Stay Close, Little Ghost by Oliver Serang


Pages: 180
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, Magical Realism or Surrealism
Format: Paperback
Published by Tape Tree Press
This book was sent to me, by the author, for an honest review, Thank you!
This review was originally published on The Lit Pub 

The TNBBC blog is a place for every book nerd, especially the book nerds who like books written and created by Indie writers. One day, Oliver Serang took over the blog and I watched the videos, read the blog posts, participated in the giveaway contest, and that was how this book ended up in my hands. It seems like a cute, lovable book, short, and the title itself. But the book doesn’t really give you any hugs, it’s all an illusion.
The story goes like this, the narrator, who also happened to be named Oliver, failed a lot at relationships. They never lasted, his heart broke, and he broke others’ hearts. There was something missing in this equation — he was a mathematician that never seemed to find the solutions for his heartbreak. He never found the right piece that fit with his. The whole story was a letter written to a nameless person, referred to as “you” and a bunch of asterisks, which was somebody that he must’ve dated in the past. There was no clear evidence over whether or not this “you” was dead or alive or lived somewhere else. I figured that maybe she moved away and died eventually. Maybe that person didn’t exist at all, since throughout the book, this was where the magic realism kicked, the main narrator experienced these hallucinations, and these fever dreams.
These fever dreams seemed to be messages for the impending dooms of any of his relationships. The first one was Yuki, a flirty girl he met in the elevator. She was insecure, a constant crier, and couldn’t make up her mind. She loved Oliver, or claimed to, but she hung around and flirted with any man that caught her eye, including her friends. This caused him to break up with her, every time she cried, she shed her eyeliner. Eventually, while chasing after him in a train, she disintegrated into a shadow on a train station wall, becoming a sort of black silhouette stain. There was also another girl he had been with, that disappeared into a snow storm. After Oliver had broken into a room that she kept closed off, to hide a secret. A hand behind a large grate near a vending machine reached out for him. A young girl scratching messages into walls, a young boy who drowned and continues to haunt the lake. Those are some of the odd summer fever dreams and oddities that he experienced. From talking strange hobos that predict your future, that seem to move at light speed, disappearing girlfriends forced out by his betrayal, and the sparks that faded away. Then there was the wolf in his stomach or mind. For some odd reason, I imagined the wolf being in his belly, a dark cavern, hidden away from everyone. This wolf seemed to be the narrator’s repressed emotions or more like what repressed his emotions. Every whimper, howl, and growl seemed to be the wolf’s defense mechanisms, the narrator’s defense mechanisms of what he truly felt, feared, or desired.
Stay Close, Little Ghost is a novel of loneliness and that aching feeling of being betrayed, yet you feel this sort of guilt deep within you, questioning whether or not it was your fault. Even if it is, you still feel this pain that could never be put back together again; nothing can be returned or regained. This comparison seems kind of silly, but I felt like this novel was sort of the birth child of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m not sure why, but the prose sort of has this childlike, doe eyed innocence, with a sprinkle of fairy dust, combined with the drug, sex, wild youth of the 60s, that has continued on today. There’s this strange sort of feeling of isolation, where connections with others feel more like brief flashes of light. This whole story is a love story and the fever dreams are his responses to his fear or acknowledging the fact that it will indeed, all end. He seemed to accept this at some point.
Stay Close, Little Ghost is like the modern day fairytale, a love story of this generation. At first I was quite unsure of myself when reading this. In the beginning I was reading it slowly, not because I didn’t like it, but because I wanted to absorb the prose little by little, because despite its simplicity, the words were filled with a new story, a new face of the character. I felt that if I missed a word, I would miss a piece of the character. So I had to latch onto each sentence. Here’s a sentence I underlined with a pencil, it doesn’t really fit with what I am saying, but there were so many other sentences that I would like to underline, that it would ruin the book.
“Being irreplaceable confers the greatest value that anything can have. Deciding that a person will be irreplaceable to you is the greatest thing you can ever give them. Knowing that you are irreplaceable to someone else is the only way to truly feel loved.”
So I had to slow down my reading a bit and absorb it as much as possible. This prose is quite a beauty though, one of those observances of life, the words of the people who question the reason why their cells float on the universe. What’s the point of being some random mound of cells that interacts and looks for the affection of other mounds? We’re so easy to replace, yet the act of replacement is so hard to deal with, the previous can’t be erased.

