Alive by Ha Jin (Kindle Short)

Pages: 32
Genre: Short Stories, Chinese literature, Kindle Short, Literary Fiction
Format: E-book

Ha Jin is an author where I can’t really determine my feelings for. I don’t hate him, but I don’t love him either. I haven’t read enough of him to determine this. I read and reviewed Waiting during my first year of college, the beginning of all educational torture. Then I purchased Nanjing Requiem and kept setting it aside for reasons I’m not sure of. His writing is fine, simple, but reads well enough. He doesn’t produce the worse of metaphors or similes. His writing feels like he is actually in my room reading a bed time story, which would be totally awkward. I think what truly puts me off about Ha Jin is that every time I finish a story by him, there’s always this incomplete silence, the puzzle comes together, but there is a teeny tiny piece that is missing. The endings aren’t very happy either, there seems to be a brutal reality in his stories, the knots are always too tight and painful. Yet there is a strange sort of relief. I hope this all makes sense.

So this little short is basically about a struggling man in China, a part of China I can’t remember the name of, a China that I can’t tell if it’s Post- Cultural Revolution or before it. It’s definitely before the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Anyway, this man named, I forgot his name…. It’s Guhan, which I kept pronouncing in my head as Gohan, instead of Guhan. Guhan has a son, a daughter, and a wife, a typical nuclear family. He wants to support his son’s and daughter’s ambitions, but like most stories of Chinese people living in small towns, he can’t afford it and the house is too small. He can’t buy his son an apartment and he can’t get his daughter a job that will keep her close. Then, like most hard working fathers who sacrifice themselves and the world for their family, he goes out of town. Oddly enough, before he leaves, the wife asks him a question that was basically somewhere along the lines of “Are you sure you want to go so far from home?” Foreshadowing at its best, an earthquake happens, he gets knocked around and loses his memory.

It’s a touching story and I liked it more than Waiting, but again, I was left with the same feelings. I’m starting to actually understand it and maybe like it, Ha Jin is a bittersweet story teller. After this earthquake, Guhan starts life over again, but when memory kicks back in, he returns, and is left with this conflicted and unsatisfied heart. That is what makes Ha Jin so brilliant, those feelings that are just too human and painful to bear. Too close for comfort.  

Rating: 4/5 

The Vines by Christopher Rice (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)


Pages: 226
Genre: Supernatural, Horror, Thriller
Published by 47North
This is an Advanced Reader’s Copy Received From Netgalley

Christopher Rice is an author that despite reading his mother’s books, I never knew he existed until his latest novel, The Heavens Rise was released. Rice is a pretty common last name, I think, so I just assumed he was another Rice, not a descendant of a  famous Rice. I did my best to remove his mother’s fame from him and make him his own individual bowl of Rice, he is Christopher Rice, not the son of the Anne Rice bowl. That’s a great thing to do. I eat rice everyday, excuse the excess amounts of the word “rice”. 

Enough about rice though, the book is about green vegetation, not grains of rice. 

The Vines is one of those supernatural horror stories. Where spirits of the dead seek revenge against the living, because the past had perished them into the most miserable of fates. In this novel, the vengeful spirit is a deceased African American slave named Virginie Lacroix, who has the power to control and communicate with nature, or the earth to be more specific. I mean dirt and plants. The ones who are in despair are three main characters, Caitlin, Blake and Nova. What are the tragedies? Caitlin is a woman who loathes herself due to her shallow family members, a cheater husband, and basically, she is a rich woman and riches don’t make you happy, it attracts more misery than anything. Blake is an average joe, who hides his feelings, his anger, behind his muscles. That sounds really weird to say. But anyway, Blake, like Caitlin, has lost his love, his lover to be more exact, in a murder, a hate crime towards gay men, that wasn’t given enough justice and had permanently scarred his faith in humanity. Then there’s Nova, who is African American and has a sort of complex hatred, she hates Caitlin for being the usual stuck up, privileged, self-absorbed being, and for pretty much living in the South, where people like her, due to the still ever present racism, are viewed as nothing but maybe less than human.

This whole story is focused on misery and revenge. A sort of cautionary tale of sorts, where the Vines are what carries out this embedded hatred, a desire for revenge. I sound like a broken record when it comes to books like this. But that’s basically what it is, a vicious anger awakens a curse and unleashes the pure darkness of people’s souls through more darkness. 

I read reviews of Christopher Rice’s other books and I always feel apprehensive when I hear people talking about the writing style, in that negative way where I know, based on my own taste, that I won’t like it. But it was already too late, I had this on my kindle and I’ve been wanting to try out his words. They aren’t bad, they are enjoyable actually. I don’t know what it is but they are nice and smooth. Sort of like whipping cream with a poem ripped to shreds and mixed in. But then this is his latest book and people improve over the years.

