Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (Kingdom of Xia #1)

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Pages: 368
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Asian American Literature
Format: E-book
Published by Greenwillow Books

I bought this book when I first got my Kindle. For some odd reason, it sat there for maybe almost a year. I’m not good at Math. I remember being mad at the book cover, because I remember finding it in Barnes N’ Nobles, and it originally had a Chinese style cover, a cover that actually fit the story of the novel, even the model was of East Asian descent. Then for some odd reason, they changed the book cover to the one above, it looks more like a medieval type of theme. What’s up with that?

Anyway, here is a YA novel, a fantasy one that I actually ended up liking. I tried not to have too high expectations because I hadn’t been reading much fantasy lately. The novel is heavily influenced by Chinese folktales and mythology, it’s Cindy Pon’s own interpretation of  Chinese mythology. I feel like I don’t have much to talk about, for some odd reason.

One of the main themes of this books is what you would see in an epic about a girl and filial piety. People compared this, unfortunately, to Mulan, the Disney movie, instead of the actual epic poem. The main character is a young girl who got rejected from an arranged marriage proposal, her father was sort of ostracized for going against the societal norms or rules, her own family members, including her mother, has a sort of non-traditional sense, yet at the same time, they believed that their daughter should be married despite her refusal to.

A whole circle of events forces the main character’s, Ai Ling’s, father out of her home and disappears. Out of her own stubbornness, she ventures out to find her own father and refused the arranged marriage with a corrupt man. She makes friends with a guy named Chen Yong, they are both outcasts in a sense, because they are both isolated for their individuality, their willingness to follow what they want. They are both separated from their families and were forced to grow up faster than most. Through their isolation, different yet similar, they become close. I don’t want to spoil the plot. 

Silver Phoenix was an enjoyable read, I liked enough to maybe read the sequel. There were some parts that were slow for me due to the writing style, but it was a fairly enjoyable read. It’s a fun, fantasy adventure, great for the YA audience since it sort of teaches a filial piety theme and Chinese culture which isn’t really seen a lot in YA. So if you’re looking for a fantasy adventure with dragons and girls with supernatural powers, go ahead. 

                                                                      Rating: 3/5

                                               5577995

                                          Here’s the original, more accurate book cover. 

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June Wrap Up

The Bird Room by Chad Hofmann 

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Pages: 157
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Science Fiction
Format: E-book
Self-Published
Rating: 3/5

Last Woman on Earth by C.V. Hunt
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Pages: I don’t know
Genre: Short Story, Post-Apocalyptic 
Format: E-book
Self-Published
Rating: 3/5

There is No End to This Slope by Richard Fulco

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Pages: 258
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mental Health
Format: Softcover
Published by Wampus Multimedia
Rating: 5/5

16225758

Pages: 222
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Format: E-book
Published by Dr. Cicero Books
Rating: 4/5 

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Pages: 126
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Format: E-book
Published by CCLaP
Rating: 5/5
I actually read this last month, I don’t know why I put this here, but I participated on a blog tour.



Pages: 175
Genre: Literary Fiction, African American Literature, LGBTQIA
Format: E-book (The version I have doesn’t have this book cover)
The version I had was published by Dell?
Rating: 5/5

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Pages: 82                                                      
Genre: Poetry
Format: E-book
This is an Advanced Readers Copy received from Net Galley
Publised by Grayson Books

Rating: 4/5

21941814

Pages: 14
Genre: Poetry
Format: E-book
Published by Love Symbol Press
Rating: 4/5

CCLaP Journal #4

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Pages: 208
Genre: Literary Magazine
Format: E-book
Published by CCLaP
Rating: 4/5

10137468

Pages: 368
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Asian American Literature
Format: E-book
Published by Greenwillow Books
Rating: 3/5


Two Chapbooks: Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War by Frederick Foote and M by Richard Duncan Gray

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Pages: 82                                                      
Genre: Poetry
Format: E-book
This is an Advanced Readers Copy received from Net Galley
Publised by Grayson Books

Medic Against Bomb is a book of poetry that chronicles the experience of the writer’s time in Iraq. The poetry is written in a sort of prose style, where he writes about people in his life that were close to him, the deaths he witnessed or heard of, in a way where you actually feel like you have seen the scene through your own eyes. Like most poetry, it was a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings and experiences, and some poems were dedicated to people, but I feel like most of them were just dedicated to just the people who have been taken by war in general. It’s a touching little book of poetry, I also like the rhyming here and there, I find it more enjoyable and refreshing when the poetry rhymes for some reason. Medic Against Bomb is the type of poetry that should be read or written to cope with the current history of now, which seems to be a time of never ending war. 

