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Still Life Las Vegas

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  165 ratings  ·  38 reviews
An astonishing literary debut about a young man who, in the search for clues into the disappearance of his mother twelve years earlier, discovers himself in the process.

Recent high school graduate and aspiring artist Walter Stahl lives with his ailing father in the dregs of Las Vegas, their lives overshadowed by the disappearance of Walter's mother, who drove off when he w
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 11th 2015 by St. Martin's Press
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  165 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Larry H
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
When Walter was five years old, his mother left their family, driving away in her blue Volvo, and he never saw her again. Now 17, living a monotonous existence away from the Las Vegas strip and taking care of his bedridden father, he has spent the last 12 years searching for her, hoping that she'll someday mysteriously reappear in her life as quickly as she left it.

Working a dead-end job at a museum on Fremont Street, he has his whole life ahead of him but feels he has not much to live for. And

The 28th Lammy's PREPARATIONS: a finalist in the category GAY FICTION.


Beautiful, poetic, tragic, emotional, honest, thrilling, and...OPTIMISTIC!

Don't be afraid to read it, you'll be rewarded with a UNIQUE, UNUSUAL, FANTASTIC story of LOVE..the first love, the last love, the hidden love, the fake love, the true love...the lost love...

No, actually it is about LIFE.

An amazing debut.

Highly highly recommended!

Reading with my buddy Sofia. It is always a pleasure!

May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: br, 2016, eagerly-read

Fluid interaction between the written word and snippets in graphic art. I love the use of language and the pictures and how he played with time, fantasy and reality.

A tragedy of love, hope, pain, despair and from all this Walt rises like the phoenix after the fire. Beautifully told by Sie. His words create images, beautiful ones which are then further emphasized by Choi's art. He uses contrasts like feathers and stone - a feather is light able to float through a disaster whilst the strong stone
Tom Mula
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I loved it!

How rare—something new, a genuinely novel novel. This is a sexy, hilarious, heartbreaking funhouse ride through sequined American culture—Vegas, Liberace, anti-depressants, accordions. I couldn’t put it down. I read the last third in one sitting, and, after I wiped my eyes, I was sorry to leave this dreamlike and dream-filled world. The graphic chapters are delightful, like treats in a fruitcake—delicious surprises that deepen and enrich.

James Sie is a genuine old-world tale-spin
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I cannot say enough good things about this book! I loved it. It will stay with me for a long time. I recommend that if you enjoy a good story you give this your attention.
I could not put it down! I read it in one day.
Wonderfully written, amazingly put together. When I found out the lie I cried. I couldn't believe how much I cared about Walter, Emily and Owen.
Caution, look at the wonderful art work as you read along. If you look through it ahead of time it will spoil the story for you.
What do you do when the power is out? Write a review, of course. I’m sitting here, writing up this review with only the light from my laptop screen, and a candle that smells like lemon Pez, to guide me.

It’s oddly fitting for a review of Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie.

You see, Walt, out main character, has been in the dark about the whereabouts of his mother his entire life. With a father that is suffering from major mental illness over several tragedies in his life, you Walt is left to take c
Patricia Linville
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Still life Las Vegas by James Sie
Everyone at some time or other has been too busy to take note of what needs immediate attention. Mind a million miles away until a tragic incident forces all focus on the present moment. A small family attempting to navigate the permanent consequences of distraction is the idea upon which James Sie’s book is built. Still Life Las Vegas is about the slender thread upon which we balance ourselves and what happens when it is stretched, frayed and finally broken. Tee
Jo Dervan
Jun 02, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
With a blend of personal and classical mythology, Still Life Las Vegas tells three stories that weave together about a troubled family.

Walter longs to graduate high school early, and find a purpose for his burgeoning drawing talents. But he's burdened by caring for his depressive father, Owen, and we find out why in back story chapters. Walter's mother had run off, and he and his father now live in Vegas after failing to find her.

