you don’t exist by Pablo D’Stair and Chris Rhatigan

23016229

Pages: 153
Genre: Noir, Literary Fiction, Novella, Short Stories
Format: E-book
Published by All Due Respect Books

What I like about the look of this book and the others that Pablo D’Stair is involved with, is just that simple and pulpy look. Those little books you read during transportation trips or a cold winter night. I wouldn’t say it’s a comfy read, but the shortness of it makes for an easy read.

It’s split into two novellas, it cost like 99 cents, so why not get it? This is also a great way to get introduced to these authors, a little taste of what they write. My first D’Stair and Rhatigan.

Both sort of have the same conflict, a dude finds a load of money that seems to have appeared out of nowhere, they snatch it up and run away. The main conflict is the paranoia. Which is what made these novellas so fun to read, that anticipation, are they going to get caught or not? The endings, however, leave you with no answer, which is quite surprising, because most books in this genre tend to say “He did it! And you probably already knew, but he did it!” 

That was what I liked about these books. The Pablo one was a perfect example of paranoia. The narrator finds the money, he struggles back and forth, the devil and the angel dragging him from both sides. The Rhatigan one was a lot quicker paced and the narrator was a sort of a wimp in my opinion, he acted tough, but buckled down when it came to the real stuff. But at the same time I don’t blame him. He sort of gave in faster than the first, he seemed to have a bit of a  more guilty consciousness while the first one ran away and didn’t seem to have the desire to return it as much as the second.

Although I will admit that I liked the second better than the first. I felt that the first was pretty slow, but at the same time it was meant to be that way. It built the paranoia up till the point where it overwhelmed me and I kind of felt like slapping the narrator and telling him to just go. I understand that it’s a tough situation, but he felt like that one guy that kept on panicking during the crime and you had to slap him and scold him to calm down or something like that.

 What I also found odd, was that both characters seemed to be escaping from a bad in there life and then the money appeared, and you would think it would bring improvement. But it was too good to be true right? It’s like boom! Your wish is granted, but where the hell did it come from and what did you do to deserve it? 

Rating: 4/5

Advertisements

Best of 2014: The year of I don’t know what to read and I kept switching books and reading three different ones at the same time

Some were my favorites, but a favorite could also mean it was memorable, even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. So these are the most memorable and most enjoyable. Not in particular order.

1. After Dark by Haruki Murakami

2. How to Shake the Other Man by Derek Palacio

3. So Different Now by Ben Tanzer

4. I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying by Matthew Salesses

5. Humboldt or the Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky

6. Smells like Plastic and Hurt Feelings by J. Bradley

7. The Secret of Evil by Roberto Bolaño 

8. There is No End to This Slope by Richard Fulco

9. Alex + Ada Vol.1 by Jonathon Luna and Sarah Vaughn 

10. Bloodlight: The Apocalypse of Robert Goldner by Harambee K. Grey-Sun 

11. The Box and the Briefcase, the Moleque and the Old Man and the First Coming of the Second Son of God by John M. Keller (You win longest title too) 

12. F: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann 

13. Stay Close, Little Ghost by Oliver Serang

14. Dead End Vol. 1 by Shohei Manabe 

15. The Vines by Christopher Rice 

16. Mankiller by Ashley Mayne

17. Salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

18. Fat Man and Little Boy by Mike Meginnis 

19. Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward

20. Hell’s Waiting Room by C.V. Hunt

21. I Truly Lament by Mathias B. Freese

22.  Bodies Made of Smoke by J. Bradley

23. Rude Vile Pigs by Leo X. Robertson 

24.  Winterswim by Ryan W. Bradley

25. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

26. NW by Zadie Smith

27. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

28. The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover by Mark Leidner 

29. Findesferas by Leo X.Robertson

30. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Honorable Mentions:

Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas Vol.1 by Fernando A. Flores

Person by Sam Pink

Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño 

Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai

Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog by Paul Monette 

Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin 

No One Belongs Here More Than You  by Miranda July

Other Stuff:

Movies:

Ip Man 1 and 2

A Public Ransom

Music:

When the Cellar Children See the Light by Mirel Wagner

A Million Miles by Amy Fleisher Madden (ADVANCED READER’S COPY FROM STORY CARTEL)

23480654

Pages: 215
Genre: Contemporary, Music, NA/YA
Format: E-book 
Published by Animal Manufacturing Co. 
I received this from Story Cartel for an honest review

While looking around on Story Cartel, I found this novel. This all happened when I discovered the short story collection from Candace Habte. And of course the first thing that attracted me was the book cover and in the description, the author types that it is for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, and two other novels that I know of, but never read. The two I mentioned I read I was fond of, but I didn’t think they were the coming of literature god, but they were definitely some of the greats of contemporary YA lit. 

