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

It Never Happened Again: Two Stories by Sam Alden

Pages: 164

Genre: Graphic Novel, Short Stories, YA,

Format: Paperback

Published by Uncivilized Books

Borrowed from the library

I was looking through the library at school like usual and I found this, a small paperback. It was pink and brand spanking new. And to me, it looked like a novel, which was why I was weirded out by it. Most graphic novels that come in this size are usually manga, but this wasn’t manga.

I never knew who this guy was and apparently his popularity came from Tumblr, I must’ve not had one during that time, because I’ve literally never heard of him or seen his artwork. Even the publisher is unfamiliar to me. And so I decided to read this during a Monday hour break in between my classes. It took me two days to read since I didn’t want to take it out of the library.

The artwork made my eyes go inwards or something, I was completely shocked at it. Not because the artwork was complex andhad beautiful lines, but because it was this sort of scrape in type of artwork, It was cute but it took awhile to get used to. it reminded me of how I use to just take a pencil and just scrape the graphite point against the loose leaf paper and then make drawings by using the eraser. Maybe I can put a picture here? My biggest problem with this volume is that it was honestly hard to see stuff, words and backgrounds, but thankfully it was only the first part.

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Yep it looks like that, at least for that scene and this part is from the first short story in this duo, “Hawaii 1997”. The first short story is a little vague to me, mostly because of the artwork and because I couldn’t read the author’s writing well. I feel like he did it on purpose and this is a short story so it will wrap up pretty fast and sweet whether you like it or not. Basically what happens is this kid lives in Hawaii and he visits a beach and is looking at the scenery. Then this girls comes around, attracts his attention and then he follows her. They play hide and seek or tag and she disappears, not in a spooky way, but in a I’m-all-by-myself way. It kind of resonates with me when I think about it now,when you’re a kid, things are pretty surreal and they sort of disappear before your eyes or something and the world always seems to be out of your control.

The second short story is called “Anime”. The artwork is more detailed in this and there’s more dialogue in this, the first story had almost no dialogue at all. It’s about this anime fangirl who loves anime so much that she wants to visit Japan and she learns basic Japanese. She wants to visits Japan and fantasizes it as a dreamland where she will be accepted for her anime fandom. This story sort of puts a message out there for people who fetishsize cultures. There’s a scene where she asks a girl who is Korean American about something Japanese (I don’t remember) and the girl gives her a dirty look and reminds her that she isn’t Japanese. When the girl goes to Japan, she’s disappointed and lonely, culture shocked and shattered. She meets a Japanese woman in the restaurant who speaks English and feels somewhat comfortable with her lack of Japanese language and is somewhat at ease.

A reoccuring theme in these two short stories is misplacement and loneliness and no one hears or sees you. It’s vague, the story telling is minimal and instead lets you navigate it yourself. There’s not much dialogue or complex imagery in this volume so you can read it one sitting. I’m disappointed I didn’t know about this guy earlier and this is why I love libraries and fondling book spines, I always manage to find something super nice.

Rating: 4/5

Boneshepards by Patrick Rosal

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Pages: 84

Genre: Poetry

Format: Paperback

I’m kind of mad at myself for not reading this sooner. But by the time I got this, bought and signed by him, I kind of steamed myself out of poetry. And also because during that time I didn’t read as much poetry as I do now. Now that I do, I feel mad at myself for not buying and supporting more poets. Now I can’t get enough of it, especially since a lot of them, in my opinion are small/light reads, and are just as emotionally stimulating than your average novel, at least for me these days. And of course I don’t have a lot poetry books, so I read literary zines instead.

“The way, in death, one becomes

all the sounds one cannot make-

The sum total of everything

the living cannot say. Sometimes

we have to sing just to figure out

what we cannot say.”

Based on my vague memory, I read it a long time ago, this collection is totally different from American Kundiman, which was released five years before this came out. And this collection was released four years ago. So there’s a lot of change from AK to Boneshepards, which is a lot more story focused, sort of bittersweet, and feels a lot like reminiscing of the past, which I assume is most poetry, however this is a lot softer. The musicality of his poetry has become ballads or soft jazz piano in this collection, instead of the hip-hop of American Kundiman. It’s sentimental, personal, self-reflective, it just feels so much closer, delicate and sensitive, wary of the fact that the hardness is thawing out a bit. Of course, like his previous collection there are still some poems with violence, bloodshed, and dysfunction, but this one had a light ambiance.

“I know this much. There is a man in Puerto Plata who can tell me

everything I need to know about the history of France

in a language his great grandfathers made up. I’ve come back

to live in someone else’s house in the richest country

in the universe. None of us belongs anywhere

without love. Everything has began to die.