The Before Now and After Then by Paul Monn (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)


Pages: 304
Genre: YA, Romance, LGBT, Coming of Age
Format: E-book
Published by Pen Name Publishing
This is an Advanced Reader’s Copy Received from Netgalley

Another Pen Name Publishing title, I happened to find it on Netgalley, and it had to be read. Once in awhile I sneak in a YA novel to lighten my reading mind. I’m not saying that all YA is light reading or simple, but this one just happened to be one of them. A cute coming of age, romance novel, that what’s this is, and it did quite well, but it wasn’t really for me. People who know me will probably roll their eyes, I am technically still a young adult, and next year I will be part of the New adult genre, which I never touched yet. But let’s get on with this. 

The Before Now and After Then is about a boy named Danny Goldstein, who loses his twin brother, Sam.  He is also gay and feels that he is nothing but a cardboard cutout, no personality, no own personal tastes, no self confidence. All he has done was hide behind his brother’s shadow and let’s life and his brother choose everything for him. After Sam dies in a car accident, he moves out of his home, into a new one and then attends a new high school. This starts off his new life journey, his mother and father are finally separated, he makes a new friend named Cher, and meets his first crush. 

High school, bullies, quirky friends, crushes, that’s all YA food. Everything that makes a YA novel is in this mix of a novel. However, there are little lessons tucked in between the sentences, making this a coming of age novel. Danny soons learns to somewhat move on his own. But he still, even till the end, doesn’t make much progress,despite that there’s the one character, Uncle Alex, who seems to hold him by the hand a bit and teach him a few life lessons, but not in a bedtime story way, in the smallest of ways, the type of way where the character learns later on. Uncle Alex is sort of the Atticus Finch, he tells you a little lesson, a little story of his life, in this case, being gay, a writer, and sort of lonely, and hopes that maybe Daniel will change his mind. 

That was what I like about this novel, it teaches you something, it doesn’t preach to the choir and yell at you, but it does what a contemporary YA novel is supposed to do. It tells you how it would feel in the other perspective and it holds your hand and tells you, “Hey, you gotta be you, ignore the asses, and don’t let a little something put you down.” That sounds a bit cheesy, but that’s how I feel about it. I’m not sure why, because I’m literally, maybe 4 or 5 years older than the characters in book, I can’t remember their exact ages, everything feels a bit, teeny bopper hit movie in the theater. The instalove, the 80s pop music, it felt like Perks of Being a Wallflower, except a hundred times less depressing, it doesn’t wallow in the darkness of being a teen. 

That was my problem with the book, it took me a few chapters, especially after the the instalove, that this book wasn’t really for me. There’s a lot of romance, teen romance, that is mixed with silly innocence and hormonal feelings. I can’t really explain why when it comes to teen romance, some writers pull it off and some writers do it like I am Number Four, which was a bad way to write the romance, it was a cheesefest. Then again, I never experienced romance yet, so maybe I’m just being immature. That was how I felt about the romance, it was instalove, quite typical of teens and people my age, Oh my god were so in love. That love tends to be sort of shallow and involves every movie romance performance that they had seen on TV. The parents of the story try to be the logical ones and sort of try to persuade the main character that maybe it isn’t true love. But like most YA novels, the main character doesn’t listen and the relationship does have this “Happily Ever After” at the end, after a few tangles. I guess that would be preferred, because lately, now most YA novels purposely have the saddest of endings so everyone can cry about it, and then more copies fly off the shelves as your friends cries about how it’s so amazing and it made them cry. Okay, what I just said sounds pretty terrible. It is somewhat true though. 

But it is great for the YA audience and I can understand all of the Goodreads and Twitter hype. The Before Now and After Then does what it was meant to do. It’s great for those who feel misunderstood and outcasted. The high school blues, they’re freaking terrible. 

Rating: 3/5

Flight by Sherman Alexie


Pages: 181
Genre: Magical Realism? or Science Fiction? Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, YA, Coming of Age
Format: E-book
Published by Open Road Media
{By the way, if I don’t indicate that this book was borrowed or if it is an ARC, then that means I bought it. It was not free.}

The first Sherman Alexie novel I had read was during high school, my last year. It was The Absolutely True Diary of  a Part-Time Indian. It was one of the few books I have ever read by a Native American writer. I know there are more out there, maybe ones that are better and underrated. Sherman Alexie is probably one of the most mainstream, the most well known. Native American writers aren’t seen very often in bookstores or maybe I was just don’t see them. I’ve found more First Nations writers, than  Native American writers on the internet though.Which is an odd thing, because I’ve never read much Canadian literature. So anyway, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was the first one I read by him and ever since then, I’ve been wanting to read more by Sherman Alexie. Goodreads and Youtube has also suggested or exposed me to more writers like him. So Flight happened to be on sale and I snagged it. 