A Million Miles is a coming of age, which is my favorite of the YA genre. I tend to find them a lot more relatable, a lot more touching, and more warming for the heart. There are some that are melodramatic, there are some that seem more like a fantasy than actual contemporary. But that’s okay, because it’s just a book. All life lessons come in all kinds of forms. These little life lessons, despite how unrealistic they can be sometimes, sort of help you cope, what I mean is that they tell you that everything isn’t too bleak in the future, and even if it doesn’t come out right, you will somehow crawl out at some point. 

I’m assuming this novel is sort of autobiographical, the woman who wrote this owned a record label much like the narrator of this novel. Even the character’s appearance, as described in this novel, seems to be a younger version of her. I don’t know about the band members though. I did check out her label and was surprised to find that I knew most of the bands on there and have probably heard their music too. I listen to Jimmy Eat World occasionally and actually thought that the novel’s band, Crimson + Clover, was a reference to Jimmy Eat World’s “A Praise Chorus,” where he says crimson and clover towards 
the end of the song. Turns out I was wrong and that album came out way after the events in this novel. I think I might’ve been a cell when this happened, but I’m not good at remembering dates. I forget my sister’s age sometimes, so what would you expect? 

There’s no fancy prose or magical realism or anything from a typical literary novel, it’s just plain old growing up in an environment that is constantly moving, disappointing, yet so thrilling. In this case, it’s a tour bus, that the main characters practically lived on. There are also some hotels where the band members drink their souls away until they puke.  

So basically, this novel is about a girl who becomes the merchandise seller for a band. She’s super passionate about music and despite what she says about herself, she seems to be quite charismatic and sells merch with no problem. There’s sort of a love triangle that was formed in between the band members and her, but it wasn’t like most YA novels where it was like the main topic of the book. The romance is actually a bit more realistic than in the other YA novels, where it isn’t too instalove, too overbearingly clingy or desperate. Except for that one little kiss from a guy named Asher.There’s also some hurtful things inside and out that happen in between the characters. I kind of don’t know what else to say, but her writing is very simple, but not simple enough to be childlike, but fitting for the genre and age group.

 I feel like this novel is perfect for any music lover, especially for women and girls, females regardless of age, because just like how the narrator surprises everyone with her female presence, woman are pretty underrepresented in the music industry and that needs to change. Unfortunately, when it comes to female musicians or just females in general in the music industry, they tend to focus on what’s on the outside instead of her actual inner package, her talents, her smarts, her kindness. I hate showing  a music video to somebody and the guys pay attention to the female’s appearance more than the actual music.

But the main thing I will say about this novel, is that it’s a breathe of fresh air for me and for most YA novels. It does what it was meant to do in the genre, a coming of age, where characters learn and regret and move on. The whole tour truck itself is sort of a giant physical metaphor of growing up and changing into maybe, our true selves. People grow up as they realize the trial of mistakes and their future choices will sort of clean up the mess a bit, put the trash aside. 


Rating: 4/5 

Winterswim by Ryan W. Bradley

23121657

Pages: 173
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Format: E-book
Published by Civil Coping Mechanisms
Won in a TNBBC Giveaway. Thank you! 

Here’s the other Bradley in the small press world. I feel like both Bradleys are kind of underrated. And honestly, I’ve never read anything by the Ryan one. Here is my first and it won’t be my last, because I freaking enjoyed the living hell out of it. I believe I read this in three days. 

Winterswim is a thriller and this genre, along with noir, is something I don’t read too often. I’m actually in the process of reading a noir by Pablo D’Stair and Chris Rhatigan, called you don’t exist, a novella duo. So I guess this Bradley novel has opened me up into a world where there’s some good stuff, because I honestly can’t stand most  mystery novels, I find them boring sometimes, and I’ve already figured who dun it, but the author slows it down so it could be publishable for the big four, make 400 or 500 pages, instead of 200 or 150. A perfect example of a mystery that I had mixed feelings with, bored and a bit of thrill, was Jane Casey’s The Burning. 

Bradley uses a sparse prose that makes you imagine things for yourself, that echoes a sort of narrator that tells it as it is with a sort confused feeling of should I bow down and cry or should I move on because this has all happened before. The narrator is some kid who lives in some odd little town in the middle of nowhere. The people there seem to be bored out of their minds, there is absolutely no crime there too, until a bunch of young girls are murdered. Each girl is connected to the narrator somehow, by sight, by classroom, or by hookup. 

