The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare

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Pages:
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

Baby Babe by Ana Carrete and pls advise by Josh Spilker

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Pages: 183

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-book

Published by Civil Coping Mechanisms

Borrowed on Kindle

I’m back, sort of. Any blog posts that come later are on books I’ve read last month. I’ve been in a book funk, but I’m slowly coming back to reading. This is going to be brief, because I didn’t really like this much because it was just too, I don’t know, shallow for me? I liked it but didn’t like it at the same time? It was so-so.

Ana Carrete is a poet and an artist. You will find some collage art that contains themes from the poems written in this collection. And well, there’s not much to say, because literally this whole book is just a girl writing her quirky sexy thoughts and I guess that’s what makes it brilliant.

Like a lot of internet poetry, her poems are much in the spirit of Tao Lin, except with a feminist tinge to it, with confessionals of sexuality and desires, which are revolutionary in the fact that there is no holding back or self-censoring and of men that disrespect and tear down womanhood. And then some of the poems are literally those weird thoughts you’ve had while being bored during lecture. Overall though, Baby Babe is amusing but also deeply personal as she reveals all of the little streams of her never ending erotic consciousness.

Rating: 3/5

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Pages: 20

Genre: Twitter

Format: E-book

Self-published with the help of Gumroad

It’s a bk of tweets. Wth cute drawings, musings abt writing ad existing in tweets. It flows lk poetry but feels like ur diary of questions

And the random shiz you think abt while showering or tryin to sleep. He constantly asks for advice that no one will hear. And honestly that feels too real.

Internet lone. Alone.

(I tried to keep this in Tweet form, but it just couldn’t happen. So this feels so superficial lol.)

Rating: 4/5

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 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.)

Dark Water by Ariana D. Den Bleyker

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Pages: 82

Genre: Noir, Novella

Format: E-book

Published by Number Thirteen Press

Another novella, for the past month or so, novellas and short story collections have been part of my main reading habit. I’m currently reading a novella and a short story collection now and I think I will continue to do so. Not because giant tomes aren’t my thing anymore, I just got so used to reading on the kindle that books with tiny font and heavy weight are just not for me now.

So I got this for free when Number Thirteen Press started giving e-books out. When I find a small press, the first books I check out are the books written by non-White authors or women. Basically, I pay attention to the marginalized voices first, because those are the books that get the least recognition. So I decided to read this novella by an author who has written several poetry chapbooks. I’ve never heard of her, but have heard of her literary journals.

Although, I kind of have to say that this wasn’t the best noir I’ve read, I found it quite confusing, but beautiful in it’s prose and sadistic main characters. What threw me off the most was the dialogue being written in italics. So I couldn’t tell if the characters were thinking or whispering until the author said so. I found it odd and it added to the confusion. But then I read the synopsis for the plot and things were clear, but the italicized dialogue, I will just assume it was a stylistic reason, a formatting issue, or maybe all of the characters really were speaking in low hoarse tones like Christian Bale playing Batman.

What happens it that Henry is a painter, an artist, one day he loses it and kills his wife. He makes art out of corpses, carving in symbology into the flesh of his victims and pulling out their eyes, the silver coins are the last embellishments. When the police find the bodies, they are surprised to see that the victim has two shining silver coins for eyeballs. Then there’s Lorelei, John, and Elizabeth who are all tied with him somehow. They are all caught in some sort of web, where they are aware of what Henry is doing. there’s some sort of steam filled love triangle between the three (apparently John is good with the ladies) and they all want to kill Henry because Henry is losing it and is getting more vicious by the years.

I gotta say, this will make a terrifying movie, a new Silence of the Lambs. Except. Henry isn’t a cannibal. The ending ties up  like most insanity filled noir like this. It’s kind of obvious. I won’t reveal it.

For a novella, things go by pretty fast and time isn’t wasted, it’s at a good pace. What makes a good noir, from what I’ve read so far, is quick writing, but writing that has substance and very little filler unless you’re trying to write a novel, and you want to add in some more backstory with multiple plot strands. Every word to matter, but every word has to contain some sort of feel whether it’s gloomy, funny, or angry, it needs to mean something.

Henry doesn’t improve and I guess I can say he doesn’t get better either. He is the same old Henry throughout the novella, but Elizabeth loses her empathy and accepts that her brother is a murderer. She also has to accept that her lover is no different. And I guess I can say, that sort of leaves a strong woman tone to it, where I guess women can’t really trust dudes.