Flight is a novel about a kid who calls himself Zits. He lives a dysfunctional life, his mother is dead and his father has disappeared. He is a Native American and is forced to live in foster homes, that seem to further his misery and anger. After meeting a White kid who has a fascination for Native American culture and a sort of manipulative personality, but Zits inferiority complex and constant idolizing of White people has made his charisma and personality more powerful, Zits ends up taking on revenge, on his ruined life and childhood. With two guns, he shoots down a bank, gets shot in the head, and ends up time traveling into different bodies of people in the past.

That’s it for the whole plot, the narrator ends up dieing and his soul floats off in time and into different bodies. From the wars between Native Americans and White Colonists to White police officers to Native Americans and White Americans who have been betrayed and killed off by life’s rules that are never fair. This novel is a coming of age and doing all this time travel is sort of a way for Zits to understand himself and the people that surrounds him. It’s a literal interpretation of the saying “Stepping into another person’s shoes.” Flight seems to be the sort of the novel that teaches empathy, to understand and rationalize the feelings of hatred and prejudice, regret and melancholy. To understand that people need to forgive, but they cannot forget or it will repeat. Revenge only causes more unneeded blood shed, more illogical anger and it increases self-righteous ego. 

The writing style is quite beautiful, maybe even more poetic and heartfelt than The Absolutely True Dairy a of Part-Time Indian (I’m just gonna copy and paste this title in this post). It still contains that angsty teenage boy voice, but yet, despite the curses and the hormonal sex thoughts that are quite amusing, you can tell that the kid is quite intelligent, despite his claim that he isn’t. 

However, I feel somewhat confused about this novel, despite that I enjoyed. Some people say or I read somewhere, that Flight was sort of another version of one of his previous novels, Indian Killer, which is about a psychopathic man who is of Native American descent and I think he might also be half White like Zits, but I’m not sure, who skins and kills White men. I’ve never read it to be honest, but it might appear one day on this blog as soon as I take it out of the library.  But apparently Flight was supposed to be  a gentle, more friendly and forgiving version of Indian Killer. Although I’m not sure of this. So what am I trying to say here? When it comes to the racism in this book, there was another person on Goodreads who also points this out, the White characters are always portrayed in this glorified way, in a way where it feels like “He killed a person for being non-White, but who cares, he’s so beautiful and amazing! So innocent, it’s okay!” That sounds a bit exaggerated. But I can’t put it in the right words. I understand that the kid has a racial complex and he is half White, but something about those parts kind of rubbed me the wrong way. It’s as if he was excusing their violence. 

Despite that problem, this novel was rather enjoyable. It has everything that would make a great YA novel. Heartfelt, touching, and  trying to understand others in the oddest of angles. 

Rating: 4/5

Kamen Volume 1 by Gunya Mihara (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)

Pages: 250
Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel (Manga), Shonen?
Published by Gen Manga Entertainment Inc. 
This is an Advanced Readers Copy received From Netgalley

The last volume of manga I remember reading was probably Gantz, I never finished it, but it was indeed a fantastic journey of blood, guts, and, um, sweat too. I never read too many manga that focused on a sort of old Japan, with the samurai and the folk tales, and this one was one of those. I think the only thing that I have read, that was close to this, was a novel called Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi. They both share that same surreal type of story with a magical hero in an old, feudal Japan.

Kamen starts off with an unnamed man, waking up in an unknown land with a mask on his face. The mask talks, but he doesn’t, and it seems to lead him to his decisions, but so far, he always seems to do the opposite.  So that proves that the mask is more like Navi from Legend of Zelda? Except, if he removes it, he dies. Eventually he catches himself in between a war between two towns and he has no choice but to stay behind this mask, that seems to give him super strength, and slowly weave the answers to his existence. 

The pacing of the story was great, but the story isn’t much different from any other fantasy, shonen, but not in a bad way. For me it was refreshing, maybe even a bit nostalgic, reminding me of the manga 666 Satan, also known as O-Parts Hunter. So far, this hero isn’t particularly  flawed, like the 666 Satan one, but his mystery is his flaw, and he has no choice but to follow whatever is in his path, to discover what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future. 

The artwork is great, but again, it’s no different from any other Shonen manga, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Kamen will be great for those who are fans of Shonen manga, fans of Naruto, 666 Satan (the creators of these two are actually twin brothers, hence the similarity), Moribito, and basically anyone who loves manga and graphic novels. 