He is the detective of the novel, without actually being a detective. The police officers either don’t care or they just didn’t know, which makes me wonder now, if they knew all along and they just let it slide, since the one committing the murders was a charismatic, delusional, alcoholic, drug addicted priest, then why did they let it happen? They just didn’t care is the answer? This whole thing kind of reminded me of the crime portion of the novel, 2666. Which I haven’t finished yet. Much like Bolaño, this minamalistic prose kind of makes this all creepy, with it’s “Oh hey, here’s that dead body, now sweat and pant, because it’s scary and it’s there.” I’m not really sure what I’m trying to convey here, but yeah. 

Maybe music has finally taken it’s toll on my thoughts. But anyway, the short chapters also made this suspense build up and increase with it’s snow and it’s darkness, sweat and dirt, and dead bodies. I really loved this. I have one problem with it though, and it’s the women in the novel. I am sort of confused as to why every woman wanted to sleep with the priest. Was he that charismatic and handsome that even little teens wanted a piece of him. Is everybody that bored in this little town that little teen girls get horny over smoke? Did I miss something? Replace “Fancy” in Iggy Azaelea’s song, “Fancy,” with horny and there you go, every female in this novel. I’m not making a feminist thing, I was just confused, this is my first Bradley and apparently this isn’t uncommon in some of his books? 

Yeah, anyway, this novel is probably going to be on my faves of 2014. I didn’t have too many faves this year, maybe earlier in the year, but throughout school, everything was sort of “meh.” But this short novel is perfect in its form and genre. Light and fleeting, dark  with soil and ice, and an ending that is oddly the most peaceful death for a villain I’ve ever read so far in a noir.

Rating: 4.5/5 

All Sugar Ain’t Sweet: Short Stories by Candace Habte (ADVANCED READER’S COPY FROM STORY CARTEL)

23925600

Pages: 33
Genre: Short Stories, Literary
Format: E-book
Self-Published
I received this from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review

I found her blog one day, I don’t know what I was searching for, but it was a blog post about Nayyirah Waheed. When she mentioned that she also wrote poetry,  I was like I want to read some, but instead I found this. 

It’s a novella length short story collection and the title basically sums it up. Everything isn’t always nice. Although I feel like I don’t have much to say since it is very short. 

There are three or four short stories, not too short and not too long. What really got me into the story was the voice of each. Each story had it’s own unique character and perspective. Candace is freaking good at keeping a character within your mind, there isn’t much dialogue, but plenty of inner narrative that will lay the story down with you and make you feel as if you are that person. A strong independent woman who regrets distancing herself from her late mother, Kids meeting another dysfunctional kid in a store, a woman killing kids after losing her own, and a young woman who writes to her dead boyfriend. All different ways of tragedies and life’s oddities, every sort of bitter aspect thrown at people to make living harder. 

She even pulled off a few genres, the sci-fi one at the end, most of them were literary or contemporary stories. But I felt that most of them were literary, in a way where they were written with reality, contemporary issues. In a way to feel like a person that isn’t you. What am I even saying?

Most of her stories had pretty satisfying endings, it wasn’t like reading Miranda July’s collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Sometimes keeping things short is the best, I liked that the collection was short, but I enjoyed her writing so much that I kind of wished there were more. So I look forward to her future projects. A great debut.

Short Stories I liked:

All of them. 


Rating: 4.5/5

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July



I have the yellow one, but the e-book ones are only yellow anyway. 

Pages: 225

Genre: Short Stories, Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Format: E-book
Published by Scribner

I discovered this book one day and the one thing that attracted me was this cute cover. A bright yellow with minimalist typography. But I didn’t actually get to buy it until it was on sale earlier this month or late last month. It’s a short story collection and I’m always iffy about them. They’re always half way good. And the publisher or main guy of CCLap, Jason Pettus,wrote an excellent essay on Goodreads about this book, because I sort of felt the same way.

I will get stabbed for saying this, but July’s writing felt like a more articulate version of Tao Lin. Sometimes she sounded like Tao Lin and sometimes she sounded like a female version of him that is sort of less awkward than him. I loved her writing style more than his, but I’ve only read one of his novels, so other than his poetry, I’m not really too familiar with his prose. 

Her words feel poetic and sort of like the stuff of a self-aware teenage girl who discovers too early on in life that the world sucks. It sounds like a  sullen girl. Despite that some of the characters were middle aged, I kept imaging them as young woman, my age. I wasn’t sure why, but it could’ve been the writing, it’s very angst, love hungry 20 something. 

