Whatever Don't Drown Will Always Rise by Justin L Daugherty (released 2013 / Passenger Side Books) 4 Stars - Wickedly deceiving and sassy Read 4/6/13
So I...moreWhatever Don't Drown Will Always Rise by Justin L Daugherty (released 2013 / Passenger Side Books) 4 Stars - Wickedly deceiving and sassy Read 4/6/13
So I might be cheating here a little. This collection is most definitely a chapbook, clocking in at a very tiny 30 pages. But these stories read like little giants, deceivingly large of heart and head though incredibly light on words.
Justin massages the English language and makes the most of his simple and specific style. There's this lovely poetic-ness, a clear-blue-sky-and-green-green-grass sort of feel to his stories. They become places in which you want to curl up, places you wish you could call home. It's interesting to me - the words on the page are so confident and sure of themselves, a sweet contradiction to the author himself. And I mean that in the best of ways.(less)
I got me a new collection of poetry from one of the coolest author/poets around. Ryan W Bradley is second only to Rod McKuen when it comes to tickling...moreI got me a new collection of poetry from one of the coolest author/poets around. Ryan W Bradley is second only to Rod McKuen when it comes to tickling my heart and lady-parts with his words. That's right, I said it. His poetry touches me in all the most inappropriate ways and I simply cannot get enough.
This particular collection, an ode to Pablo Neruda's The Captain's Verses, contains some of the most passionate and love-drenched poetry I've read in a long, long time. Ryan, much like McKuen, has this incredible knack of taking a single, intimate moment and by turning it over and over again in his hands, stretching it into a lifetime into which he is born, lives and dies, and becomes born into again.
If you haven't had the experience of getting lost Ryan's poetry, I recommend you get that remedied right away. Since this collection doesn't release until fall, try these to whet your appetite: Love & Rod McKuen and There Will Always Be Better. (less)
Read 7/4/13 - 7/6/13 4 Stars - Highly recommended to fans of modern gothic literature and fuckeduppery Pgs: 204 Publisher: Atticus Book
I cracked open The...moreRead 7/4/13 - 7/6/13 4 Stars - Highly recommended to fans of modern gothic literature and fuckeduppery Pgs: 204 Publisher: Atticus Book
I cracked open The Great Lenore two days ago (which I've been holding on to ever since I met its author JM Tohline at AWP in March) in anticipation of its upcoming Author/Reader discussion in August, and despite my typical dislike of gothic, faux memoir-ish, tragic literature, I found myself instantly intrigued by Tohline's teasing narrative. He pulls you in, he pushes you away, he hints at things and cleverly sidesteps them time and time again until he's ready to revel it all. And all the while, he's got you tied to the end of a set of marionette strings, helpless in his hands, following the tugs and tickles of his fingers, eyes dancing across the pages, unable to stop until you reach The End.
I admit that, initially, this was a difficult book for me to read. The timing was uncanny. Very early in, I found myself closing the book and walking away from it, unsure if I wanted to continue. Because I was pretty sure that, up to this point in my life, I'd had just about all the infidelity I could handle...
If you don't know anything about this book, you should know this: Infidelity plays a large role in this tale of love, loss, and deep, dark secrets. Not that infidelity in and of itself is by any means a new plot concept. But I'm sick of how accepted and common it is, in all aspects of media - listen to the lyrics of a song and you're bound to hear about how the singer has cheated or was cheated on; watch any movie, good god, any HBO or Showtime series, even if it's not the driving force of the show, and you're almost guaranteed to see characters cheat on one another, sometimes with one another. And it's not just media, is it? It's all around us. How many of us have cheated on our spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, discovered that we've been cheated on, or know someone close to us who has? And how many of us just sit by and let it all happen, know about it and never say anything, hide it and feel guilty about it? Jesus, it's everywhere you turn; and once you're aware of it, you can't seem to escape it. And I was pretty sure that I didn't want to immerse myself in literature that hinged so heavily on it right now.
But as I mentioned, Tohline hooks you, and once hooked, it's pointless to struggle, impossible to walk away. It just keeps pulling you back in.
