Folklore, and Other Stories by Ankhesen Mié


Pages: 116
Genre: Short Stories (novellas), Romance, Fantasy (Mythology/Folklore)
Format: E-book
Published by Middle Child Press

I discovered Middle Child Press from The Blasian Narrative, which is a blog that talks about the experiences of Black women and Asian men. Of course, as someone who is Blasian herself (and Puerto Rican) I thought “Why not check out this blog?” In the process, I found Amaya Radjani and then from there I found Radjani and Mié’s press, Middle Child Press. This book caught my attention because of one thing, folklore, I had a feeling that this was going to be a short story collection of magical realism stories, using folk mythology. And of course I was right. Sort of.

Folklore, and Other Stories is a trilogy of novellas that are all centered around love and the two weird little strands that ties love and identity together. Each novella consisted of a romance between a Black women and an Asian Man (They were East Asian in this collection) and what results before and after the sparks had flown in the air. Of course, romance isn’t the only theme, I don’t know how to explain it, but this is literally the most “literary” romance fiction I have ever read. And I know “literary,” has become the word of literature snobs. But as a person who usually reads a lot of books from that genre, with magical realism which is a genre that is usually written in that genre (Marquez, Murakami), these stories contained everything I loved in a story: complex flawed characters, prose with beautiful flow and description, and dramatic plot, but not overly dramatic. 

“And why is that? Kazuya finally asked her apparition one day. Her answer actually surprised him. Because you don’t belong with these people, she murmured lowly. Because you’re just not that kind of man.”

The first one, Folklore was my favorite of the trilogy. It’s about a guy named Kazuya, who is involved in a high time criminal gang that will invade your home and murder you like a horror movie. Kazuya is a man who has fallen under unfortunate circumstances in a life role of blood, gore, rival gang fights, and corruption. After his father passes, it seems as if everything is not made for a guy like Kazuya. The crime world isn’t for him but yet he has no choice but to stay within that world due to his rivals that are just waiting for the day to watch him breathe his last breath, splattered in blood. But then a woman comes around, her father was murdered, and she gives him a golden mask. Then same fantastical stuff happens from there.

What grabbed me most about Folklore was of course, the folklore. Folk tales are twisted realities that are told in hopes that maybe the listeners will take heed. Notice how most, but not all folktales, have a lesson? If not a lesson, they are basically a build up of coincidences that result in somebody not listening hard enough. And that was kind of what happened to Kazuya. Misfortunes feed on others, it brings them together, and then the coincidences of their life strands bind them together. And well, I don’t want to go further than that. And this paragraph is quite redundant.

“You’re a reader, it continued tauntingly. You read other people’s stories, remember? You’re a “scholar.” You soak up the work of others to compensate for your own gaping lack of imagination.” 

Echo is an odd story to me. It’s very, how do I say, Gothic fairytale, something about this made me think of Tim Burton and the summaries of Shirley Jackson (I’ve never read her yet.) There are lots of black clothing being donned, lots of loneliness, and a dreary mansion living on a mansion, where eccentricities build up and are used to hide behind. And this is all discovered due to the Liang’s desire for their “adopted son,” who buries himself in books as a sort of defense mechanism to avoid socializing, to avoid the isolation knowing that he has no actual family. The Liangs aren’t his real parents, hence the quotation marks. The Liangs bring him to this family mansion where he meets Ololara and fantasies build up in the walls on this mountain. Stories evoke hidden truths and desires.

This story can be sort of relatable to a lot of people because Ololara is a woman who is left alone and always has to give herself away. She gives and gives and gets nothing in return. And that really can drive a person off the universe. And the storytelling part, well, writers writing about telling stories, what do you think? Notice how folktales build the fabric for both Echo and Folktale? 

“People like you can’t be in love, chérie; your kind doesn’t know compromise. You destroy more than you build, and you can’t repair what you damage.”

 The Collection is the last novella and I don’t have much to say about it. It’s more on the romance side, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a lot more light hearted, not as heavy as the first two, and it was kind of amusing due to the fact that the one of the characters uses her money for her every wish. A great ending that lifts up the dark clouds.

One main thing I love about Mié’s trilogy is her prose. It is visceral, dreamy, drenching in bittersweet gothic undertones and roses (for the romance.) There was a few editing hiccups, but it wasn’t often enough to be glaringly obvious and I knew what she meant, so I didn’t mind that, I’m not perfect. But seriously I love her prose, it’s much like when I read Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, maybe it’s because they both weave folk tale with present day slice of life (although this type of slice of life is a bit adverse.) Ankhesen Mié is freaking talented and makes the Indie Literary scene freaking awesome.