But yet the themes that go on in this story collection give off this “This isn’t what it looks like, don’t be fooled.” It’s dark despite the bright yellow cover,it’s quirky and sort of like the weird kid sitting in the back making plans to murder everyone. It’s that socially inept sweet looking Zooey Deschanel person that will stab you fifty times after apparently betraying her. It’s a book that can be sweaty and icky and disturbingly distraught in its failed relationships. It is spiteful and vengeful in the characters’ fates.

I felt that I liked the short stories better than the longer stories. But the longer stories were more immersive, with a deeper impact, but I always felt that I just I couldn’t wait for it to end, I wasn’t sure why. The shorter ones were easy to get into, but then they ended so fast, that you’re like “Wait, what?” They were like really unsatisfying flash fictions, but they were longer than flash fiction, what I’m saying doesn’t make sense.

So I felt like this short story collection was kind of “meh,” but at the same I want to love it too, because they were definitely some stories that were going to stick with me. But I also feel like Miranda July won’t be a person that I would freak over if she wrote a new novel. 

So here’s the list of my favorite stories, not in particular order. Memorable, amusing, enjoyed, disturbed by, etc:

The Shared Patio
The Swim Team
The Man on the Stairs
This Person
Mon Plaisir
The True Things
The Sister
Something That Needs Nothing
It was Romance
The Moves

Rating: 4/5


Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

18079683

Pages: 308
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover
Published by RiverheadHelen Oyeyemi is one of those authors that I heard a lot about and of course, I just had to try out one of her books. Fairy tales, Magical realism, that was a sell for me. Then one day this book popped up on Book Outlet, so obviously that was how I got this in its hardcover form.

Unfortunately, the reviews on Goodreads seem pretty mixed to me. There’s a lot of positive ones, but there’s also a lot “mehs” and “Oh my gosh this is terrible.” I totally see why. The synopsis is totally misleading. It is not a retelling, it has fairy tale elements, but it is definitely not a retelling.  A Cinderella retelling it is not. But there are elements of it.

So the main run of this novel is the trio whose names are part of the title. Boy is a woman who flees from her dysfunctional home, where her father abuses her. A little town becomes her refuge, a town that seems to hold a high value for beautiful objects and people. Snow is the odd daughter of Boy’s husband, Arturo, whom she marries after settling down in the town. She is of mixed descent, but apparently very White-passing. When Boy marries Arturo, and has a child, she exposes them as light skinned African Americans, when the baby comes out dark skinned. That baby grows up into a teen during her part of the novel, her name is Bird. She is well aware of the fact that she stands out and people don’t like her differences. 

This novel takes place from the 1950s onward in a little town. Beauty, shallowness, and racism are the widest strands that make up this book. I don’t want to get too much into the plot, because then I will ruin it. But here is one thing, mirrors and the self, inside and out, those two things are what makes the novel so meaningful. 

Helen writes in this beautiful, poetic prose, that contains a childlike innocence that seems to enchant you and amuse you with its delicate sweet face. What made me love this book more than anything was her words. Much like Kazuo Ishiguro, she writes in a way where the story moves slow, but the prose keeps you in. Even after I had set aside for a long while, I came back to the book and it managed to pull me back in its world. 

It’s a really odd novel though. It takes place in a time where racial discrimination was a lot more visible, like I said before. Although racism is still glaringly obvious now, but most people seem to ignore it. Actually I take that back, it’s not an odd novel, it’s very depressing and heart breaking at times. Because during this time, even after slavery was abolished and African Americans began moving to the north, they were still treated as less than human. The family that Boy marries into is ashamed of their Blackness, they have internalized so much racism, that basically the family members had married in with light skin African Americans and moved up North just to have the comfortable life and pretend to be White. They were able to blend in with White people , assimilate with them, so when Boy came around, and Bird was born, they probably feared for their life, the sight of her dark skin. And for some odd reason, Boy took this as a curse and takes it out on Snow. 

But to be quite honest, despite that I loved this book so much, I felt there wasn’t a main theme to this. There was just one large thread, which was the family and the time they grew up in. I’m not sure what else to say or covey what I mean, but despite that I loved this novel, it could’ve been a five star, there was something missing. A lost, little tendril, and don’t even get me started on that questionably problematic twist with one of the characters. My interpretation is a bit different, I felt that the character became that way due to the trauma and his sexuality, I assumed that was why he became what he was, because he wanted to leave the old self behind and start anew, but at the same time nothing was going to change. I could also throw in that mirror thing into too. But every reader is different and who knows what the author meant. 

Boy, Snow, Bird is a novel that I will want to re-read sometime in the future. Because I loved it, the plot slow and patient and dreamy in it’s fairy tale, childlike prose. But I don’t know, I feel like I need to pay attention, a little bit closer, and maybe listen to those talking spiders better. That’s a reference if you haven’t read this yet.

Rating: 4/5