So I gave in, and gave up, and gave my mind over to our narrator Richard, who is telling the tale of how he ended up so severely entwined in the ridiculously destructive love quadrangle between Montana brothers Chas and Maxwell, Jez - a close friend of the family, Chas's wife Lenore, and Chas's girlfriend-on-the-side Lily.
Much like those horribly dated TV soap operas that I refuse to burn brain cells on, and reminiscent of the dark and dreary classic Victorian Gothic novels that I somehow managed to eye-roll myself through, we are drenched in this family's who-is-fucking-who and who-fucked-them-first and how-can-anyone-not-know-who-is-plotting-what-with-who fucked-uppery. And oh yeah, there's Lenore's death, that is actually a non-death (and no, I'm not spoiling anything for you, because this is the hook that the author sinks into your skin upon reading the very first line!) that causes all of the family's secrets to come rushing to the surface like an overflowing toilet...
Lenore; she who all men are helpless against, the spider who weaves her web around each and every one of their hearts, the muse, the innocent angel, the devious devil, the true marionette master... Lenore.
Go on and give it a read. If for no other reason than to join in on our discussion with the author this coming August - cause there is a whole lot that's worthy of discussion here; if for no other reason than to see why I can review it so wearily and yet still give such a wonderful rating. It's a novel that's bound to toy with you. And you will like it. I guarantee it.(less)
Participants by Andrew Keating (released December 2012 / Thumbnail Press) 4 Stars - Smooth like Sunday m...moremet author at AWP13. review to come. it was #hot
Participants by Andrew Keating (released December 2012 / Thumbnail Press) 4 Stars - Smooth like Sunday morning Read 3/23/13 - 3/25/13
I stumbled across this collection and its author at AWP this March. I watched as he read from "Triple Berry Pie" and ad-libbed the word "hot" after every single sentence, encouraging the audience to repeat it with him. I enjoyed each and every story, thinking they couldn't get any better than the last, and being proven wrong each and every time. From the opening story about a guy who sells himself to science, obsessively signing up for participant studies to the man who awakens in a hospital, aware that something bad has happened and determined to put all the pieces back into place, Keating's ability to suck the reader in is bar none.
You know it's a good collection when you sigh at the end and wish it was 100 pages longer! (less)
I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying by Matthew Salesses (released February 2013 / Civil Coping Mechanisms) 4 Stars - Flashiest of the Fiction Read 3/13
A very...moreI'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying by Matthew Salesses (released February 2013 / Civil Coping Mechanisms) 4 Stars - Flashiest of the Fiction Read 3/13
A very interesting book, this, and another potential cheat from me. Called a novel in flash fiction, I prefer to look at it as a collection of interconnected stories. Either way, it's written by a guy who knows the confusion of love and the power of hidden secrets coming to light.
I read this at the exact inappropriate time, without realizing it until I was a few stories in, but I was hopeless to stop. I was disgusted and pissed at the narrator, yet at the same time, I was intrigued. And the breaks between each segment urged me to read on even though I knew I shouldn't. Salesses writes as though he is speaking. His words hit the page fluidly, and run quietly down the edges and into your lap, and suddenly you realize you are carrying them with you.(less)
Who doesn't love old school video games, right? If you're a GenXer like me, you can't pass up this collection of poetry inspired by the best of the re...moreWho doesn't love old school video games, right? If you're a GenXer like me, you can't pass up this collection of poetry inspired by the best of the retro-80's Atari and Nintendo games. Finding inspiration in the likes of Dig Dug, Pole Position, The Oregon Trail, and Space Invaders, BJ Best infuses his words with nostalgia and longing. Each poem recalls to us the wonder or aggravation of the game for which it was named, forcing us to recall those simpler times and sweeter victories. How very alike our feelings for these games mirror our interpretation of the world beyond the cartridge and console.
