The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare


Genre: Horror, Novella, Noir

Format: E-book

Published by Broken River Books

Towards the end of Halloween, I wanted to read something that would fit the mood. I have a bunch of unread Anderson Prunty novels and there was a new C.V. Hunt novel out. I sighed to myself and instead tapped on this novella. I was somehow burned out on Anderson Prunty after reading Creep House and I just didn’t want to add a brand new book to my ever growing TBR, despite that I love Hunt’s work. And the truest thing that J. David Osborne, who runs Broken River Books, has ever said in a blog post or some other social media post I don’t remember where I read it, was that when people obtain or download a book for free, most likely they’re not going to read it right away or they might not read it at all. But I managed to get into this one though and for its length and content, in the spirit of Halloween, it’s totally worth $2.99.

Cesare is known for his horror genre novels, well, I think that’s what he mainly writes. I looked through his repertoire on Goodreads and found a exploitation genre novel much in the spirit of those cannibal exploitation films from the Italians to the recent Eli Roth. And well this one, is kind of sort of the same thing, but on a low budget scale. It’s more like a snuff film actually.

The narrator, who’s name escapes me, is an indie film maker who makes smutty and gore filled internet films that the weirdos out there enjoy. Then he meets a girl who verges onto a sort of manic pixie dream girl. she’s the girl he’s always dreamed of, beautiful, fame hungry and she’s got the sadistic streak he does. So what happens is that together they make a film with a longtime friend named Burt and his horror dream girl gets a little bit too into character. So no more Burt and the narrator is slowly getting famous off his snuff video.

It’s about ambition and being careful for what you wish for. Ever since the main dude’s manic pixie girl committed her atrocity, they begin to feel on edge and their relationships dwindles, but most people didn’t seem to separate the real blood from the watery ketchup at first. And then you question, who’s the real actual sadistic killer in this novella?

The First One You Expect is interesting because you get to read about the underlings of horror films. The ones who can’t afford the high tech supplies but yet still have the brains to make a decent horror out of home made scratch. It’s a tribute to the underground peasants of art. But it’s also a satire in a way, the novella’s got a cheap, campy feel to it. Much like what the main dude directs. It’s got the noir elements, but there isn’t much suspense since you know just from the title and the first chapter. But this would make a great indie film for the festivals. I kind of also got a “failed artist” feel from this novella. The novella is a crime novel, a noir, and a self-deprecating literary novel about a loser artist. It’s kind of like a cut-throat drama and a satirical prod to the underground artists who are just frothing at the corners of their lips to be recognized.

Rating: 4/5

The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai


Pages: 175
Genre: Literary Fiction, Japanese literature, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Published by New Directions

So I decided to break the silence on here for a little bit and write a short review of this rather short novel. I’m not sure if it’s short enough to be a novella, but most people don’t seem to notice and claim that it is.  I find it very hard to find pictures of this novel in the Google image searches. I had to search for it on Goodreads, but for some reason you can get the pink, No Longer Human pretty easily. 

It seems like No Longer Human, which was his first novel, is much more popular than The Setting Sun and honestly, I will admit that I was quite disappointed with this one. I gave it a three-star rating, but I honestly felt like giving it a two. I couldn’t though, I just couldn’t bear to do that to Dazai since I enjoyed No Longer Human so much. 

The Setting Sun almost felt like a sort of side story to No Longer Human since there were so many similar elements, the main character with a tragic flaw, the deeply flawed man who commits suicide who was actually a lot like the main character of No Longer Human, and of course, that unattainable desire. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what was the point of this novel. It was definitly one of those novels that were more of a concept than actual meaningful plot. If that makes sense. I do read a lot of concept or driven novels, but this one left me scratching my head. I know it’s supposed to be about the fall of the aristocrat class in Japan after World War II, but something about this novel made me shrug my shoulders and forgot all about it.

The whole plot of the story is centered around the tragic heroine’s life living as an aristocrat who’s life of being an aristocrat has died. She cheated on her husband and is divorced and basically does nothing except housework and occasionally a little bit of labor for when the money gets low. But what’s constantly looming over her head is the possibility of her mother passing away and leaving her alone to the world, because all this women had was her mother and alcoholic depressed brother and a lover who is also a bit of a bum.

Much like Dazai’s first novel, the main heroine gets into a lot lof shameful mess, such as once again cheating on her husband and doing ditzy crap like almost accidently setting a village on fire. Unlike, his first novel though, he brings in some weird coincidences where black snakes seem to predict incoming death or misfortune.

