Because I was so charmed by Kidd’s Things in Jars. Because the novel’s description sounded awesome. Because there’s something devilishly right about Jess Kidd’s writing.
It isn’t just the beauty of her language or the way it comes alive, it isn’t just the Irish brogue you can practically hear in her books, the Irish lilt and musicality to her narratives. It’s the way she seamlessly blends genres hopping from realism to (I suppose) magic realism, from natural to supernatural and back, all while maintaining a delicious air of mystery.
It was the case with Things in Jars and it the case here. Admittedly, I liked the former more, but this was still a delight.
Mr. Flood is an Irish giant of a man; he’s old, grumpy, with a sizable hoarding situation in his sizable estate where he lives alone, save for the occasional brave caretaker who dares to darken his threshold. They seldom last, but Maud Drennan is different. Tougher, steelier, stubborner.
She alone seems to be able to get through to the old man, to help him sort his life out amid the clutter, debris and all the secrets and mysteries that linger around the place and have for decades.
Mr. Flood was once a family man. Maud gets fascinated with the fate of his family, the tragedies that occurred. She decides to investigate. With her agoraphobic neighbor as a sounding board and the coterie of Saints that follow her around, armed with a bus pass and a rape alarm, Maud is an unlikely but determined detective.
This is her story. It’s offbeat; an oddball, at turns humorous and eerie, light and dark, uplifting and devastatingly sad. A study of juxtapositions but it works and well. Lovely through and through. Recommended.
Killer Queens by David M. Booher
Not tediously campy, not unbearably cutesy, not overwhelmingly quirky. Just right. As if by magic.
This book turned out was more entertaining than I expected. I’m not even a fan of space operas and it was still fun. As gay as a drag queen riding a unicorn, this gay space adventure is a surprisingly charming read featuring the odd couple of two reformed intergalactic assassins who are trying to make a living any way then can.
O yeah, and there’s a monkey on their back. Literally.
Romance, danger, aliens. All sorts of fun done in bright rainbow technicolor.
Not the greatest or the most literary or any of that, but fun all the same. Speeds by like a stolen spaceship.
What She Forgot by S. W. Vaughn
Rules to creating a popular book.
Check what genres sell – thrillers.
Give it a marketable protagonist – female.
Give her a perfectly nice and normal life – but a mysterious/dangerous/difficult past.
Or if you really wanna stretch your muscles – a psychological disorder, obscure if possible.
Now have that past rear its ugly rear in her face. Do it, shred her nice normal life. Put that damsel in distress. Yeah.
Ok, now alternate your timelines. Past and present.
The resent especially rite in a very minute way – no detail is too small. That was you’ll get your word count in.
Got it all? Ok, now twist it. Do that twist like Chubby Checker on speed. Do it until the last chapter.
It doesn’t matter if the twists are preposterous, far-fetched, or logic-defying? If you do them fast enough and the audience doesn’t go overthinking them, you got yourself a proper modern popular thriller. You’re good. You’re golden.
S.W. Vaughn obviously knows the rules. She uses every single one of them to craft this tale of a serial killer survivor who two decades later gets her own daughter taken in the same manner she was. Sure enough, it’s a fun, fast-paced, freakishly overplotted and overtwisted sort of thing, but it’s entertaining enough.
Oddly enough, a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of the plot hinges on the fact that rape victims in this book do not abort. No matter how horrific the rape, no matter how young they are. This occurs not once, not twice, but three time. WTF is up with that?
Did S.W. Vaughn base this on some old bygone medieval world’s rulebook or presciently anticipated US’s hideous return to those days? Weird.
Other than that, a perfectly decent if somewhat preposterous thriller, perfectly decent for a freebie, at any rate. Reads quickly too.
There are tons of web comics out there. Oodles and oodles of them. My fiancé loves them and tends to send me a ‘Best Of’ sort of email digests, so I suppose I’m used to seeing the best of them, though I’ve seen a fair variety. This one is more along the lines of thoroughly average.
I’ve no idea how the publishing business selects which ones to make into a book. From what I’ve read the standard seems to be cutesy, quirky but not over the top, not too clever, funny but not too funny. Something that resonates with an average millennial, who likes political correctness, their precious Mr. Rodgers-approval-stamped individuality, emotions…and more emotions. Oh, and talking about those emotions.
Is it weird to exist? F yeah. Does there need to exist a book of cartoons about it? Well, presumably so, so that others can relate to the weirdness of existence.
I mean, sure, whatever, it’s cute, it goes by very quickly, you might get a laugh or two out of it. re there tons of stronger, smarter comic out there on the web no one’s done into a book yet? You bet. See if you can find them.
Cyclorama by Adam Langer
I found this author’s books ages ago in a public library and positively tore through them. Not a prolific writer, but such a good one. So naturally when I saw his latest come up on Netgalley, I was intrigued…and excited to revisit a past favorite to see how it holds up.
The result is a somewhat mixed bag marred by nostalgia and personal impressions, but then again, that’s any reviews, so then…
Cyclorama is an ambitious, sprawling, competent literary novel that’s easier to appreciate than love. For me appreciation comes from recognizing the complexity of themes, quality of writing, etc. and love comes from personal engagement with the story and its characters. So then, the latter left something to be desired. I didn’t really care for any of the novel’s characters and There. Were. Many. Enough to warrant a personae dramatis.