Even the collection's title, cleverly stolen from the Super Mario Bros game in which each castle defeat left the gamer frustrated because the prize - the princess - was yet at ANOTHER castle... even the title causes that familiar ache of love, expectation, and disappointment to wash over us. Imagine what the words contained within will do. (less)
Read 3/2/13 - 3/10/13 3.5 stars - Recommended to readers who don't mind a few kitty cat neck sizzles. 87 pages Publisher: Lazy Fascist Pres...morefrom publisher
Read 3/2/13 - 3/10/13 3.5 stars - Recommended to readers who don't mind a few kitty cat neck sizzles. 87 pages Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press (print) / Electric Literature (eBook) Release Date: March 2013
Sam Pink is a little bit like a teenager trapped in a man's body. He's full of piss and vinegar, finds fascination in the silliest and strangest things, and wants everybody and everything to suck his dick.
In Rontel (as with most of Pink's novels), our narrator finds himself immersed in the humdrum of everyday life - hating his job so much that he simply calls off and never shows back up, hating cell phones so badly that he finds humor in torturing the salesman with ridiculous questions when purchasing a replacement, killing time shooting the shit with Chicago's homeless, and borderline bullying his brother and their excellently tempered kitty cat named, yes, Rontel. The things that poor poor cat has to put up with. Tsk.Tsk.
How this dude has managed to score himself a girlfriend and not die of malnutrition or some insanely unhygienic disease is beyond me. He lives in filth, showers only when he can smell himself through his cologne or is sweating like a dog, and has been known to live in the same pair of pants for nearly a month before giving them a good wash.
He gets pissed off at places when they don't call him in for interviews, even though he turns in the applications half filled out. He enjoys fucking with people and spends a lot of time pondering weird shit like how great it would be to give people "the business" and how long it would take him to use up 18 bars of soap and whether we will even be using soap when he gets down to his last bar. He even daydreams about buying a new video game and locking himself inside his apartment until he beats the thing.
With each novel that Sam Pink pens, I worry more and more about his mental state. He's like a present day Holden Caufield, all grown up, only... not. It's like puberty hit and took up permanent residence in his body. He's like a lost boy, all nasty energy and no idea how to release it. While he's completely bent on being miserable and making everyone around him miserable, I somehow find myself drawn to his arrogant and ridiculous nature and I can't help but think that the real Sam Pink is just like this. Or at least, has been like this at some point in his life.
I know that I will continue to read whatever new novel Sam Pink writes. I suppose I am glutton for punishment. Dude keeps it real, again and again... and I have mad respect for that.(less)
Read 5/27/14 - 6/5/14 2 Stars - Recommended Lightly / for those who enjoy reading books where all they want to do is punch the protagonist in the face P...moreRead 5/27/14 - 6/5/14 2 Stars - Recommended Lightly / for those who enjoy reading books where all they want to do is punch the protagonist in the face Pages: 358 Publisher: Fomite Press Released: 2013
*looks around at all of the other reviews of this book* *scratches head, looking at her copy of the book* *wonders if maybe, by some freak screw-up, she ended up with a different version from everyone else*
A letter to Ariel Zinsky, from an annoyed and unsympathetic reader:
Life is hard. Some lives, well, they are harder than others. But we all have our shit to get through. I know you think you had it bad. Worse than most. And I know you think that this gives you the right to be a selfish, spoiled, ignorant asshole to just about every person you meet. But guess what? It doesn't. God, how I wish you'd get over yourself.
So you were born ugly. Boo hoo. You know who else is born ugly? A huge portion of the world's population. Ugly doesn't define you. YOU define you. Your actions define you. Using ugly as a crutch is a bitch-ass thing to do.
So your daddy beat you a bit when you were a kid. How many people now-a-days come from an abusive household? That doesn't make you special. That makes you normal. If our daddies didn't knock us around, they were calling us names and making us feel like worthless little shits, or worse, completely ignoring us. Big whoop. It's a hard knock life, and some of us get to live it.
And so what that you went bald at a crazily early age. Stress and genetics can be a badass motherfucker sometimes. Some of us go gray young. Some of us develop eczema. Or asthma. Or rheumatoid arthritis. But you learn to deal.
Look, you might not be aware of this, but you're not the only one who's considered suicide at a young age. Or still been a virgin in their early twenties. Shocking, I know. And none of this gives you the right to carry around a Jerk Card, whipping it out any damn time you feel like.