Some of us keep shouting your name.”

Maybe because I read it in my mother’s room where it was quiet with a faint white light? Maybe, I was just super ready to read this? It’s also more nostalgic, with some pondering of those who are dead or have died in some other form that doesn’t involve bloodshed. Nostalgia is a heavy theme in poetry, nostalgia is the reason why we tell stories, fictional or not.

It’s about dying as in leaving and never seeing you again and remembering as in reminiscing and mourning the fact that you won’t experience it once again.

“Like me,

they let all the languages of their world pass

through them, as if that were a way

of moving on, and the one word always

poised upon their tongue is goodbye.”

Rating: 4.5/5

Selo and Inya: Lady of the Court, Hunter, and Queen of Dust

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Pages: 37, 40? 46, 
Genre: Fantasy (Mythology), Novelette/Novella, Ongoing Series
Format: E-book
Published by Middle Child Press

I often get bored of fantasy these days. It just doesn’t pull me in the same way everything else does. Magical realism, I like though, but then somebody on Facebook was like “Magical realism is just fantasy!” And I was like “WHAAT?!” I don’t believe them. I actually wrote this review, a different version, for Feisty Zine, so this is a cross post.

Selo & Inya restored some faith in me. It takes place in a fictional world that seems to meld West African, East Asian, Polynesian, and South Asian cultures and religions. There are two societies, there’s one where there’s only females and there’s a mixed society which has males and females. The first novella, Lady of the Court, starts off the series with Selo, from the kingdom of Tiy, a woman warrior who ends up leaving her homeland after her sister gets into a blood marriage to end the war between the kingdoms. When she arrives in Oon Sati, where the marriage takes place, she meets an herbalist nomad named Inya who becomes her guide after some incidents cause her to leave Oon Sati. And the whole series consists of Selo and Inya traveling to the various kingdoms and getting into a few scuffles. You will soon find out that somebody out there is planning something the duo is unaware of and that someone wants to get rid of them before they find out.

Selo and Inya are lively characters and just like any well written character, they are distinct and grow throughout the series. Since Selo is a warrior and an orphan, she’s very closed off and sort of cold. She’s serious and made of stone, but yet she’s motherly. Inya is loose and carefree which causes a bit of trouble along the way that Selo tends to clean up. Inya is the bright beacon, she’s the Oscar of The Odd Couple while Selo is sort of like Felix. These two ladies are polar opposites, yet the friendship works. The biggest character development happened for Selo in Queen of Dust, which was nominated for best short novel by The Swirl Awards.

Since this is a series of novellas, they’re pretty short reads, and the prose is quick and engaging. The writing doesn’t leave the canvas blank, there’s vivid imagery that holds the story’s existence into place, meaning that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading about the journey of two nameless blobs. It’s also thick enough to map out a world, but there’s no large amounts of info dumping. There are tactics to build a world in genre fiction without writing a whole background story outline. Overall, Selo & Inya is a pretty solid ongoing series. It is a breathe of fresh air and hopefully it will leave a mark in the fantasy fiction world, especially in the small press and indie section.

Lady of the Court: 5/5

Hunter: 4.5/5

Queen of Dust: 5/5

Overall: Strong 5.

Cross posted from Feisty Zine

Listicle Reviews for Two Books: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf and Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

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Pages: 224
Genre: Graphic Novel
Published by Abrams Comicarts
Borrowed from the Library

1. An autobiographical graphic novel about knowing someone that became one of the most infamous serial killers.

2. It’s very sad, so sad.

3. But utterly repulsive as you witness, in paper and ink, Dahmer slowly falling apart and you can’t help but pity him, but be disgusted, as his family leaves him alone to his demons.

4. Derf is just living your usual suburban life.

5. It’s about what lurks underneath the skin and consciousness of your neighborhood while you’re on the bus minding your own business, listening to some feel-good tunes. 

6. It’s about the biggest demon you fear that is sitting right next to you.

7. The art is comical but fits the hidden dreariness of isolated suburbia and teen angst that usually builds up a serial killer like Dahmer. The boogieman that lurks in suburbia streets. 

8. You question why something like this exists, but it’s about a guy who actually knew Dahmer.

9. It’s a form of  healing of sorts. Trying to comprehend a sadism that you don’t  want to know. 

10. The last haunting words on the last page: Dahmer, What have you done?

Rating: 4/5

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Pages: 192
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays, Speeches
Format: E-book

1. A collection of essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. A lot of people have read this since she is definitely one of the most important and influential women in history. Which is why my words on it aren’t really that important because it’s no different than anyone else’s.

2. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but this was written in a way where I could easily digest it without clawing my eyes out. It is written in her lovely voice by her lovely fingers.