The woman is lost and in love, in fear of the future as her mother passes, and trapped in her home with her mother and brother as they depart from her life. And then all she has is the one lover who isn’t really there for her, because forbidden love stuff, and he’s married already. 

The Setting Sun is a lot like No Longer Human, but it’s just subpar, plot-wise. The prose is beautiful and delicate, much like Yukio Mishima’s works, who was influenced by Dazai, but towards the middle of the book, it got weighed down by the tragic heroine’s constant moping. I get that the situation would cause this, but it was just so overwhelming, I felt like I was watching one of those really over dramatic soap operas. So this second novel, very nice and classical, but it was a total flop for me. 

Rating: 3/5

Update and Book Haul (This was supposed to be uploaded before the Andersen Prunty book post)

So just to keep this updated, here I am. This blog isn’t dead, it’s in college mode. I’m at a stressful period, but that doesn’t mean I am not doing anything related to this blog. I have three draft posts of reviews coming soon, if I get the time to write them. I’m getting some writing done, but I am not forgetting this blog, nope I am not, I am that much of a nerd. There are so many books that I am really excited to write about. But for now here is a small book haul.

1. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi 


2. Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan


3. Drifting House by Krys Lee


List by Matthew Roberson Blog Tour

Why, hello there. Here’s a blog tour I’m participating in. Welcome to the blog, Matt Roberson.  Thanks for stopping by! That dog looks either really sad or angry…

Synopsis—Vignettes of a middle-class American family told through lists, each reflecting their obsessions, their complaints, their desires, and their humanity.
A suburban family of four—a man, woman, boy, and girl—struggle through claustrophobic days crowded with home improvement projects, conflicts at work and school, a job loss, illnesses, separation, and the wearying confrontation with aging. The accoutrements of modern life—electronic devices and vehicles—have ceased to be tools that support them and have become instead the central fulcrums around which their lives wheel as they chase “cleanliness” and other high virtues of middle American life.
List of lists in List: A Meta-List
1) There’s a dedication list, and a list of acknowledgments. (Those are to be expected.)
2) Then there’s the list of ways to die, from a man who’s not sure he doesn’t want to.
3) There are lists of chores no one wants to do.
4) Lists of complaints from honestly aggrieved individuals.
5) There are lists of items to purchase.
6) Of steps to take.
7) Jobs to get done.
8) There are lists of things characters wish they could say or force themselves not to think
8a) And treats they might give themselves—as rewards (duly earned).
9) Lists of health problems they’d better keep an eye on.
10) There are lists of schedules, and amounts due, and items owned.
11) Lists and lists and lists of things to worry about.
12) Lists of days passed.
12a) Of people known.
12b) Of memories understood and not.
13) There are lists of observations
13a) And sometimes even understandings
13b) (but they mostly come too late).
14) Before all’s said and done, there’s a list of the author’s other publications.
15) Last, of course, there’s a list of other writers who think you should read List.
If you missed yesterday’s tour stop, jump over to [PANK] to read an interview about the content of Matt’s novel. Tomorrow, the last stop is The Next Best Book Club blog, where List is examined in the context of Generation X turning 40!

Matthew Roberson is the author of three novels, 1998.6, Impotent, and List, and the editor of a critical book, Musing the Mosaic. His short fiction has appeared in journals such as Fourteen Hills, Fiction International, and Western Humanities Review. He teaches at Central Michigan University, in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

During the School Days, Who Wants to Be Present?: Guests on the Blog

Do you like small press fiction? Depressing literary fiction works? Magical Realism? Freaky Sci-Fi? Historical Fiction? Well, be my guest blogger. Sorry if this sounds too much like an advertisement on TV. I’ve never done this before. I don’t even have many friends, most of those friends don’t read books very often or at all. If so, email me and send me a document of whatever review of a book you read. I wouldn’t mind having an online book friend. EDIT: I forgot the graphic novels and manga, it would be so awesome to see more of that on the blog too. 

Yesterday by Haruki Murakami


Pages: 12
Genre: Contemporary, Japanese Literature, Short Story
Format: The New Yorker Website

A short story by Murakami, I never read any of his short story collections to be honest. The only ones I read was this one and “Tony Takitani”. I didn’t have high expectations for this. It was simply a story, the recollections of a guy’s friend during his teenage years. Like most of his stories, there’s always that aching pain of loneliness and for some reason, those last few paragraphs or whenever the main character had spoken of it, it kind of struck me and tugged my heart strings. It’s something I’m going through now, I don’t interact or socialize normally with anyone outside my family, I always either don’t know what to say or I say too much. This short story felt like those times where I distanced myself too much and the bonds of friendship are so temporary, so lightly drawn.

