The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare

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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

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Hatred of Women by Cassandra Troyan and Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa

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Pages: 36

Genre: Poetry, Experimental

Format: E-book

Published by Solar Luxuriance

Some more Troyan and this one has a heavier feel to it than Throne of Blood, despite the length. This one seems to be a bit more autobiographical and contains, just like the previous collection, the nasty parts of what it means to be a woman, being seen as disposable, hollow, and but to also expected to take the role of caretaker as we are expected to carry the universe while simultaneously wiping men’s feet.

Troyan’s poetry is hopeless, self deprecating and there is a very slight smile of hope.

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Pages: 74

Genre: Poetry, Experimental, Power Points

Format: Paperback

Published by New Issues Poetry Press

Tocqueville was a pretty fun poetry collection because it was poetry but at the same time it wasn’t. This collection was avant-garde at it’s best. Meandering and sure of itself, satirical but stern with some low political whispers about being Brown and Muslim. Sometimes it was documentation, journal entries of rantlings about scenery, war, and people and oppression, but also the daily rhythms of life. And then sometimes it will take a turn and somehow become a noir film. It’s metafiction in poetry, a novella in the guise of verse. It felt like a dream of a James Bond movie on a staticky beat up TV, where Bond isn’t White with blue eyes and he’s super awkward and has a thing for computer science and fun facts.

Rating: 5/5

Two Novellas: anemogram. by Rebecca Gransden and Ayiti by Roxane Gay

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Pages: 254

Genre: Novella, Magical Realism/Surrealism

Format: E-book

Self-published

This was received for an honest review

When Gransden told me about her novella, we were talking about writing stuffs, she told me or maybe Leo did, I don’t remember, that she was releasing a novella. And the novella is called anemogram. and when I saw her blog, I realized just like the short story she sent me, that she was one of those abstract writers. Abstract as in, everything is a sort of mystery that can only be solved by inconsistent dreams that have come to you during the restless nights in small visions and it will maybe take you months to piece them together. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a great thing in my opinion, if everything was linear, everything in a traditional mold, then where does the innovation go? Where does the curiosity go? Since literature is an art form, you should be able to cut up the pieces and make Picasso paintings right?

I always I love when a surrealist novel takes place in quiet suburbia, I feel like it always brews better in those conditions. Something odd pops out of the bushes and terrorizes a quiet neighborhood that usually expects nothing. In this case, it’s this little girl that doesn’t really have an official origin, she appears out of nowhere. She seems to have manifested out of nature itself, as you read the novella, there’s plenty of vibrant imagery of Mother Nature’s creations. There’s also a voice in her head that accompanies her throughout the story, telling her fairy tales that all sort of surround the same theme, where something beautiful, eventually dies and there’s no way to get it back. (If this is wrong, I read this awhile ago, so it’s fuzzy.)

The girl pretends to be the daughter of a father who abandoned her due to dying in an accident or committing suicide. She hangs around a war veteran and eventually ends up living with his buddies and here’s the thing, they’re all hiding something and it involves doing things that are out of their moral bases, for example, one of the guys is a police officer.

And yet, the main character, this whimsical little girl is still a mystery. But I have a theory, the voice in her head is maybe her dead father and her way of coping and living is to be a sort of Peter Pan. Maybe, they both died and the girl lives on as something supernatural. Nobody questions oddities too much in this book.

anemogram. does what it wants best, to be abstract and leaving the reader numb with wonder. It contains the fantastical fairy tale elements that Helen Oyeyemi is known for, except it takes place in a small British town. It’s one of those fairytales with a quirky modern twist of the Sundance movie scene.

Rating: 4/5

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Pages: 108

Genre: Short Stories, Novella, Poetry, flash fiction

Format: E-book

Published by Artistically Declined Press

I live under a rock and I never read a single Roxane Gay book until now. I’ve always followed her on social media because I liked what she said and found her essays to be mind opening. She’s a brilliant women, the type of feminist I look up to, well this is based on what I’ve read online, I’ve never actually read Bad Feminist. And one of her books was on sale in late November last year and I had already bought a load of books on Kindle, Octavia E. Butler, Miranda July, and I think Tan Twan Eng. And I will admit that when a book receives a lot of hype, I tend to get turned off until the hype dies down, most of the time I resist because hype= makes high expectations.