Rating: 4/5



21941814

Pages: 14
Genre: Poetry
Format: E-book
Published by Love Symbol Press

Here’s a random chapbook I literally found on Tumblr by typing in chapbook in the tag searcher thing. The book cover is quite a beauty and it’s also disappointingly short. The poems are fun and pretty much chronicle every day life things, interactions, and the amusement of life. Food are living things and human interaction can be awkward and detached. Well that’s what I felt during the reading of this chapbook. His style is kind of a less minimalistic version of Tao Lin with the absurdity added in. 

Rating: 4/5

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin



Pages: 175
Genre: Literary Fiction, African American Literature, LGBTQIA
Format: E-book (The version I have doesn’t have this book cover)

I have never read James Baldwin before, I have read Ernest Gaines for a high school English class. I’m pretty sure they are nothing similar but I do remember reading A Lesson Before Dying and felt devastated. The ending of this book is pretty devastating too. So let’s get talking about this:

Giovanni’s Room is pretty much about a guy, an American expat, who I believe his name is David, who lives in France during the course of this novel. He was supposed to get married but feels indecisive about it, because he fell in love with a man. He had always known he was gay but I feel like the narrator’s sexuality is kind of hard to pin point because he did feel like he had feelings for women, but wasn’t sure at the same time. So I kind of felt like the main character was maybe bisexual, but that isn’t really written out in this story.

This novel is sort of the type of novel that really makes me feel and understand those who feel isolated and the oppressive system of expectations, the unreal goals and fantasies we have of each other. The main narrator is rather conflicted about himself, not only his identity, but also his emotions and the sense of home. he’s like a lost, wandering force of nature, he has no clue who he is, he’s unsure of every word and drop of emotion, and he is just there to float through the routine of life and go with the flow that was created by his confusion.

The love he feels for Giovanni was passionate and true compared to the love with his fiance, but at the same time you can’t even tell, because when he chose to leave Giovanni’s room, his love for her returns. David is probably the most confused character who is unsure of everything and oddly enough, I can kind of relate to that, the apprehension of a person’s true face. The fear that maybe everything would come to an end and it would be your fault, or maybe the role that you play is fake and the true self never existed. 

These identities are what makes the narrator hold wars within himself. He is gay and has feelings for Giovanni but feels disgusted by it and even his own male body. He is disgusted of anything out of the norm, because inside of him, there is this thing embedded within his head, the expected fantasy of who you are, the label you are born with, man or woman. 

The novel basically focuses on these themes,  here are the words: Home, Sexuality, Gender Roles, Identity. Giovanni’s Room is heartbreaking and dramatic, why? Because it’s the question that we all have inside of us, even the 19 year old college kid writing this post. Who are we? Why do we love the people we love, do we really feel this way? Is it just something that happens? How do we know and how do we know if it is real or not? I really hope this makes sense but this novel was very thought provoking and pretty freaking sad. James Baldwin’s writing is poetic, a delicate type of writing that reeks of elegance. It’s a freaking great book. 

                                                                      Rating: 5/5

Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson Blog Tour (Book Review and Interview with the Author)

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Pages: 126
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Format: E-book

Here’s  a synopsis of the novella:

Robot is one of millions of androids on an Earth that recently saw the extinction of human life. While Robot’s mechanical brothers and sisters seem happy, Robot finds himself lost and missing the only friend he had, a human named Mike whose family accepted Robot as a piece of their personal puzzle. Without both the mistakes and the capacity for miracles that define human civilization, is civilization even worth having? Explore this question in the hilarious yet heartbreaking full-length debut of popular Chicago performer Mason Johnson. A Kurt Vonnegut for the 21st century, his answers are simultaneously droll, surprising and touching, and will make you rethink the limits of what a storyteller can accomplish within science fiction.

Sad Robot Stories is a CClap novella; it was released a while ago. I’m not sure when, but that doesn’t matter.  Despite the fact that it takes place through the mind of a robot, Sad Robot Storiesis a coming of age novella. The main character, simply called Robot, is a machine that feels for humans and is an outcast amongst other robots. For some reason, he sympathizes with the humans that surround him, and wants to break through the monotonous life of a machine.  So he ventures out and hangs out with humans, befriends them, and then the world ends, leaving him all alone. I feel like Robot might just be a metaphor, is a metaphor the right way to explain this?  Robot is a symbol of alienation, the type of person who isn’t in the crowd, a misunderstood person. When he ventures out to other people, he is soon accepted. There is somebody out there who will take you into their world and become your companion; you just have to find them.  The coming of age theme seems to be the development in all of the characters, where they change and grow out of their flaws. They move on and accept the changes around them. There is nothing more human than accepting what surrounds you, even if you have to claw your own eyes out to see how it feels. When everything is gone, the only thing a person needs to understand is that everything is temporary.  I feel like I’m not doing justice for this book, I don’t really have much to say about it. it’s really one of those books that warms your heart, just like the characters’ relationships with books. It’s one of those books that you look back on and think, “Wow, that was a really nice story.”