This book isn’t too long and I read it in two and half days. It was quite a journey with a few lifted up eyebrows at the whole oddity of it. Killer vines? It was almost like a Stephen King movie. I didn’t like some of those movies, especially the older ones. Yet, I enjoyed this novel. It was thrilling, creepy, like a guilty pleasure horror TV show you can’t pull your eyes away from. Yet there was also that feeling, that I learned something from it, that it filled me. Something about it  made it feel like it was more than just a thriller. I don’t know how to explain it, but The Vines  feels like a sort of touching story with a darker tinge to it, because fear stabs the humanity and evil in us, all at the same time. 

Rating: 4/5 

Portus by Jun Abe

Pages: 232
Genre: Graphic Novels (Manga), Horror, Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Borrowed From Someone
Published by Viz Media LLC

Are you familiar with Japanese horror movies? The Grudge, The Ring, and any old horror manga. Then Portus will be all too familiar for you. It’s a basic trope now, thanks to the worldwide popularity of these films. An urban legend, one death, spooky ghosts, and one person who is stupid or vengeful enough to try it. It’s all about a girl who’s best friend commits suicide and there’s a rumor about a video game named Portus, she plays it, and discovers all creepy stuff. There’s some mystery solving stuff and tear jerking scenes of losing loved ones, but Portus was basically your typical Japanese horror movie. You know what I’m talking about, the cursed items. 

Despite that it was practically a fluffy read, a pulp fiction in manga form, a tropey, dopey, horror, I enjoyed this. It was an absolute treat. I loved the artwork, the quirky, creepy faces that were practically inhuman. Unless you’re an anime or any old cartoon, it’s not possible for people’s smiles to stretch so widely, so, so creepy. Eyes bulging when they fall, stretched out smiles that were just not human. Big teeth. it’s okay if the character is a ghost or a demon, but I felt like everyone in this manga was walking on the borders of insanity. Maybe I am misunderstanding something? I’m not saying it’s bad for characters to look wacky, I loved the art, but nobody’s eyes bulge when they trip and fall on the floor. Well, in this case, slammed onto the floor, but your eyes probably don’t bulge out. I’m not sure what statement I am trying to make, but I will just say that the crazed faces were just a bit overused in this, making it odd, when it doesn’t need to be.

That’s what Portus is, a creepy, urban legend manga, with a few sentences of valuing your life and the others surrounding you, of forgiveness and not dwelling in your own rage, caused by some delirious force that has ended you for no reason, other than irrationality. It has the unforgivable spirits, the innocent victims, and the the questions of humanity’s darkness. It’s not the most original, but it was fun and enjoyable for me. It’s also quite hard to find. 

Rating: 4/5

The Abortionist’s Daughter: A Novel by Elisa DeCarlo (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)


Pages: 315
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: E-book
This is an Advanced Reader’s Copy that was given in exchange for an honest review, Thank you!

The historical world of the The Abortionist’s Daughter shouldn’t be too unfamiliar. We all learned it in history class, the early 1900s, 1910 to be exact, but I’m not sure how many months passed by in the novel. But instead of focusing on politicians and groups of people, you will learn a bit more intimately, one individual woman, one family, and well, basically, they are not nameless people behind cameras. They are humans in ink. 

This story focuses on the women of that time and the men who run in and then sneak out. The life of the abortionist’s daughter is apparently a scandalous one, to the point where her womanhood and humanity is torn away by her peers. This all happens after her father was convicted of killing a woman by accident, I guess I can say, a botched abortion. 

Melanie Daniels lives a lonely and boring life, with her family reputation destroyed and her strong head leading her into bad situations, she had nothing to look forward to. Due to her father’s unforgivable mistake and the small town’s fear of the lost of traditional values, even her own friends stabbed her in the back, Change is hard to create in a small box, or in this case, a small town, when all the contents of it are virtually the same. One day, She meets a man named James, who never answers questions about himself, and whisks her away to New York, where she meets Gladys Dumbrille and a bunch of Broadway actors. At New York, she finds her calling, Broadway Acting and a group of them, who would accept her as their own after everything in her life seems to collapse. It took James and Gladys to change her fate. 