Rating: 4/5

July Wrap Up

Alex + Ada: Volume 1 by Jonathon Luna and Sara Vaughn 

Rating: 5/5

99 Problems by Ben Tanzer


Rating 4/5

Rocket Girl: Volume 1: Times Squared by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder


Rating: 3/5

A Life of Death by Weston Kincade


Rating: 3/5

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


Rating: 4/5

Cienfuegoes by Chris Deal


Rating: 4/5

The Box and The Briefcase, The Moleque and The Old Man, and The First Coming of the Second God by John M. Keller


Rating: 5/5

Have You Seen Me by Katherine Scott Nelson


Rating: 4/5

Teen Angst? Naaah… by Ned Vizzini 

Rating: 3/5

Have You Seen Me by Katherine Scott Nelson


Pages: 128
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Coming of Age, LGBT
Format: E-book
Published by CCLaP

CCLaP will always be present on this blog okay? Another CCLaP book on here. I feel like most of their works are novellas, which is fine, because there are so many stories that you can stretch until the plot or the whole concept of the story becomes thin and the whole point of the novel would be a sort of overabundance of unneeded words. I feel like I might’ve said this before. However, that usually depends on the reader, I’m a person who isn’t too bothered with a lack of plot, a concept is what usually drives a story, even if the plot hits  a fork in the road and splits in half, there will still be meaning to it. That is why I rarely loan or recommend books to people, because apparently I like boring ones. OMG ,CONCEPTS AND CHARACTERS WITH TRAGIC FLAWS, I LOVE THOSE! That’s basically me.

Have You Seen Me, is a novella focusing on the lives of two outcasts, young adults, who live in a narrow minded, rural area. One, named Vyv, runs away into the city and hopes that her friend comes after her, so they can live together in a world that she perceives as better. Chris, her friend and brother figure, feels a sort of isolation, the fact that he might be Gay or Bisexual and his family problems, specifically his father and grandfather, causes him to feel alienated, Vyv and another town outcast, Albert, are the only ones who make him feel somewhat less foreign.

The novella is basically a coming of age, where the front masks of people aren’t always the same. The strong rebel, is vulnerable and hurt, the cynical intellectual, secretly hides a sort of hypocrisy that contradicts his own written philosophy, and the soft spoken one, who is stuck in between both wars, and decides in the end, to stay, despite one pulling from the other direction.

Nelson’s writing is what really makes this novella so moving, it’s golden. It’s filled with the right amount of emotions, chocked full with the picture of teenage angst and confusion. She doesn’t waste words and it feels as if the narrator wants to get down as much as he can, within one gasp of breath. 

Nothing really gets solved, it was more like a short film of Chris reminisces of his friend and he realizes the reason for all of her quirks, insecurities, and basically her own being, the reason why she is the way she is, and her general dislike for her home and the people that surround her. Have You Seen Me is a coming of age, of accepting those for who they are, including their tragic flaws.

Rating: 4/5

Teen Angst? Naah: A Quasi-Autobiography by Ned Vizzini

Pages: 232
Genre: YA, Humor, Non-Fiction
Format: E-book
Published by Free Spirit Publishing
Borrowed From Open Library 

A year ago, I had read his second novel, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I remembered how it was such a beautiful book that made you smile in between the pages, and I had wished that I had known of it during high school, it was read during a summer where I was awaiting my first year of college, it was frightening. Eventually I got used to it, but I will admit that college is pretty lonely, but it’s more tolerable than in high school, because there are so many things to do, where your homework and the school library’s variety of books seemed to fill the empty hole.

Non-fiction isn’t something I read often, including autobiographical stuff. There is something about the genre that just doesn’t catch my attention, non-fiction is hard for me to concentrate on. Most of them are written in a sort of dry textbook prose, the only one that actually stuck to me was Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer, which I read way before this blog existed. 

I hate to say it, but I didn’t really enjoy this much, because I have moved on from my teen years, somewhat. Then I realized that I never had any of these experiences, and who cares, its Ned’s world in that paperback. Now that he has passed, he will live on between those pages, his brightness and his humor. No, I am not mourning his death in this post, but more like paying my respects, because it feels kind of awful, reviewing a person’s life.

I will admit that the writing was pretty juvenile but at the same time it was fitting for a teen, a teen who reads but also has time to mess around with their friends outside in the fresh air. It’s the words of an intelligent teen who took his education seriously but secretly wished to waltz outside and forget it all. Maybe. I will admit that I skimmed through most of this book, because it was something that I didn’t particularly enjoy anymore. Despite that most people my age are still going through that “dude! Pot is so amazing, I love pot so much,” it was nothing for me, it was something that I was over with, but then I never was one of those kids to begin with. I was a boring bookworm.  The book is funny and sort of nostalgic, a book I would pass to others, my younger male cousins or male friends, my brother’s the same age as me but maybe he would enjoy this. Teen Angst? is the sort of book for teenagers to learn about their own selves, to laugh at our own stupidity, a mirror to look at and say “Wow, I was foolish and crazy too.” 

Rating: 3/4