and ignore one another, borrow one another's bodies, and move through the endless waters in a numbing humdrum of internal contemplation. They are each other's protector and rejector, judge and jury. They cannot escape one another, nor do they seem to want to. They harbor heavy guilt and concern for one another. Each exudes forgiveness while refusing to forget, and this inability to let go is what we begin to realize has been keeping them both afloat.
Seidlinger breaks the book out into chapters that resemble the various stages of grief - Anger, Fear, Acceptance, etc. The 'him' and the 'her' take turns sharing their viewpoints through that chapter's specific filter, divulging their side of the relationship as they "row", intimating their idea of where they are and why they are there, and how they might get themselves out of their strange and worrisome predicament. As they accuse (whether outwardly or inwardly) the coffin takes on water and they must work together to avoid it slipping beneath the waves. When the rain that falls upon them turns acidic, one scurries to protect the other.
At one point in the book, they move into each other's bodies and see themselves through the other's eyes - how they've let themselves go, how they've aged ungracefully - and little by little, as they acknowledge and accept portions of the other, they give the bits of their bodies back. At another point, the woman's mother floats up to their coffin out of nowhere and moves away again. All the while, they ask themselves and each other "are we having fun?"
Throughout the rotating chapters, we begin to piece together a moment, or series of moments, that took place in the couple's past, the catalyst that most likely influenced their current situation. And I'm afraid if I go any further I may just ruin the book for you - assuming I am spot-on with my assumption of what has been taking place throughout the entire book and am not completely off base or reading into something that is not there.
On the surface, The Fun We've Had appears to be a quick read but you'll soon discover how deceiving it is. Yes, at face value, it's a dissection of relationships. It's a call to arms for love and the fear of losing love, a look at the lengths we go to in order to never let go, to fight the final goodbye, and everyone who reads it is guaranteed to find themselves reflected in some way, some shape, some form, within its words.
But if you're like me, you'll find yourself stopping more and more often between character rotations to digest what has just been thrown at you. Like the sting of cold water splashed unexpectedly at your face, Seidlinger excels at tucking his meanings between the lines, lulling you to sleep with his prose, only to jolt you awake again with a statement or confession that causes you to look back at what you've just read through newer, more aware eyes.
This book is certainly not for everyone. Its style and structure will be an immediate turn off for those who prefer the more standard and linear forms of story telling. If you get a thrill out of reading books that pull you out of your comfort zone, that leave you questioning what exactly is taking place, then go on and grab this one. I'd be curious to see if you came to the same conclusion I did.(less)
Read 5/26/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of bizarre not-quite-post-apocalyptic-but-definitely-shit-I-dont-ever-want-to-live-through literatu...moreRead 5/26/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of bizarre not-quite-post-apocalyptic-but-definitely-shit-I-dont-ever-want-to-live-through literature / great gateway into bizarro fiction Pages: 125 Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press Released: May 2014
The end of the world is upon us and I can think of no one more capable of raining down some strange ass shit on the last of the human race than Brian Allen Carr. This novella is a strange and perfect mix of old school Mexican (and mostly made up) myths and legends - the wispy lost souls of the dead walking the earth, a plague of rouge severed hands that are aching to tear you to shreds, and El Abuelo, who comes to ask you a question you better be damn sure you're able to answer.
The backwoods people of Scrape, Texas are so typically human it hurts, and they uphold the usual rompy B horror flick requirements - the old, ignorant hillbilly with a closet full of guns; the token black guy; the young couple who fuck their way through the end of the world, mostly oblivious to the racket all around them; the local drunk; and two cute town chicks just to make it interesting.
Carr spends a little time setting up the history of this trashy little town, sharing the stories of its local yokels in the usual barstool-gossip sort of way. Within minutes of cracking it's cover, you're well acquainted with the secrets and skeletons carried by every one of Scrape's citizens.
And right when you're getting comfortable and about ready to chug back that first can of sweaty cheap beer, right as you're leaning back in that creaky ole porch swing, Carr pulls the mother fucking rug right out from under you.
In a matter of seconds, the entire town collapses all around your ears, and you gawk and gape as he unleashes the most god-awful end-times can of whoopass you can imagine.
The Last Horror Novel...is a quick, addicting read that runs you through the rinse cycle - soaking you to the bone one moment, mercilessly wringing you out the next, and whipping you around at break neck speeds - with some well placed breathers where time seems to slow down a bit - as our survivors take stock again and again of their ever-worsening situation.
The only criticism I have is with the ending. To me, it felt rushed and disconnected, very much the equivalent of Franco and Rogan's This is the End, which had some real kick-ass potential until that friggen devil-monster came out of nowhere and raped poor Jonas. The rest of the movie just devolved from there. Similarly, reading those last pages in Carr's novella, I got the sense that he might've shot his load a little too early and was left looking for a tissue with which to clean it all up. As if there was no where left to turn but to the devil, which, to me, even though we are taking end-times here, took a fairly disappointing turn.
All in all, a wonderfully wicked example of what the tamer side of bizarro fiction can be, especially for all you newbies out there who are still too afraid to give the genre a try.(less)