Rating: 4/5

The Beautiful Art Work of Small Presses

So yesterday, late at night, I was looking at books, no kidding right? So I noticed one thing, small presses really have the nicest book covers and I’ve grown to appreciate even the most of avant-garde artwork and just wacky art in general. I’ve always appreciated the odd, but I think this admiration has grown ever since. So this will be a post dedicated to small press artwork. It will not be in particular order, but I will put pictures of my favorite book art. [Edit] When I changed the layout and template of the blog, all the pictures got placed out of orderly format.

1. Broken River Books 


Well, I guess you can see that I really enjoy the artwork of these guys. It really fits their theme, gritty, absurd, scary as hell, or maybe funny as hell, I’m not sure. The only book I have is the top second one, the J. David Osborne one. J. David Osborne is the publisher of all of these books, I’m not sure who designs the artwork though. If it’s him, he’s a pretty awesome artist, or whoever does any of it. All of these books sort of remind me of the artwork of pulp fiction mass market paperbacks, but a lot more appealing and 100 times less cheesy. This small press actually calls itself a publisher of crime fiction and apparently pulp fiction had a lot of that. I wasn’t born during that time, so I don’t know any of that. I think the closest thing to pulp fiction we have now are the fantasy novels that we read as kids, that were printed on these fat, yellowed out, mass market paperbacks. Even those are hard to find now. The last book, the one with the koi fish on it, is not part of Broken River Books, it’s from another publisher, but the sequel is coming out from Broken River Books in November. 

2. Lazy Fascist Press

I have a feeling that a J. A. Tyler book might be somewhere on this blog, or am I’m thinking of J. Bradley? I always feel like I have one of Tyler’s works, but I don’t know, I feel like his name is everywhere. Anyway, Lazy Fascist is definitely  one of those absurd, out there, possible brain explosion books. Maybe a sort Kafkaesque surrealism in some or a Murakami on acid. I’ve only read Person by Sam Pink, but I hope to read more of their stuff soon. I believe Sam Pink does the artwork for his books? A lot of them are quite beautiful, very colorful and these macabre characters are somehow, beautiful. 

3. Civil Coping Mechanisms 

Civil Coping Mechanisms has a lot more variety, from paintings to digital art. Again, I’m not sure who is the main artist behind all of this, but these are pleasing to the eyes. Even the typography is wonderful. A whole rainbow of colors, but I do notice a lot of shades of blues going on here. Everything has to have a drop of blue, but of course that is not necessarily true. What am I even talking about? I don’t have much to say for these guys, but it’s all real nice.

4. (KUBOA) Press

Yes, Kuboa has to be on here. They are a whole new thing on their own. Paintings and some sort of digital art. It’s all in good taste, a sort of retro pulp fiction look, they do what they want, when they want, and all of that DIY stuff. Pablo D’Stair is the owner of this small press, he makes movies, he writes books. The artist of most of these is Carlos M. Gonzalez – Fernandez. The water paint book covers, well it looks like water paints, are quite nice looking, they could be nice portraits on their own, and the ones starting with Dana Todorovic are quite nice too, with typography that doesn’t hurt the eyes. It’s all nicely coordinated and probably fits the story. If I could I would post all of the pictures. 

5. Two Dollar Radio

Well, Two Dollar Radio, a small press that managed to get so big that even the mainstream magazines are raving about it. Their book covers beat most mainstream book covers and there is so much in there that just sounds amazing. They really are hard to ignore, mesmerizing looking books with amazing sounding plots and synopses. I’m really thinking of putting Mira Corpora on my Christmas List. 

Here are some other small presses that I find amazing:

Outpost 19

Sator Press

Dr. Cicero Books

Nouvella Books 

There are more, but I can’t think of anything else. Most of these I don’t even have, but again, this is all about artwork. I own or read at least two books from most of these except Two Dollar Radio and Outpost 19. 

ARCs I Must Review and Stuff I Really Want to Read But Got Too Distracted

These are things that I have to review or things I’ve been wanting to read and never got to it yet. My reading moods have been changing too much. 