3. She is delicate and strong, knowing that she is shoved outside of everything by every sister.

4. She is a women and a feminist.

5. A Black women and a Lesbian.

6. A poet and a word weaver.

7. Writing is a form of healing for those who know they are consistently clawed out of existence or muted.

8. Sisters should always join hands but yet we never do it.

9. You know that overused quote about pens being a weapon? This book is one of the most powerful swords, it will rip every form of organism and matter with one slice.

10. And that all I have to say. By the way, I wonder if she has a book dedicated to her travels, I really liked that first essay. Of course, I loved all of the other ones, but that one stuck with me for some reason, the way she describes people and landscapes, I guess that’s just how her poetic mind influences her prose.

Rating: 5/5

Saga: Volumes 3 and 4

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Pages: 144, 152
Genre: Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Romance
Format: Paperback
Published by Image Comics
Borrowed from the library, actually I just spent an hour just reading these in a comfy armchair.

Is this an omen or something? Because I never stick to a series. Ever. But this is pretty good. but not “damn good,” so far. The third was kind of bland for me, since it focuses more on the character’s settlement on this planet and little action takes place. Actually, I will admit that I don’t really remember what happens in detail, which is proof that this one was a tad bit forgettable. It wasn’t as finger licking good as the second or the first. I’m honestly not sure why, other than the War Romance novelist and the beautiful horned woman on this book cover, there wasn’t really much other than the two story lines I mentioned just now. Actually there’s so many things happening at the same time, especially since they brought in the journalist couple. No wait, that’s it, the journalist couple made the story drag a bit, because they basically just repeated the same thing all of the other chasers were doing, “We need to get info on Marko and Alana! So everyone can catch them.” So they’re kind of like another group of hunters, except they’re repeating why they are being hunted and they’re kind of like a filler for the volume. What I do love about this Saga world is the characters’ belief that art and reading and movies are a way to heal the human soul, other than medicine.

In volume four, everything picks up. There’s murder and steam. It’s the last one, Alana is dressed up as a super hero in a TV show, and I also get to see some of the dark threads of the Saga world. A world so endrenched in war blood, that all they have is drugs and cheesy rom com shows to ignore the violence. And then there’s the family values stuff, as the baby girl grows older, and the couple begins to seperate as the threads of family and money get tighter. This one was a lot better, there’s more character growth and conflict, the story is starting to fold in correctly and the journalist couple wasn’t around much, and the TV head people are my favorite aliens ever. The reason why I’m not saying anything substantial is because this comic is super popular and I don’t see the point of saying anything more than what has already been said. 

Rating for Volume 3: 3/5

Rating for Volume 4: 4.5/5

Mira Corpora by Jeff Jackson

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Pages: 182
Genre: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Published by Two Dollar Radio

This book received a lot of well-deserved hype in the small press world. Sadly, I will probably not see this in Barnes N’ Nobles or Book Outlet. I also won’t write a good enough review for it either. No sympathy tears, I just finished this awhile ago, and when that happens it’s hard to get words for it. You can also blame summer laziness in my tardiness of getting stuff down. But I don’t think I will be forgetting this book anytime soon. I guess like I did with MW, I will be doing a listicle review. I will admit that it took me awhile to get into the first part of the book, but as soon the narrator escapes into a reality, I was absorbed into it.

1. It starts off like a journal where he opens up this new world in which he apparently never leaves until he “grows up.”

2. This is the dysfunctional YA I’ve been waiting for. Yes, that sounds a little sick, but let me explain. This book took place for most of the main character’s young life and ends at an age that is towards the end of the young adult phase of life. It’s rough, but not sugar coated, it’s bleak, and it never stops to coddle the reader. It’s quite brutal and deviant much like the punk rock movie poster cover. It’s terrifying.

3. What makes it more harrowing is that this book is so unforgiving and yet it’s so magical. I’ve never read Chronicles of Narnia because I am a peasant, but the prose in this book totally clashes with the horrific stuff the narrator goes through. It has a dreamy, innocent quality, you can’t really tell what’s real or not since for most the book, the narrator was a child for most of the novel. And yes, 20 years old is, according to older people, a kid still. 

4.  The book’s cinematic prose reminds me of how the author is a playwright and you can definitely tell that that carries on as an influence in his writing. In it’s exact but not so heavy use of imagery that seems to flow right with the story, no info dumps of description, and the characters feel real, the narrator is whispering in your head, as he faces nightmares of temporarily leave an unaccepting civilization, only to come back, and die a little inside.

5. As expected, there’s no happy ending, but instead a closure to what is supposed to be left behind, not finished, but wanting to be over with it.

Rating: 5/5