Rating: 5/5

All’s Well That Ends Well by Takatsu


Pages: ?
Genre: Cell Phone Novel, YA, Romance
Format: E-book
Published and read on Wattpad

Thanks to technology, the act of reading and writing has changed. Believe it or not, it’s not just desktops and laptops, it’s also your cell phone that has changed this. Imagine that? People writing novels on their Sidekick phones, on their iPhones? This trend started in Japan where mostly the younger generation, I guess out of boredom during train and bus rides, decided to start writing or texting novels on their cell phones. Of course, most of these novels consist of teen or young adult issues or themes. But I do remember reading an article about this Cell Phone novel trend and it was about  a grown man who wrote a novel about a young woman who gave herself over to any man that caught her eye or something like that. So I guess, any person who can deal with tiny keys on cell phones or eye strain can write a cell phone novel.

Due to the limited space, I believe, cell phone novels are written in prose poetry form.

Just like this.
And thus 
this is a cell 
phone novel.
Lots of chocolate
bars and kisses,
for you and your family. 

So you can guess how this book went. It felt pretty odd, reading a novel in poetry prose form, despite that it wasn’t really poetic at all, the form did absolutely nothing for the writing.

All’s Well That Ends Well is about a girl in high school. I don’t really know how the school system works in Japan, but I assume that she might be in her Senior year because they talk a lot about moving on into the future and the “real world.” And of course, like everyone around the world regardless of what language they speak, they all mutter the same words under their breathe, the “What if?” and “Where will I be going?”

The novel is basically about the girl’s last year of high school. She tries her best to get the best grades to get to the best college. She participates in clubs, she crushes on a guy, and her and the guy discover themselves and grow.

But during the whole reading of this novel, I was waiting for this apocalypse to happen. I know you’re looking at me like I’m an idiot, I hope Takatsu never finds this review.  And then I realized at the last minute that all of this is the apocalypse and I’ve been through it myself. The end of high school, my foot slightly stepping into the adult world, knowing that my late father won’t see me go off to college, and knowing that I have to figure out what the hell to do with my life. This is an apocalypse because it is unpredictable, overwhelming, and a bit destructive to your flow of life. And everything you know will leave and come back in a different form, usually something improved. 

I will admit that I kind of regret starting with this and not his Espresso Love because All’s Well That Ends Well, despite it’s wonderful theme. It’s something that I sort of outgrown, because I’ve already been through those changes, and I haven’t gotten through the biggest one yet, which is getting that college degree. I’m just turning 20 next month. So you would think that maybe I would like this, but I didn’t like it much. There were so many cliches, which is expected since this was one of his really old novels, this came out a few years ago. I don’t know exactly how old he was, but I guess he wrote it during that time of change. But it had every trope of a dramatic slice of life TV show. The changes, The crush. They get together. The love. The boyfriend’s troubled life. Then they walk away and leave on their own paths. But it’s great for that audience. I guess I should’ve read it two years ago.

Rating: 3/5

Ravensgem by M. Kirin


Pages: 134
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Format: E-book
Self-published (Read on Wattpad)

I discovered M.Kirin on Tumblr a while ago. Their writing advice is pretty good for those that are just starting out. But to be honest, I feel like a writer can learn most of their writing stuff by just reading and writing obsessively. And then if you’re truly stuck for some odd reason, then you can look up those tips. M. Kirin is pretty impressive, I watch their Youtube channel, and M.Kirin just puts a smile on your face and they write books like breathing air. Their Youtube channel consists of writing advice, Vlogs, and recently some gameplay. Like it’s pretty darn impressive, they said they wrote 12 books in one of their videos? 12 books?!

So this is the first one I chose. Kirin only has three so novellas so far. They all fall into the fantasy genre as you can tell by the cover. The artwork is pretty impressive and is fitting for the story. One thing a lot of artists do is make a nice background and then put the ugliest font possible, I am not even kidding. I don’t know how many times a self-published novel with great artwork has been ruined purely because somebody decided to put bright red Times New Roman font as the title. These guys managed not to do that.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say because I’m not an avid reader of the fantasy genre. I gave up Game of Thrones, I didn’t finish the first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series. Fantasy stories are hard to get into for me and I find myself losing interest especially if it recycles the same tropes. Every fantasy novel that I have read that is written in the English language recycles the same Western Eurocentric tropes of the Lord of the Rings and anything in the medieval times. And honestly, I’m a bit tired of elves, chivalrous knights, and wise wizards. Maybe, the fantasy genre just isn’t for me anymore, since I read Cindy Pon ‘s Silver Phoenix and despite that it was fresh and new with Chinese mythology, it was still on the “meh,” scale, but I consider it better than most fantasy novels I have read, such as Eragon. Recently, I have found that Pon is going to be finishing off the series with a third novel, so now I am considering finishing it off, just to see how it goes, and maybe grow a liking to the genre.