I had my eyes on Ayiti for quite awhile and the wait was totally worth it. This little book is the best example of short short stories that spend little time building and instead they actually spend time moving rhythmically and sensually with a poetic prose that embodies the soul and voice of her Haitian background. You can feel the heat, the graze of the sunburned concrete when you encounter the oppressive forces of the imperialism and colonialism in Haiti, and you can taste the blood and salty water. And I hate to write so little about this book, but if you have An Untamed State, then you will like this collection, one of the short stories is actually where the novel is derived from. It’s really the most underrated work in her repertoire from what I see on Goodreads.

Rating: 5/5

Two E-Chaps: Juliet (I) by Sarah Xerta and No Good by Alexis Pope

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Pages: 38

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-book

Published by H_NGM_N Books

  • A small e-chap about a girl named Juliet or maybe Juliet is a concept in its self. There’s a sort of sci-fi feel to it and from what I see in reviews of the sequel to this chapbook, the next one has a post-apocalyptic feeling. This felt like the virus going through the veins of a main character in a movie that will soon gain tremendous powers.
  • It’s punchy and feels like every tear of those times, as a female, you are constantly let down.
  • Let down by the males you follow, brothers or fathers or friends, or the times society allows you to get screwed over just because you reminded everyone that you actually have feelings as a female.
  • Juliet is the young girl inside of us all when we feel betrayed, the confessionalist with the scrapped knees and matted hair.
  • The worlds in us that end every day when we go to sleep.

Pages: 25

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-book

Published by H_NGM_N Books

  • A sort of ode to nature and deer or something.
  • Like most Alt-Lit it contains a lot of poetry about existing and hating the fact that you exist and something about living with your boyfriend or something.
  • But this also contains a lot of exploring of the self and what surrounds you.
  • Nature and senses, selfishness and the irritants from constantly being aware of what’s to come or what’s never to come.
  • General unsatisfactory and unspecific desires for unknowns.

(I honestly have no idea what to say about this chapbook, but I enjoyed it when I read it.)

All Due Respect Issue 6 Edited by Mike Monson and Chris Rhatigan

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Pages: 90

Genre: Noir, short stories, Anthology, Literary Zine

Format: E-book

Published by All Due Respect Books

So I happened to be reading this literary zine and that’s why I posted about literary zines awhile ago. I highly suggest this zine to genre fiction fans, especially those into noir or crime fiction. This zine is dedicated more to the crime scene or is noir all about crimes? I will admit that I like literary zines, I like finding them, and downloading them, but I do merely a skim over and read what catches my eyes. Which is sad, because then what the hell is the point of killing trees or compiling PDFs of these zines if no one will read them?

Here’s my reason: Some are too long, I’m not always in the mood for short stories, some of them aren’t that good, and sometimes they are hard to read depending on the medium. Physical is fine, Kindle is fine, but WordPress or Blogger or any other website  is difficult if it’s not on mobile. Most of the time, I discover them when I’m browsing. Poetry literary zines are the only literary zines I have ever read from start to finish. And so why am I rambling so much about literary zines? Because this is the last copy of All Due Respect Zine. I’m not mourning, because there’s tons of other noir literary zines out there that have some gems to read.  It’s just that it’s the first time I have ever enjoyed a literary zine that consists of only fiction.

If you’re familiar with noir at all, you will already know what most of this zine is about. Guns, drugs, drama, revenge, conniving personalities, bad cops, thieves, and detectives. What makes a good noir story for me is not only the entertainment factor, but also giving me the feeling of empathy or maybe even hatred for the vile main character, a fear for the main character, or an apprehension of what’s to come for that them. It’s a weird thing I have, I like to feel for the character but at the same time I want to get that rush of adrenaline. There’s very few novels like that, where it touches you emotionally, but also scares the shiz out of you or haunts you, sticking to your memories.

This zine is pretty short for a literary zine. There are only six short stories, which is good enough for me. But I can say I only enjoyed four of the six short stories. Lang, Chen, Queally, and Sanders. The one I liked the most, the one that stuck with me most was Sarah M. Chen. She stood out because the main character of her story was young and he was the least deviant noir character I have read, I know he’s not the main character, but he is the lead of the story (it’s in third person, but it’s main focus is him.) Instead he is the victim of noir, he is the “What the hell did I just see?” of noir. Does that make sense? The only bad boy thing he does is sell drugs and he does it to support his mother and her business. He doesn’t kill anybody, he’s not a triad, he’s just a young Asian American dude trying to get by, who lives with his grandmother that doesn’t appear to be your typical harmless old lady. Oh the ending is pretty cool. And so of course, I’m anticipating her full length that’s also coming out from All Due Respect. I will also probably read their previous issues too, in case I get the craving for short stories and noir.