After viewing the world through such dark tinted glasses all your life, and because you didn't develop social skills the way the other kids did, I get that you had no idea other people suffered like you did. I get that you thought it was you against the world. And I feel sorry for you in way. I really do.
Your mom sure loved you, though, didn't she? She was always there for you - a shoulder to sob on, an ear to confess to, always with a reassuring pat on the back or squeeze on the neck. She never doubted you, or blamed you, and she always forgave you. She turned you into such a mama's boy that at times, Ari, I have to be honest, I got a little creeped out by just how affectionate you two could be with each other. She was the woman for all the other women to beat (when there were other woman, which I know, I knoooow, were incredibly few and far between).
And I also have to admit, I'm happy you were able to find true love in sports. Losing yourself in football stats and following the careers of the players that caught your eye, taking your love and knowledge of the sport from a giddy passion to a money making business through your draft Guides and online blogging... that was really something! And it made me stop and take a look at all the bookish and bloggish things I do, and have been doing.. you gave me pause to consider what I could be doing more or differently to make THIS my career. But I digress.
How about those basketball buddies of yours, the ones who were able to put up with your whiny, woe-is-me bullshit, they were worth their weight in gold, weren't they? Thank God for them, yeah? They stood by you and broke you out of your shell. They gave you a confidence boost. They rooted for you when no one else even knew who you were.
But damn, Ari, I mean, c'mon. Your low self esteem is such a drag. Carrying that childhood baggage around with you into your mid and late twenties. Still dragging it along behind you in your thirties. The women you could have really had something with, made a real life with... I just don't get the decisions you made. Those decisions were, every single one of them, completely selfish. Every time you found yourself alone and sobbing (sobbing!!!) and confused, I pitied you for a moment because you truly did not see how you brought it all upon yourself.
The success you found in the Guide, you let it get to you. You gave it priority number one over anything else, anyONE else. And you allowed the confidence you drew from it poison your relationships. Your poor girlfriend Diana had to work to get out from under its shadow. You used your past and its resulting effect on your self esteem as an excuse to lie, and withhold information from her. And when you finally confessed, you used your past as a reason for her to forgive you. You turned your back on Sandy without a moment's hesistation, after trying to manipulate her in such horrid, horrible ways.
Here's a little secret: maturity doesn't come automatically with age, Ari. Constantly reminding me (and yourself) that you're 25 or 28 or 30 doesn't mean a fucking thing. I've known "men" who are in their late 30's and 40's, and yes, even 50's who are just as immature and selfish and self serving as teenage boys. Age doesn't mean shit. It's only a number. And it's still no excuse to be a douchebag.
Had I known you in real life.. had you ever tried to pull any of your bullshit around me, I swear I would have punched you in the face. Even with these 358 pages between us, I found myself wishing there was a way I could reach down through the words in those pages, reach right straight through into the story, my fingers seeking the soft flesh of your neck so that I could wrap them around it and squeeze with all my might.
I would wish you the best with the rest of your life but I have a feeling that, even with that feel-good final paragraph, that moment of recognizing where you've come from and of maybe finally seeing where you are, I have a feeling that no matter what I wish, you will still be doing douchebaggy things and pulling out that Jerk Card as you smile for forgiveness, reminding everyone of your shitty ass childhood.(less)
Read 1/12/13 - 1/15/13 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of Warm Bodies, zombie lit, and prequels that refuse to give it all up Pgs:...morefrom publisher
Read 1/12/13 - 1/15/13 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of Warm Bodies, zombie lit, and prequels that refuse to give it all up Pgs: 128 (E-novella) Publisher: Zola Books Release Date: 1/28/13
It's the early days of the collapse. The streets are littered with corpses, buildings have been looted and cleaned out, and the dead are slowly taking to their feet.
Twelve year old Julie rides in the SUV with her parents as they move from city to city in search of safe zones. She misses her friends and her school, but is learning to adapt to this hard, new life. Somewhere else, Nora and her little brother Addis pick through stores and buildings in search of food and temporary shelter, always on the lookout for other survivors. They are starving and scared, and are being followed by a silent large man with a gaping hole in his gut. Meanwhile, in the woods, a tall man begins to stir, a new kind of life animating a body that was once dead. He has no memory of who he is but immediately feels a strong desire to find others.
