Read 11/4/14 - 11/5/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of bizarre high school rituals and rowdy-ass teen know-it-alls Pages: 188 Publisher: Eraserhead PresRead 11/4/14 - 11/5/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of bizarre high school rituals and rowdy-ass teen know-it-alls Pages: 188 Publisher: Eraserhead Press Released: October 2014
As a kid who moved around a bit during my middle-to-high school years, I know a thing or two about being the "new kid". I also know that being new is an awesome opportunity for the extroverted teenager to completely reinvent themselves - in my case, over and over and over again. No one knew who you were. And you could be whatever or whoever you wanted. Z Cavaricci's and permed 'do not working out so hot? That's ok. When you move to a new school district next year you can totally trade them in for the skater-grrl look - long straight hair, stove pipe jeans, and chucks. Hanging with the jocks and straight-edger's a little too boring for you? Cool, this time I'mma hang with the theater crew and hippies. I can blend in or stand out. And no one's the wiser.
Too bad that's not the case for Justin Lucas - the self proclaimed most handsome, nicest, smartest, most athletic, funniest, coolest kid on the planet. Foul mouthed and blessed with a mustache that'll make Tom Selleck cry, Justin's prepared to make the students of Lungville High take notice of his awesomeness. Except, well, wait. Why isn't anyone taking any notice? And why, all of sudden, is he getting whipped in the face by dodgeballs? As he cowers behind his desk in homeroom, plotting revenge - while stealing glances at some of the girls' derrieres while he's down there because hey, why not - and as he moves on to first period, "The History of Dodgeball", and definitely by second period, "Psychology of Dodgeball", it begins to dawn on Justin that Lungville High is not your typical high school.
Enter the bizarre world Bradley Sands has created. A world in which a school exists whose sole curriculum revolves entirely around the sport of dodgeball. One where the rules as you know it are bent, broken, and mangled beyond recognition. One where the student groups - Stunt Team, Model UN, even Math for crissakes - are actually dodgeball groups, and where gym class can be straight-up deadly. No, seriously. Dodgeball death-matches are a thing. Dodgeballs wrapped in barbed wire, dodgeballs stuffed with explosives, you name it, Bradley Sands has thought of it... and if you don't play well, you can forget about going home, ever. Because you'll be dead. Because you'll have gotten hit in the throat with a razorblade dodgeball that practically decapitated you, and your teammates will all be slipping and sliding in your escaping lifeforce as you lie there on the gymnasium floor bleeding out. Oh, this shit just got real, yo.
In the midst of all the madness, Sands has created one of the most obnoxious, self centered characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading, ever. Like, ever ever. Through Justin, he portrays every ego-driven, nothing-but-sex-minded, laugh-at-my-own-jokes, awkward teenage boy I knew in high school, while continuously feeding the story line with just the right amount of WTF-ery. A goth chick who takes Justin on a date to a restaurant that only serves steak, and not only do they walk the cow you'll be eating right over to your table, but they also slaughter and cut it up right there in front of you! A detention room that is only accessible through the floor in a stall in the girls' bathroom! And past year valedictorians stored in the basement of the school in blocks of ice?!
You've got to have a wicked sense of humor for this one, and a super forgiving sense of reality, although when compared to the other Eraserhead Press books I've read, this one's mighty tame. The gore factor is a two or three. It's really lightweight, nothing to lose your lunch over. The goofball factor is at least triple that, and the "he did not just take it there, did he?" factor is through the roof. Whatever you think is going to happen? Yeah. Just forget it. You'll never see where Sands is taking this thing. Of this, I am certain.
Read this book, not as an intro to bizarro fiction (because I really don't think it's a good example of the genre), but as a gateway to another dimension. One that looks like this one, and seems like this one, until the homeroom bell rings. Then all bets, and some of the students' clothing, and definitely some major body parts and a huge portion of your sanity, are off....more
Listened 9/23/14 - 9/27/14 4 Stars: Recommended to fans of the kind of literature that's cold and dark and gets into your bones Audio 6.7 hours PublisherListened 9/23/14 - 9/27/14 4 Stars: Recommended to fans of the kind of literature that's cold and dark and gets into your bones Audio 6.7 hours Publisher: Liveright Publishing / Blackstone Audio Released: September 2014
I am not ashamed to admit that I was trolling downpour.com looking for something to fill my ears during the commute to work when I stumbled across Hold the Dark. I hadn't heard a peep about it (which is usually a sign that I am onto something), but the cover and title caught my attention right away, and the blurb sold me seconds later.