Rating: 4/5

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty: Stories by Brian Alan Ellis

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Pages: 148

Genres: Short Stories, Bizarro Fiction

Format: E-book

Published by House of Vlad Productions

Months ago, I read Ellis’ novella, King Shit, not long after that, I got this and  sort of let it sit in my kindle untouched. I didn’t touch it until my current short story addiction prompted me to pick this up. I consider this collection ‘Bizarro slice-of-life.’ I don’t know about the official names for these genres, but this collection was a light bizarro, since it was more on the absurd slice-of-life side than the the usual magical realist, horror, or surrealist type I usually find myself reading when it comes to bizarro.

Much like King Shit every single character in every story  is absurd, dysfunctional, and air headed, so this makes for a quick light read. The stories aren’t too long and fill in the spaces long enough to make a satisfying short story, they’re always complete. Believe it or not there are some short stories that aren’t complete, it’s actually quite common and it’s one of the reasons why some people don’t like reading them. There’s some dark humor and some gross out moments. Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty: Stories is pretty close to noir with the loser characters committing some depraved and humiliating deeds. Then there’s some stories that are lighthearted and goofy much like the cartoons you watch when you were a kid, but an adult version of it. Sometimes Ellis’ writing kind of reminds me of Sam Pink with the existential crisis and depressive mind set, but I feel like his work is bit more matured, like Pink’s latest novel Witch Piss, which contained the same subject matter, but the writing style was way more voluptuous, less minimalist and Lin-esque.

The best one was when I was eating breakfast, a piece of plain bread and coffee, and there was a short story about a drunk guy and a prostitute and instead of doing anything sexual, the main character pulls out her bloody tampon and flings it against a wall. I actually gagged while eating. It was that bad. But it was fun reading, something I need once in awhile.

Rating: 5/5

The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert by Rios de la Luz

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Pages: 120

Genre: Short Stories, Science Fiction

Format: E-book

Published by Ladybox Books

On Goodreads, it says that this book came out from Broken River Books, the dark and maybe surreal, judging by the book covers, noir small press publisher. But the Kindle version is from Lady Box Books which is an imprint of Broken River. I’ve been stalking Ladybox Books ever since its making. It’s a press dedicated to publishing female identifying writers. If that isn’t awesome, then I don’t know what else is, especially since a Woman of Color, a Latina, is involved in this and has her book published in this budding small press.

Just look at the cover and fondle it with your eyes for a few seconds. I haven’t been reading much Sci-Fi so I will admit the genre fiction aspect scared me off, despite that  my reader senses were like “Buy it, god dang it! or put it on a wish list and buy it soon.” And then it was on sale and I finally got it. So why do I keep rambling, because I don’t have much to say with short stories, I hate that I’m always short on words when it comes to short story collections.

The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert is a collection of stories I have been waiting for. It’s rare for me to read a collection and enjoy 90% of the stories. But this is one of them. It contains a strong personal, cut-throat reality with a quirky bizarre Sci-Fi that is pretty darn close to bizarro and I’m thinking of C.V. Hunt right now, but honestly I suck at comparisons. Some of the stories are Young adult or take place from a young child, it’s so odd how de la Luz is able to write a children’s story that is so innocent yet so highly aware of how a child is so sensitive to other people’s lurking evilness, they are wide awake.

There’s time machines, aliens, laser guns, and girls beating up dudes, it’s not sweet at all despite the pretty book cover. The stories are surreal and eccentric and are not guilty for going further than that. The prose is in Spanglish and written more like narrative poetry than traditional prose, especially with the use of “you,” which I was surprised to see since most writers and readers, from what I’ve heard of consider the second person perspective to be ‘pretentious’ or overdone. This is the second time I’ve come across this, the first time, from what I remember was Arafat Mountain by Mike Kleine, which was published by Atatl Press. But I never finished that book, I only read the first few pages, I will in the future though. You are very tricky, you can be something that can get a little perplexing, but you are awesome, because it’s like de la Luz is talking to you, leading you by the hand through the story. She is whispering about every moment about her fictional life. You listen and you nod, she is bleeding, crying, her wet eyeliner creating a sort of black blush for her cheeks that she totally messed up somehow. And you keep listening because it’s hard to turn away.

Rating: 5/5