Interview with Mason Johnson:


1.      What influenced you to write this story? A lot of people on Goodreads were reminded of the Disney or Pixar movie, Wall-E. However this story seems to be darker and more punch-in-the-gut compared to that one.

You know, I actually haven’t seen Wall-E. Certainly sounds similar though. The only bad review for the book (that I know if) said, “It is Pixar’s ‘Wall.E’ without focus and devoid of charm.” That made me laugh.
The book came out of my friends and I drawing robots in crayon cause we thought it was funny. I remember being bored in a college poetry course and writing robot haiku to entertain myself. From there it somehow turned into the serious and sad novella everyone now knows and loves (except for the woman who thought it was devoid of charm, and the people who merely “like” it instead of “love” it).I also watched a lot of sci-fi as a kid. Enemy Mine, Blade Runner, Tron, stuff like that. Combine all that with my writing degree — Faulkner, Dorothy Allison etc. — and you get Sad Robot Stories.

2.      What do you think of the ever popular trend of dystopia in literature? Do you think it is getting overdone or you can’t get enough of it?
Every couple decades, dystopian/apocalyptic lit (two sides of the same coin?) seem to take on new meaning. Maybe it was once about the fear of nuclear war or the rise of counterculture, but is it anymore? It seems much more likely to be a fear of technology now — either technology taking over or getting cut off from technology and sent into the dark ages. Or, if not technology, we’re afraid of nature and what we’ve been doing to it.So no, I don’t really get tired of it. I don’t think people will get tired of it in general. As we take on new fears, our sci-fi tends to change in small ways, shaping itself to our psyches. The genre is constantly reinventing itself a little at a time to appease the times.

3.      I heard that this was self-published and CCLap picked it up somehow? How was that experience?
The self-published version was an ebook that’s nothing like the novella (http://robotsneednot.com/sadrobotstories/). It’s a goofy little thing that’s separate. Jason Pettus at CCLaP suggested I try to mine a book out of some of that material, and after I wrote a decent amount of that, they decided it was probably worth publishing.I’d never expected anything more to come from the ebook. The book was kind of… the opposite of the light, funny work I’d been doing. Which was why I ended up doing it. I wanted to push myself in another direction. Thankfully it didn’t work out too badly…

4.      A common theme in this story is loneliness and isolation. Is the story somehow related to you? Is the robot Mason Johnson in a robot body in an apocalyptic world?
I’m sure parts of me seeped into robot somehow. It was never intentional though. If I’m anyone, I’m Sally and Mike.Coming back to the idea of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction, I think that lonliness is a sign of the times. We’re so connected to everything and everyone all the time, and we’re probably afraid to lose that (or I am, maybe), and this fear creates a certain amount of loneliness.


5.      A lot of readers, especially when they’re young, feel that reading stories makes them feel less lonely, as if there is a world out there for every individual. Have you felt that way too?
Definitely!When I’m lonely, I like depressing as hell sci-fi. There’s something comforting there. No matter what happens in sci-fi, everything can be destroyed, and yet life somehow just barely crawls forward, and that’s really comforting to me.

6.      Do you have an absolute fascination with robots and androids? Are you big into science fiction? (I feel like this question is too similar to the second one)
I’m a fan of genre fiction in general. As a teen, I read a million Star Wars books. Kind of burnt myself out on that. I was big on detective fiction, too, like Dashiell Hammett, which correlates with Mike’s obsession with pulps in Sad Robot Stories (in spirit, at least). But yeah, Neal Stephenson, Douglas Adams, R.A. Salvatore and Tolkien — I love it.I think the beginnings of my Robot are rooted in literary fiction. My attempt to create a coming of age story that isn’t some Catcher in the Rye clone, I guess. Robot is just growing up in the book. So I guess he’s sort of a device, in a literary sense, but thankfully I’ve got the genre cred and love to be able to fill that aspect out well in the book.

7.      As a writer, do you ever feel anxious that people will not “feel” your work? Do you ever feel that people will just read your stories, toss it to the side, and forget about it?
Naaaaahhhh…I just want them to read it in the first place. If they want to toss it aside after doing so, then cool, whatever, at least they read it.

8.      Do you believe in the end of the world? Do you think that eventually the world will no longer be able to sustain us and everything will just slowly fall apart and die?
It’s Tuesday as I answer this… I barely believe Thursday exists at this point… The end of the world seems too far off to think about in any tangible sense.That’s a complaint from my girlfriend, Hillary, when it comes to apocalyptic fiction. That it, I guess, preys on her real-world fears that one day everything might suddenly just go to shit. So she doesn’t tend to enjoy that kinda stuff. I love that kind of stuff because it doesn’t seem real. It takes me out of the little, petty problems in our actual world, which isn’t ending, and puts me somewhere else.