The world in this novel is basically what I imagined. Pretty dresses and handsome suits, ballrooms and foods that I’ve never eaten, actually I don’t really remember the food, but that’s beside the point. During that time, material goods such as pretty dresses were a privilege, a novelty, something that if you stained with something permanent, it’s worth crying over. So of course Melanie would squeal over any old pretty dress. It would probably only costed 100$ or more, I don’t know. But the world and history is exactly how it should be, there are no inaccuracies. Even the writing seems to fit the time, it’s a bit more simple, yet delicate. F. Scott Fitzgerald sort of writes in a simple, yet poetic way, using small words with bits of pretty frills. In this novel it’s sort of the same thing. Maybe that was the writing style back then. Before, way before, everyone talked like dang James Joyce. Metaphors and crap that didn’t make sense. I hate 1800s novels or anything before 1920. But that’s a bit off topic, the writing is what it should be, aged, yet not pompous like a 100 year old professor with a doctorate. 

If you’re looking for blood and gore, this novel isn’t for you. Abortion isn’t really the main topic of this. The main meat of this novel, the largest soul, is womanhood. The story of how a woman is able to embrace herself, her sexuality, and her very own temple. The early 1900s was when the feminist movement started kicking in, I believe, when women began to “bob” their hair and get jobs. When women began to feel like one. That is the beauty of this. It is a coming of age, a coming of womanhood. 

When I think of novels that stick to the theme of women becoming independent. I think of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and some other ones I can’t remember. What a useless sentence I made. Although, the author is an actress based on what I see on the “About Me” section on Goodreads, so I assume she knows A Doll’s House

Elisa writes a story of self-discovery, where Melanie Daniels doesn’t stick to the kitchen, she sticks to her dream and owns herself. I feel like my words are stale on this. It reminds us that we can’t satisfy the ones who surround us, that we need to walk our own route. Melanie Daniel’s is strong, but stubborn, she can be a bit gullible and selfish, but through all of this, she grows into a better human being. That is what it is, a novel, with delicate frustrations, a woman trying to break free from the world’s unreal expectations, to live and not to be only a human manufacturer, The Abortionist’s Daughter is a novel yelling to the world, that we women, are more than a pink dress. 

Rating: 4.5/5

Dead End: Volume 2 by Shohei Manabe

Pages: 232
Genre: Graphic Novels (Manga), Shounen or Seinen, Action/Drama?
Format: Paperback
Borrowed From Someone
Published by Tokyopop

We continue on with the second of the four volume series. The main characters meets another friend, some flashbacks of the girl, and some gangster violence. There aren’t too many answers revealed, but that’s what you would expect for the second volume. So there isn’t much of a change except that you learn that the main character isn’t much of a brute. he has a heart, he wouldn’t kill a innocent being, even if he had to complete some crazy mission. Again, I love this series so far, except for this one, because I’m going crazy trying to figure out what these pinhead monsters are. I will say that this is probably some of the oddest manga series I’ve ever read. I really wished I wrote down the page numbers for the nice lines of dialogue of life ruminations. 

Rating: 3/5

Film Geek Directed by James Westby

Directed by James Westby
Released: 2005
Country: U.S.
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Indie, Black Comedy?
Rating: 3/5

A rather sad little flick about a guy obsessed with flicks, who can’t function without fictional worlds behind screens, that lets his little heart get torn, and tears every nerd’s heart that sits in a theater as his lack of social skills causes his downfall. 

Rating: 3/5 

(This film is supposed to be a comedy. I found it dreadfully depressing.)

Kamen: Volume 2 by Gunya Mihara (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)

Pages: 225
Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel (Manga), Shonen?
Published by Gen Manga Entertainment Inc. 
This is an Advanced Readers Copy received From Netgalley

Here is the sequel and I read it in one sitting, or more like sitting on a chair and then an hour later, I was sitting on my bed. I have to say, I didn’t like it as much as the first one. But manga series tend to span on for many volumes, so maybe the next one won’t be the same. But Kamen seems to have this war and all of this stuff bores me, talking about their strategies and stating the obvious. While one of the characters was dying, he thought of something on the lines of “I’m dying,” and all I could think of was “No kidding.”

There is a bit of information surrounding the background of the masked people as more of them seem to appear and cause more chaos. There is no forgiveness in this war torn nation, almost a dystopian world. You don’t really get any hints as to why the main character is in this world and why the world is the way it is. I kind of have a feeling that I know of what is happening, but I could be wrong. 

This seems to be more plot driven, actually, the first half isn’t even focused on the main character, it focuses more on what surrounds him. Which I find quite interesting, not a lot of manga, at least the ones I’ve read, don’t do such a writing point of view. But everything gets wrapped up towards the ending when the nameless hero finally decides to do some sword fighting and ends with a giant creature that seems to look sort of like a tree from my vague memory. Of course, this left me with wanting more.

It is enjoyable, this series so far, but the second volume was sort of bland, and I hope that the next one picks up the steam.

Rating: 3/5