This novella was great due to its dialogue and managing not to recycle some fantasy tropes. But it still had magic and a lore, it’s also a series, so there wasn’t much world building. I noticed that the novella shared a lot of influences from Japanese RPGs. When I read this book, I immediately thought of Final Fantasy, Golden Sun, and maybe Xenoblade Chronicles if you want to stretch it a little more. And being a fan of video games and RPGs this was the most likable detail of this book. The world descriptions were beautiful and vivid. But the characters, unfortunately, were a bit flat to me. Despite, that I enjoyed certain aspects of this book, such as the whole setting and atmosphere, I grew tired of it towards the end. 

It is enjoyable and fluffy, it’s cute and quirky, but a tad bit too much like the angsty main character of the Japanese RPGs I played. And oddly enough, I am listening to SmoothMcGroove’s acapella adaptation of one of the overworld tracks of Xenoblade Chronicles

Ravensgem was enjoyable enough for me to continue the series and hope that maybe the sequel is better. I will admit that it was a tad bit forgettable but executed in a way that is fun and nostalgic due to the fact that it feels like an RPG game. I will definitely read Kirin’s other works.  

Rating: 3/5

Thanks For Ruining My Life by C.V. Hunt


Pages: 130
Genre: Bizarro, Magical Realism, Romance
Format: E-book
Published by Atatl Press

“Was I having some type of hallucination brought on by living in a constant fantasy land of writing?”

More C.V. Hunt is here. It’s an older book. But it’s definitely great and it’s my favorite one by her for sure.  Like her other ones, it focuses on the miserable life of a lonely writer or book nerd that isolates herself to escape from her own reality. She only has one friend, lives in an apartment, can barely make the rent, and is basically dissatisfied with life.

“You’d pretend you cared, but everyone in the world is selfish. No one cares about anything unless it directly affects them”

For once, I’m actually going to use quotes from the books I read, I’m actually bending pages and highlighting on the kindle. It actually enhances the reading experience, because you are choosing your favorite words for future visitation. 

Anyway, unlike most of her other books, this one seems to lean more to the magical realist side as the main character suddenly meets a man with antlers. They develop a love relationship and they travel between dream and reality. Within these dreams, the fears and pains in realities manifest to remind the character of her past suffering and the reason why she buries herself under it all.

Thanks For Ruining My Life is her magnum opus. Once again, it contains everything I love about Hunt’s work, except that the ending actually left me in despair somewhat. Despite that most of her books don’t really have happy endings, it was a sort of ending that was bittersweet. But at the same time, it left me in despair because I kind of saw myself in this character. The constant want to escape reality and having a hard time coping with stress and troubles, wanting to run away, and then boom, everything changes whether you want it to or not. And it makes you so dang miserable.

Once again, like I said for her short story collection, C.V. Hunt has yet to disappoint me. Her writing isn’t fancy and flowery, it isn’t always sassy, instead it’s mean, blunt, and it will stab you eventually whether or not you provoked it. it always brings out the sides of you that you don’t want to admit exists.

“I wanted to be happy. I wanted to do things that made me happy. But in everyone else’s eyes, being happy made me an asshole. Every holiday or weekend or birthday we’re supposed to hang around each other and pretend we have some bond. Or pretend we had something in common besides DNA. I may have grown up with them, but I didn’t know them.”

It has that dark sense of humor too. But like I said before, this one touched me real deep. This novella was one of the books I read so far this year that actually made me feel something, actually made me wish that I had it in physical form instead of on kindle.

So I finally decided to write this post in the late evening and I honestly read this book a few weeks ago. College, a blogging funk, and some other little projects I’m doing has been the reason why I’ve been slow with posts and losing my words for these reviews or discussions. But seriously, Thanks For Ruining My Life is some of the most touching, bleak, mind absorbing bizarro novel I have read so far. It takes a lot of talent to bring existential crisis and absurdist fantasy to form a fantasy tale that makes you cringe and cry in the writer’s understanding of you.

” Do you know how to spend the rest of your life alone? He shrugged. “Be condescending to the people you love for not seeing the world through your eyes.”

Rating: 5/5