9.      How did you feel writing this novella, did you feel liberated out of your loneliness? How do I explain this? Did you feel like you weren’t the only one who has felt isolated?
I’m not really a lonely person. lol. Actually, I like a bit of loneliness. Sometimes it’s nice to be alone. That’s not something that brings on bad feelings, or something I really need to stave off. Like anyone, I get depressed, and I fight that depression by keeping busy. By doing a million things and a million projects. So I guess the book, just because it’s keeping me busy, can help keep me from being depressed.I gotta admit though, the process of writing the book made me feel anxious. Extremely anxious.Writing usually feels like hell. Out of every good day, there are ten others that are just… anxiety-ridden hells. I was going out of my mind until the first draft was done and cleaned up.
So I donno, I don’t think it makes me feel liberated. I do think I’d somehow be even less happy if I didn’t write though.

10.  What are your favorite books of all time or what authors do you admire? Did any of these help you live and write through life?
I’ve already mentioned William Faulkner. I wouldn’t say he’s my “favorite…” In fact, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I enjoy his work. I’ve learned the most from him though. Junot Diaz is another author I’ve learned a lot from, though I’ve also enjoyed the hell out of his books, unlike Faulkner. Faulkner’s work, Diaz not so much. Dorothy Allison’s Cavedweller is a book I read every couple of years. I love Hammett and Chandler and that kinda stuff.I always hate when people ask me what my favorite books are or what I’m reading. My mind always gets foggy.

Lately I’ve really enjoyed Amiri Baraka and Eileen Myles. I feel sorta angry no one sat me down and made me read them in college. I feel like there’s a lot I coulda learned from them back then. Though I’m learning a lot from them now.   
                                                                                                                                                                                              

 Mason Johnson is a writer from Chicago who currently works full time writing and editing articles for CBS. You can find his fiction at themasonjohnson.com. Also, he pets all the cats.

The next blog on the blog tour is: The Weeklings with an essay by Mason
The previous blog on the tour was:Two Dudes In An Attic are hosting a special something

Some New Blog Changes (Unnecessary Blog Post)

So here are a list of changes I will be bringing in:

1. I will clearly state in bold that the book is ARC and where it came from. I do state that the books are ARC in the post title.  I do get books from NetGalley and I have stated that in posts, but I want to make it a lot clearer.

2. I changed the blog to a more modern and minamalist look. It was probably a bad idea.

3. Short Story collections, I need to talk about each story, even if it tires me out.

4. I generally need to do better at this blog.

The End, unneeded post, this blog must be active more anyway. 

A Bald Man with No Hair: And Other Stories by John M. Keller

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Pages: 222
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Format: E-book

Here is a short story collection written by the guy who wrote Know Your Baker, which I only read half of. I was reading Know Your Baker during a time when I had just started getting into college and doing actual homework and stuff. It was coming down real fast, so I set it aside, I wasn’t in the mood to read it because I was too stressed out to concentrate on it. Then it kind of got forgotten, but recently I had looked back and found it again. So here is the short story collection Keller had written and I have to say, my relationship with short story collections and anthologies is a little conflicted. Sometimes I love them, but most of the time I would read them and only liked a few stories. I’m not a professional reviewer or anything, I’m just some kid who likes to talk about what she read on her blog. I’m just trying to say that I don’t really go into crazy details when talking about short stories.

A lot of the short stories in this collection are quite unusual, well to me, and maybe a bit absurd. However, there is no magic present, very little, I think there was only one story that involved something out of the normal. Most of them consisted of the coincidences and oddities of life and people. Love and unrequited love, regret and the past tugging on your shoulders, the trust people give out willingly, only for it to be broken or regained after a series of events. A lot of these short stories seem to focus on a character’s inner feelings about someone, the fantastical image that they create in their minds, only to be proven wrong. I think those stories would be the love stories he wrote, which happened to be my most favorite, because they deal with the feelings that are so hard to comprehend and grasp on. Kids that are my age, 18 or `19, they fall so hard for each other and create these manic pixie dream people, these perfect images that never existed in the first place . Then when everything falls apart, we slam our faces pretty hard.

John M. Keller has a type of prose that is poetic and lyrical in a way that I can’t describe, because I just happen to be writing this post and I can’t really think of a way to talk about it. I will say that there were stories where I had to reread certain sentences, because I loved the way they were written. 

There are stories in here about people who lose things in life and then learn to live without it and move on. I think the concept to this whole story collection is maybe life itself, we have to learn to sometimes accept our isolation, the sometimes fabrications we make of ourselves and others. We have to accept the fact that we won’t have the things we want, relationships will never go our way. Sometimes we need to see that we are what we are, temporary, weak, and ordinary, just like the world its self. 

                                                                     Rating: 4/5