Set in an Alaskan village so far off the map you'd never know it existed unless you were born there or beckoned there, during the teeth-chattering and snot-freezing dead of winter, Hold the Dark is a twisted, chilling thriller of a story. The wolves are starving and desperate. Children are going missing. And when Medora Slone swears one took off with her son, she sends a letter off to wolf expert and nature writer Russell Core, begging him to come to the village to help her reclaim his bones.
As Russell attempts to settle in and starts digging into the goings-on in Keelut, Medora disappears and her husband Vernon returns from the war to discover the news of his son. With his crazy-ass childhood friend Cheeon in tow, Vernon goes on the hunt for his wife, driving deeper into the Alaskan wilderness, leaving a trail of dead bodies for local detective Donald Marium to clean up after him. Things are definitely not what they appear on the surface of this strange and unfriendly place and we soon discover that it's going to take a whole lot more than Russell and Marium to ebb the grieving father's desire for revenge.
Hold the Dark is an extremely dark and violent, slow moving, tension-filled tale that's meant to mess with your mind. In it, we witness the lengths to which an isolated village will go to stand together and protect its own. A place where law is not necessarily recognized and strange, murdery deeds typically go unquestioned. A place where a man will put himself through hell to get back the one thing he wants most and death will befall those who are dumb enough to get in his way.
William Giraldi's careful prose and simplistic world-building go a long way to pulling the reader in, despite it's slow place. His willful withholding is actually part of the book's charm. And the near-tender descriptions of his characters' violent acts render them almost beautiful. Kudos also to Blackstone Audio, for finding a reader capable of conveying the quiet fierceness of Giraldi's words.
My only real critique is the final chapter. Despite the fact that had a different feel to it, as if it was written by a different hand, it felt like a sad surrender to a story that could have, and should have, gone off in another direction. Perhaps by eliminating that last chapter, the book would have been stronger. Perhaps if Giraldi had a little more faith in his readers, he wouldn't have needed to take it that far? Look, if you're an attentive reader, you'll pick up on some of what Giraldi's laying out as he goes along; you'll already have a sense of what's coming, of where he's heading. Trust me. That final chapter just cleans up what should, in my opinion, remain a messier tale.
Also, can we get off the whole "comparing every new author to a super-famous author that they kind of sort of write similarly to" now? Can we, please? I've seen Giraldi compared to both Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway. Why? Because he writes sparse, bleak landscapes? Stop. Just stop. Let's not pollute the waters around a fresh and emerging writer. Let him be who he is without the pressures of having to stand as tall as our literary heroes. And let's just agree to enjoy the cold Alaskan landscape he sets his words in, as it freezes our skin solid and sends icy cold chills up and down our spines. ...more
Read 9/30/14 - 10/7/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who desire their indie lit dark and mysterious Pages: 138 Publisher: Civil Coping MechanisRead 9/30/14 - 10/7/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who desire their indie lit dark and mysterious Pages: 138 Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms Releasing: December 2014
Ryan W Bradley's arrestingly designed upcoming novel Winterswim shocks the system in much the same way that being immersed under freezing cold waves would. Gasping and sputtering, his sparse language pulls you under from the very first page:
"There were a few inches of snow on the ground and more falling. The pastor walked to the edge of the lake cautiously, dragging the girl, naked but for a pair of white ankle socks, behind him."
Though incredibly different from anything he's written before, Winterswim still contains much of what we love about Ryan - gritty sex scenes, tons of underage drugs, that comfortable uncomfortableness we've come to know - and now, this... a new element of murder....
Within its pages, we are introduced to Pastor Sheldon, a man who has decided to take the Lord's work into his own hands; judging for himself those who are full of sin and in need of his intervention to become clean and worthy of heaven once more. His understanding of religion is unorthodox - a mix of his abusive father's sermons and his mute mother's tribal beliefs - and his method of cleansing, a sin itself. One that he is willing to commit. One that he believes to be incredibly necessary.
At the same time, we are introduced to Steven, Sheldon's son, and his pensive infatuations with every hot girl who attends his school. Though, suddenly, those girls begin turning up in the local mortuary, pulled from the frozen lakes that border the town. The word on the street is that they were accidental drownings, but Steven's not so sure. Enlisting the help of Kate, an old crush of his who's recently returned from Hollywood, they decide to investigate and the clues they uncover begin to lead them in a direction neither one could predict.