1. California by Edan Lepucki (the only physical one I have)

2. The Tragedy of Fidel Castro by Joao Cerqueira

3. Love Alone by Paul Monette

4. The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen

5. Living in Dog Years by E. Bell 

6. Charactered Pieces by Caleb J. Ross

7. These Days by Jack Cheng

8. Endlessly by C.V. Hunt

9. Confessions From a Dark Wood by Eric Raymond

10. The Tragic Fate of Moritz Tot by Dana Todorovic

11. Ambient Florida Position by Josh Spilker

12. The Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw

13. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (FINISH IT OFF ALREADY!)

March Wrap Up

1. We Will Take What We Can by Matthew Salesses


Rating: 5/5

A flash fiction novella or chapbook about the odd things of life. 

2.Somewhere In-Between by Donna Milner


Rating: 4/5

A touching novel about forgiveness. 

3. Knights of Sidonia Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei

Rating: 3/5

A strange, somewhat creepy, mecha alien manga. A fun read. 

4. Turtle and Dam by Scott Abrahams


Rating: 4/5

An amusing and somewhat relatable novel about a Chinese dude who gets a job as a journalist. 

5. Love Poems by Charles Bane Jr.


Rating: 4/5

Romantic poems to life. 

6. Person by Sam Pink


Rating: 4/5

An amusing novella with an adorably odd and somewhat pathetic narrator.

7. NW by Zadie Smith

Rating: 3/5

A novel I enjoyed but didn’t understand, because of the strange writing. It was almost like reading surrealism.

Book Review: NW by Zadie Smith

Pages: 401
Genre: Literary Fiction, British Literature, Contemporary
Format: Paperback

Here’s the first thing I’m going to say about this book, it took me freaking forever to read, which isn’t a bad thing. I just wanted to state this. I really like Zadie Smith, On Beauty was a great book, frustrating at times, but it was very thought provoking and I enjoyed it. So after reading that, I put NW on a Christmas list and I was really excited to read it. 

The first day I started reading, it was a total page turner. I wasn’t sure why because the plot is nothing out of this world. What made me like this book was the writing style. Zadie Smith really knows how to use words in a odd way. Her writing is poetic yet so plain and simple. Sometimes her writing kind of has this flow, as if she’s rapping? Her writing reeks of intelligence and the thoughts of a people observer. That’s what this novel is all about, the people of Northwest London. She learns and writes about these characters by observing what’s around her, by watching the way people talk, move, and feel. I could be horribly wrong thinking about that is the theme for the book. 

However, I feel like I don’t have much to say about this novel. The whole thing centers around the lives of the two main characters Leah Hanwell and Natalie Blake (also known as Keisha)
Leah Hanwell is the girl who doesn’t want change. Life seems to be the horrifying thing that if something life changing, like having a child, would destroy her routine of just living life as it were just a another chore to do on the list. She is afraid of moving forward but she doesn’t want to go back, she is stuck in a bubble of Leah’s existential crisis. Natalie Blake is a woman who seems to be obsessed with her own self but never notices it except her own friends. She loves to talk about how successful she is, as a Black woman. Her character seems to be some sort of social commentary on people who seem to think they are above others. She even changes her name, to leave the past self behind, due to some sort of shame of who she was. She seems to be conflicted with a certain identity that she wants to throw away but keep it in a jar to admire once in awhile. I think this might be a social commentary on race and class. Then there was a guy named Felix who gets killed and a portion of the book covers his life before dying. The plot in this book is not linear and perspectives change to Natalie’s and then Leah’s. I’m not really sure what Zadie was trying to get at, but oh well. Leah might be emotionally disturbed from living life, Natalie has an identity crisis, and Felix is the victim of humanity’s cruelty. 

Her writing is nice to read, it’s poetic yet sparse and I really like it for some reason, but her formatting kept changing. From headings to chapters to parts, she was experimenting with all these different formats and titling and the dialogue was written weird too. She was doing too many things in this book and based on what I saw on Goodreads, this turned a lot of people off. Then I remembered how she admires David Foster Wallace and this reminded me of him for some reason. This experimental writing, this somewhat isolating, odd writing. NW was kind of surreal, it felt more like a dream than a story about people living in NW. It was very a odd experience to me. Maybe I’m just a jackass, I don’t know. Although I enjoyed it, but didn’t really quite understand the meaning. It felt like a dream on paper, an incoherent series of dreams. 

                                                                      Rating: 3/5