When Walter meets the beguiling living sculpture performers Chrys
Carolyn Guerrero
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Still Life Las Vegas is an interesting read - while the story is dark, and often depressing, there are moments of clear joy that jump out of the story and give the reader a smile. For me, the story was addicting. I finished the novel shortly after I began reading it, so captivated by the writing. James Sie writes well; the story is told from three different perspectives, and each has a unique, captivating voice. Sungyoon Choi's illustrations also do well, enhancing the novel and bringing to ligh ...more
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really good writing with a graphic novel layered in, creating a story within a story. I have recently enjoyed a few graphic novels, and while they are not my favorite medium, I do appreciate them. That said, I really liked this author's writing and I would really like to experience it as just the written word.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The way the plot line was arranged was incredible; the characters in the story are intriguing; it was a very difficult book to put down...I just had to read it all once I got started.
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
James Sie’s debut novel, “Still Life Las Vegas” combines storylines and emotions in a simmering ragout, taking seemingly disparate themes and settings and putting them together to create a memorable and unique (I rarely use that word) world, one in which there are the soaring highs of young love crossed with the eternal lows of young death. Tragedy mars the life of the main character, Walter Stahl. In fact, it has caused his life to come to a veritable stop in the garish world of Las Vegas. Ther ...more
Karen Street
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: coming-of-age
A warm and innovative debut novel about a young man, Walter Stahl, who is caught up in his father's search for Walter's run-away mother, and in the process discovers himself. I thoroughly enjoyed this Las Vegas-set story, told from the point of view of Walter, a precocious young man who is learning to be an artist and his own person. The characters are interesting because they are all rather difficult people, not unlike the quirky oddness of the neon city itself. I adored Emily, his Vietnamese-b ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Still Life Las Vegas is a pretty good read. I am having a difficult time processing it for some reason; it has all the qualities of something that SHOULD have really, totally (insufferably even), gotten under my skin but it didn’t. The writing was truly beautiful at times but it lacked the quality of successful beautiful writing in my opinion—I felt it was superfluous, and distracted from the pace instead of enhancing it. I don’t feel like this about the illustrations though…they were lovely and ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is beautifully written and follows two primary stories/narrators - Emily & Walter - as well as interesting secondary characters. It is a coming of age story for Walter, and for Emily, it is a look inside someone experiencing a dramatic life event. The storytelling is enhanced with lovely illustrations that inform the narrative, but do not overtake it. The dialogue rings true, as do the emotions. I found the shifts in narrator and time easy to follow. I highly recommend ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: paperbacksummer
I read a print ARC for the #paperbacksummer challenge.

This is a melancholy but intriguing story of three different family members who try to escape their past, but inextricably collide with it thanks to Las Vegas. The chronological structure is a little confusing, but the magical realism of the occasional cartoon panels is strangely effective.
Donna Hall
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not generally my kind of book, but very well written and engaging. I used to live in Las Vegas, so it was also fun to read about the places I knew, etc....
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I won a free copy from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Program and think that it interesting. I would recommend it to everyone.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Heartbreaking, honest and unusual. I liked the way Sie incorporates graphic novel panels to tell the more painful parts of the story.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review to come.
Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie is a young adult novel that is unique and intriguing. Written from multiple points of view, the story goes back and forth in time and details the somewhat tragic life of the Stahl family but it mainly focuses on seventeen year old Walter. Interspersed with beautifully rendered illustrations by Sungyoon Choi, some parts of the story are told in graphic novel format while some of drawings are from Walter's sketchbook.

Walter lives in a seedy part of Las Vegas with
Gary Lauzon
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Cadi Weaver
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Absorbing, beautifully written, a different sort of a story.
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm always skeptical of books that can easily be labeled. Young adult, genre fiction, sci-fi, etc. Labeling usually denotes a formulaic plot, with the standard character development. So Las Vegas Still Life was a pleasant divergence from what I was expecting from a novel that I had the preconceived to be a young adult book. Sie's central character is seventeen (soon to be eighteen) year old Walter, an on the cusp of adulthood, mixed race Asian who is coming in the full awareness of his sexuality ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it
The writing quality itself in this book is alright, the structure of the telling of the story is where things rapidly go downhill. The main character Walter is a completely lost 18 year old with separated messed up parents, and they live in Las Vegas. The problem this book had for me was two-fold 1. It is often risky telling a story from a different characters view point using alternating chapters. 2. It is also risky telling stories in both the past (especially multiple times in the past), as w ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
This was listed as a "coming-of-age" story and tho I usually avoid them, decided to see if this one would be different. And I was pleasantly rewarded. Mr. Sie is such a lovely writer, short to the point, no unnecessary embellishments. I would prefer listing this story as finding the truth, accepting it, and having the resilience to go on to the future. I found that the jumping from one time period to another without too much of a clue where exactly we were, disconcerting. The drawings, to my sur ...more
Nick Duretta
Apr 20, 2016 rated it liked it
There's a lot I liked about this one--superb writing, interesting characters and situations, and a clever mix of prose and graphic storytelling. But it went over the top too many times for me, where certain characters or situations were so odd or outlandish I couldn't accept them. I think the fact that they were mixed with seemingly 'normal' characters only added to this disconnect. Perhaps setting the novel in Las Vegas, where the outlandish is commonplace, was supposed to mitigate this somewha ...more
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Coincidentally, this is another book I read this week (the first was Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides, for book club) about dysfunctional parents. Still Life Las Vegas was much shorter and much more fun (though it's not hard to have a plot cheerier than that of Prince of Tides.)

I did come to a point in the story where I wondered "what genre am I reading?" but my specific question was solved by the ending.
Krista Abrao
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I won an ARC of this book through a Good reads giveaway.
As I began reading this book I wondered what direction it would go and found myself wanting to know more. I felt for Walter and questioned if he would ever find closure. once he discovered the truth I was as relieved and confused as I'm sure he was.
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JAMES SIE is the author of STILL LIFE LAS VEGAS (St. Martin’s Press, 2015), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He is an award-winning playwright of literary adaptations, receiving a Joseph Jefferson Citation for his adaptation of ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, and an After Dark Award for the original work THE ROAD TO GRACELAND. His adaptation of A WRINKLE IN TIME will be produced in Chicago this wint ...more