Rating: 4/5

Cassiopeia at Midnight and Spectre Specter Blue Ravine by N.L. Shompole

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Pages: 40

Genre: Poetry

Format: e-book

Published by Chupu Chupu

This is N.L. Shompole’s debut, I believe. And since it is the beginning, her little fledgling, it feels a lot like the thin bone structure of what she writes today. Cassiopeia at Midnight has a heavier focus on romance compared to Heaven Water Blood. It’s more on the sweet side and is about the small details of romantic love. Every little step in a relationship and every drop of it that evaporates as they lose touch.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Pages: 110

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-book

Advanced Reader’s Copy

This was received for an honest review

Spectre Specter Blue Ravine is her latest collection. It’s more on the personal side, more of a self-discovery or coming of age type of collection. Where themes such as diaspora, death, loss, and the question of home and what is home are the main structure of the collection.
This one is a lot more developed compared to her previous ones. The surrealism and the fantastical kind of evaporate in the background and now it’s more about the self, but it is still present, but used more as a device for self-discovery. There are some poems that feel sort of like prose or narrative poetry, where broken relationships and loved ones who have passed are curtains and houses burning as the ‘The End’ and coming back as phantoms for forgiveness or reminders. Icarus is also a constant visitor in this collection. Unfortunately, I’m not up to date with my mythology so I can’t comment on that.

It’s about pain when realizing home is too distant, when you’re a foreigner in your own home, but yet you feel more comfortable with it because you would rather not be somewhere where colonialism or imperialism affects your every foot step. Shompole is Kenyan born but lives in the U.S. so she experiences the  loss of her mother tongue from her memory and a lack of belonging between two worlds. This is an occurring theme since it ties with the loneliness of general human existence where similarities and differences are so vast and detailed that everyone is connected but yet so far out of reach and comfort. Isolated, frustrated with it, but there’s still a little something, and that is enough at times.

This is Shompole’s magnum opus, it’s my favorite one out of them all, because it just feels so much heavier on the heart.

Rating: 5/5

Two Solar Luxuriance Chapbooks: Throne of Blood by Cassandra Troyan and Sacramento by Meghan Lamb

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Page: 94

Genre: Poetry, Experimental

Format: Format

Published by Solar Luxuriance

Now, that I’m finally loving poetry, I decided to pick this chapbook up. When I downloaded it months ago, Solar Luxuriance provides free downloads of their out-of-print chapbooks, I kept giving it up and picking up something else. The first “chapter” is actually a short story written in poetry. Is there a name for ‘Short story poetry’? I guess it would be narrative poetry. Anyway, that was one of the best parts of the chapbook, not only because I rarely find that style of poetry, but it is my favorite kind of poetry because it’s short stories, but not actually a short story. It tells the story of these two male necrophiliacs that murder women and girls and bury them in the basement. A lot of her poetry kind of has this feminist undertone to it, where she mourns the death and mistreatment of women and girls by the hands of men. It’s feminist because most people don’t take the mistreatment of women seriously. If you don’t believe me, well listen to how many people make jokes about rape and blaming rape on rape victims. But yeah.

Then after that, there’s some more poetry similar to do that, except girls don’t die physically, they die on the inside. I think these might’ve been slightly autobiographical. Where father’s disappoint and men kill women mentally repeatably for feeling too much.

This chapbook was actually fairly popular in the small press world so I feel like my review is basically going to repeat the same thing. Of course most of this chapbook isn’t too dark, some of it is light hearted somewhat. A care free feminist chapbook about being a woman who owns her sexuality, disappointment in relationships, self-hatred and inability to cope with it, and  existential angst. Topic wise, it’s not much different than your usual poetry book in the Alt. Lit world. But Troyan’s biting and vivid poetry stands out from the Tao Lin esque poetry writing I usually see to the point where it’s unavoidable. (Not knocking him, just saying that there’s way too many people writing like him now, with slight differences, but not very much the same.)

Rating: 4.5/5

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Pages: 28

Genre: Novella

Format: E-book (Again, a free PDF download of an our-of-print chapbook.)

(I tried my best to remove the black parts so it could blend in.)

Well this one is short and sweet and it talks about loneliness and isolation, about awkward and unfulfilling relationships, and then it switches back and forth to the Gold Rush era when people left their homes and died on the way. The prose is filling for a novella, this is one of the shortest novellas I’ve ever read, I almost consider it a novelette, and yet it was written good enough to feel emotionally involving. I would like to read more of her works. Don’t have much to say since it’s so short.

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

The Woman from Cheshire Avenue by Ankhesen Mié

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Pages: 86

Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Psychological Thriller, Novella

Format: E-book

Published by Middle Child Press

Borrowed from Kindle Prime Library

The funny thing about this novella is that during the time I was reading this I watched a movie called Supremacy. It was filled with tension and kept you at the edge of the seat, it was nasty, but it was that I-can’t-look-away type of movie.  That’s what this novella is like. The only bad thing about the movie was that Danny Glover, I always confuse him with Donald Glover for some odd reason, was playing this old father and was talking really low and raspy like Christian Bale’s growling lion interpretation of Batman’s soft mysterious voice. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I partly blame this on my hearing and the lack of subtitles that Mom forgot to put on. Supremacy was a Hollywood movie though, the good guys win. It’s not like The Woman from Cheshire Avenue where there are no good guys and it sort of rubs you the wrong way since Neo-Nazis are involved in this novella.

Lilith Wells doesn’t know what the hell she wants and one day out of spite, she kisses a Neo-Nazi. She comes from a family of Black excellence, She has a successful career, and is the daughter of a successful politician. So of course this could lead to disaster especially since her father and the Neo-Nazis are all playing buddies with the Hirosawa family, a Japanese mobster family.