A lightening quick read that sobers you up as it drags you down, Winterswim showcases the psychotic side of religion and the lasting, devastating scars of familial abuse. Gone is the sweet, heart-wrenching, incredibly sexy poetry I first came to know Bradley through. Here instead he has birthed a monster, one who is called intensely by powers outside of (and within) himself, prowling his congregation for willing victims to whom he can play savior and saint.
If nothing else, it'll cause your lady parts to curl up and hide, and cause you to look at religious figures a tad bit differently in the future....more
Read 9/3/14 - 9/11/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of interconnected stories / stories that take place in a foreign setting, told from a foreign perspRead 9/3/14 - 9/11/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of interconnected stories / stories that take place in a foreign setting, told from a foreign perspective Pages: 266 Publisher: Saddle Road Press Released: 2013
An American eco-anthropologist relocates himself to the Bougainville Island in the 1960's with the intent of studying the group of native Nagovisi there. Instead, he finds himself becoming an active member of their tribe, viewed as student and fellow clan-member, and the subject of the Nagovisi's own curiosities.
Based on the real life research of author Don Mitchell, these fictional narrations closely mirror the interactions and experiences Don had with the Nagovisi people. But there's a twist. The narratives are written from the Nagovisi point of view. Natural born story tellers and teachers, the tribe members each get an opportunity to share their thoughts and conversations with Elliott - our fictional anthropologist protagonist - as well as dishing up the dirt on some of their local legends. It's a clever spin on the short story with each story containing a vivid, colorful peek into their fears, uncertainties, and willingness, though not without wariness, in accepting a white man into their lives. And through these stories, the reader is then able to piece together just who this Elliott character is.
This collection of "Stories from Nagovisi", unlike anything I've read before and not likely to match anything I'll read going forward, is both sensitive and emotionally jarring. The writing is simple and beautific, perfectly complimenting what life in the bush must have been like back then. Clan members sit in their "cookhouses" and chew betel to pass the time. They teach Elliott their ways and immerse him in their daily chores. But this collection is also harsh, direct, and unpredictable, as is the culture of those who are narrating. Dogs are trained to dislike different races and are killed without a second thought when they misbehave. Each clan operates under it's own rules and laws. Trust is hard to come by and when the clan feels threatened, it's leader, Mesiamo, will lay false blame to control the threat, which results in fighting and unchecked murder, all of which is forgiven once each side "becomes even".
Sparse and extremely straight forward, A Red Woman Crying breaks down the barriers and allows its readers to get directly into the heads of the Nagovisi; no holds barred, no punches pulled. The subtle beauty of a foreign way of life shines through in Don's capable hands.
*This book will be featured in an upcoming TNBBC Author/Reader Discussion: the giveaway will be held during the first week of December, with the week-long discussion taking place in mid-January. Details will be released as we get closer to the giveaway date.
*My review is in no way colored by the fact that we've selected this title for the discussion series. ...more
Read 9/2/14 - 9/3/14 4 stars - Strongly Recommended, but not to those who are going through relationship troubles, cause you'll want to slit your wristRead 9/2/14 - 9/3/14 4 stars - Strongly Recommended, but not to those who are going through relationship troubles, cause you'll want to slit your wrists Pages: 78 (illustrated) Publisher: Yes Yes Books Released: 2014
The Bones of Us was born through a kickstarter campaign and is a thing of beauty. The book itself is big and soft and cries out to be touched and caressed. Your fingers will fondle the pages as your eyes devour both words and images... Those images! Mental and visual. What a pairing of pain and longing. Confusion and frustration.
J Bradley's poetry is stark and sharp and gutting. It's not for the recently heartbroken. It's a suicide partner; a deflating raft in an ocean of sharks. It won't help you heal your wounds. Oh no. It will seek out the wounds you were certain had healed and it will tear them wide open again. It will pour lemon juice and salt into them and smile a sadistic smile. It will draw fine, faint lines across your skin with its nails and teeth and lick its lips as the blood beads on the surface.
A powerful, poignant reminder of how fleeting and fragile our love is, The Bones of Us is a breath taken, and held, for fear that if we let it out, it'll blow away all we came to care about.