As these characters make their way towards each other, awful and unexpected things will happen and as the dead become more aware, underestimating their power and hunger can be fatal.
The New Hunger behaves very much like a prequel - giving its readers a glimpse into each characters' back story, building the tension and expectations typical of a zombie apocalypse that pushes these separate groups together - while still screaming for even more back story and falling this short of leaving off where Warm Bodies began.
Fans of Warm Bodies will be happy to find themselves falling back into Isaac Marion's capable hands, trusting the decisions he makes along his destroyed and demolished landscapes, eagerly anticipating his every twist and turn. Never read Warm Bodies? No worries, The New Hunger works very well as a stand-alone novella too. Zombie fiction lovers who pick this up are guaranteed to find something to sink their teeth into.
Read 12/24/13 - 12/27/13 3 Stars - Recommended to those who are already fans of hostage-slash-love-slash-deep-thoughts-about oceanic-life-and-god-and-a...moreRead 12/24/13 - 12/27/13 3 Stars - Recommended to those who are already fans of hostage-slash-love-slash-deep-thoughts-about oceanic-life-and-god-and-angels-and-hell-and-death novels told through the past and present experiences of both main characters Pgs: 212 Publisher: Coffee House Press
I haven't written an actual, real length review since September, so go figure that I find myself itching to write one on a book that everyone else raves about but that has left me feeling incredibly underwhelmed.
Submergence, to be fair, isn't the type of book I would normally be drawn to on my own. The jacket copy alone was enough to keep it sitting in my unsolicited arc pile for countless months: James, an Englishman, is held hostage by a bunch of jihad fighters in Africa; a thousand miles away Danielle, a French bio-mathematician, prepares to dive down into the great oceanic depths in a submersible; the two recall their chance encounter and short lived fling as they prepare for what's to come.
This week, I found myself with some free reading time - two months ahead in my CCLaP reading, three months ahead in the upcoming TNBBC author/reader line-up - so I threw my goodreads To-Read shelf out into the ether and asked Twitter to hand pick my next read. Submergence won by a landslide.
It sucked me in quickly enough. The first 40 pages or so passed by pretty smoothly. The next 40, the same. Around the 100 page mark, though, I began to realize that I hadn't yet felt any sort of connection to the main characters or their current ordeals, which had a numbing effect on the constant recollection of their short romance together the year prior. Halfway into the book, and I'm feeling emotionally removed, even cold, towards our protagonists? This does not bode well, right?...
Sprinkled pretty generously throughout the novel, perhaps to break up the monotony of James' suffering at the hands of the jihads in Africa, and Danny's preparations for her upcoming deep sea journey, JM Ledgard allows them time to discuss some pretty heavy topics. They toy with how exploring the vast, deep, darkness of the ocean floor is comparable - and even more complicated - than exploring the wide openness of outer space; whether or not they believe in God and whether God had the foresight to create enough angels to look over us all; how if falling down into the ocean is like falling down into hell then climbing up out of the depths is like climbing up towards the heavens; how the smallest, slightest microbes in the darkest corners of the ocean are capable of out-surviving humanity so long as we just leave them alone; how evolution is a friend and an enemy to most species, including our own...
While these ideas, in and of themselves, are quite intriguing, I felt that James and Danny didn't take them as far as they could have. Their conversations left me sloshing about in half-formed concepts and aching for more "meat and muscle". This speaks to how I feel Ledgard handled his character development overall. I can't help but imagine James and Danny as half-formed, too. They're all shell and skin with very little heart. Like cardboard cut-outs. Only.. fleshier? I know how awful that must sound. It could just be Ledgard's writing style; it reminded me very much of JM Cotzee and JG Ballard (oh my, could it have something to do with first name initials?!) They all take this very clinical, very dry, outside-observationist approach to story telling. As if watching events unfold behind a glass window. As if everything had the emotion purposely blown out of it, leaving it all.. hollow.
In the end, though it was a fairly quick read, Submergence left me floating along, anticipating a great big crushing wave that just never came.(less)