This novella seems to be a sort of indirect sequel to the novella, Folklore, from Folklore and Other StoriesThe Hirosawa family seems to be continuing their blood-soaked legacy into this novella and based on the ending, there just might be a sequel.

I don’t know, this one was quirky. I kind of already got a feeling of what Mié writes from her novella trilogy and it’s dark and uncomfortable, but yet you just keep reaching for more to wallow in it. Although this one was a little more hopeful I guess. The Neo-Nazi, Eric, who hated everyone and took pride in it, soon changes after that magical kiss and decides to clean up his act. He was the Snow White and Lillith Wells was the prince.  And of course, as Lilith Wells and Eric get closer, you will find that this love is forbidden, because obviously she’s Black and Eric is a White nazi, that isn’t actually German, he’s Norwegian. Remember Neo-Nazis are racist and hate eveything that is darker than them.

It’s a very thought-provoking novel that seems to ask if it is possible for a person to be completely changed and forgiven. But in this case, in this novella, there wasn’t enough time for that happen. It does raise the question of whether or not a person can stop being a Neo-Nazi, a piece of trash, and become clean. Can a person stop being terrible? Can they stop what they started and practiced from birth?

This off beat novella, especially that goth girl with the pink and black cornrows, raised some questions in my head about people and the ways they think, but it also left me thoroughly entertained. There are no heroes and there are no happy endings, everyone gets their own punishment for any of their actions, whether if they were right or wrong. After reading the ending, there was a point where I wondered if this was some sort of satire written with the most nonsatirical prose or maybe I’m just overthinking. This is definitely the anti-romance novel. The foolish don’t always remain foolish, and the deviant don’t only have deviant ways and remain that way. Something like that.

Rating: 4.5/5

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg by Kate Evans

You know, when I saw the monthly archives of my blog and clicked on that “show amount of posts per month,” I was honestly surprised at the low amount of blog posts I’ve written. I only have over 280 blog posts. I’ve been doing this book blogging for almost two and a half years? I can’t count to save my life. I’m sorry. I cringe at the older blog posts, I wish I can delete them, but that would be silly to do.

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Pages: 224

Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical, Biography

Format: E-book

Published by Verso

Received from Netgalley for an honest review

I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction or historical non-fiction books about the World Wars anymore. But what lead me into reading this graphic novel was the cover. Long hair with a trail of tanks and soldiers marching and  exploding, almost forming some sort of loose braid, there is a style like this but I can’t name it, I will put a link to a picture here.  I wondered what was this was about and who is Rosa Luxemburg.

She was a charismatic and brilliant woman who wanted to dismantle the system of capitalism that oppressed her people and other minorities, during the early 1900s, when World War I and World War II would bring about a destruction that would take her with it. She led the German Revolution and was part of a Communist party. She was a communist leader that set her foot out in an arena that would soon persecute  her for her Jewish background.

I will admit that I still didn’t understand the whole concept of socialism, so I guess I should pick up that Karl Marx book if I ever get interested in it for whatever reason. But the whole graphic novel was built around her teaching and conceptions of capitalism, how it controls the universe, and how it brings about poverty and societal restrictions due to the poverty. The funny thing is that socialism and capitalism have their pros and cons, despite that one might sound better than the other, there’s always some sort of oppressive con that will make people change their minds. Like, for example, look at China. I don’t really like to talk about this because I don’t know much, I only know from articles and blog posts written by Chinese people who live there and know better than someone like me and most Americans. A lot of the Western media’s protrayel of China is kind of influenced by Yellow Peril and the racist idea of “All communist countries are opressed desert wastelands that must be saved by me White saviour.” No I’m not denying that these things happen, a lot of screwed up things happen there, it’s a communist, imperialist country, much like us, except we’re not communist. But China is a perfect example of communism gone wrong. Which is why I say that there is a pro and a con to communism and it shouldn’t be romanticized.

It’s a saddening how after Rosa Luxemburg died, the communism that she was trying to build turned out to be something worse, as the people who took over became dictators and inflicted just as much harm than the government before them. But her influence has lived on, her outspoken actions and feisty attitude definitely lives on in many of today’s feminist activists. Yes, I actually consider her a feminist figure since what she had done was rare for a woman at that time, especially since Jewish people were constantly in hiding from persecution.

I wasn’t a fan of the artwork I will admit, some of it was beautiful in its accurately bleak and sort of scratched in look, I don’t know how to explain art, but anything looks better than Attack on Titan. The flow of the story was a little odd sometimes, the way the scenes ended and then changed were a bit abrupt to me. But the writing was engaging, the tale of her life, switching from her political side to her dysfunctional love life, was utilized in a way to portray a political figure in their highest and lowest. Rosa’s writings were also melded into the text to form two narratives, the personal and the outer. I recommend this as a light read for those who like to read World War I and II non-fictions.

Rating: 3.5/5