The basic plot follows a group of teenagers involved in their high school production of a play about Anne Frank under the auspices of a nasty pedo-leaning teacher.
Fast forward forty years to the divisive election year of 2016 and that teacher is turning 77. You, the reader, get to revisit each of the kids now as middle-aged adults to see how their early experiences had echoed and reverberated throughout their life and what sort of people they became.
Langer is a master writer, no question; and his character writing is absolutely first rate, whether you like the characters he is writing or not. The layered complexity and flawed nature of them is laid bare for your perusal and judgement. The nature and nurture collide to create personalities as individual as they are complicated. For that alone, the novel is well worth a read. Is does that thing good/real literature can do splendidly.
Does emotional intelligence on page translate into emotional engagement by the reader? That’s a different and likely highly individualized sort of thing, so user mileage may vary. But this is an undeniably strong book. Thanks Netgalley.
eaTaking on grand topics can be tricky, but Ram V. does it quite well. The Grim Reaper has been personified so often in fiction, movies, TV, and here in graphic form she is a woman who gets fired and has to reinvent herself as a timeless, sporadically immortal eponymous character following the life of a man whose invention is bound to make her obsolete.
But is the world ready for immortality…and is she ready to kill for job safety? Those are the questions this graphic novel goes after. In technicolor.
Well written, emotionally fine-tuned without overdoing it; brightly and strikingly drawn, albeit with funky faces that take time to get used to, this was a pretty enjoyable read. I liked it much more than Ram V’s These Savage Shores graphic novel. The Indian setting provided that visual something extra for the armchair travellers and those looking to read internationally. Well done.
I actually just picked it up based on the strength of Finck’s other book, her memoir. Didn’t know what to expect. Certainly didn’t expect a retelling of The Old Testament.
Finck herself says she isn’t religious and views the source material as a sort of story and stories, she believes, are for retelling, and so there she goes.
I still don’t care for her squiggly simplified art, but there’s something magical about her storytelling. Just a natural ear for narrative rhythms or something. Lovely.
And her retelling is…well, it’s interesting. Gender-diverse. Quirky. Probably not for everyone…but what is, these days, really?
A large book but a very quick read due to the art to text ratio. Irreverence aplenty. User mileage may vary.
Much like the other novel I read by the author, this one was appreciated on the intellectual and not emotional level. Lipsyte is a clever and stylish writer, he has a way with words, he knows how to create multilayered characters.
But the thing is I didn’t much care for the plot and didn’t at all care about the characters; and appreciation of narrative skills can only take a reader so far on its own.
Early 90s, New York music scene. One fecally named band is trying to make it but hitting all sorts of obstacles from murder to personality explosions.
It’s one of those fairly stereotypical NY stories of struggling artists and grimy streets, cheap bars, cheap pizza, cheap lifestyles. Sort of like waxing nostalgia for a past that isn’t necessarily worth it.
New York has, for a while now, been a city aggressively hostile to nourishing most life (outside of the very wealthy or very naïve/stupid), but apparently once upon a time it welcomed those who dreamed or artistic self-expression and whatever fame and fortune that might bring.
If you want to read about that time, this is as good of a book as any. Nothing special, though. Nothing really original, either. Seems like a really familiar story.
So there you have it, folks…the novel about The Sh*ts isn’t quite The Sh*t it probably saw itself as, but it’s decent enough, well written, and a very quick read. Thanks Netgalley.
One of Those Faces by Elle Grawl
Another one of those thrillers. About a girl with one of those faces. The young Ms. Mallen is twenty five and a text book definition of a hot mess, though apparently the focus here is on hot because the men in her life find her irresistible. Can’t get enough. Go crazy for her. About her. On her. Etc.
And she juggles them as expertly as a sleep-deprived, overcaffeinated, unreliable narrator can.
Someone is killing young women in her Chicago neighborhood, young women who look uncannily like her. Very triggering, especially for someone with such a difficult past.
What’s a girl to do? Well, try to get to the bottom of it way juggling all that male interest, of course.
What’s the attraction, one might ask? Well, presumably she’s a classic damsel-in-distress, perpetual distress, mind you.
Millennial through and through from her iffy career as a kinda sorta artist to her flat out disturbing living situation to her junkie tendencies and her prime network sitcom worthy relationships and friendships, this protagonist much like her story are very hip, very trendy, very much what’s IN now. None of which necessarily makes it good.
Perfectly readable, sure. Original and distinguishable from a million similar other books floating out there – not so much. Reads quickly enough, but nothing special, really. Thanks Netgalley.
Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle
So, this was from a standing debate with a friend over the quality of self-published works. My friend (a self-published author himself) posited that the quality is just as good as traditionally published work, citing a list of authors who started off self-publishing and they got famous. Literary giants like E.L. James, that is.
Riddle was on that list so when his latest showed up on Netgalley, I figured I’d check him out. Sure enough, I stand strong on my position. Riddle, like James, like other similar authors, may have a very good understanding of the current market, but he’s probably never going to be accused of being a great writer.
Because he isn’t, not really, more like an author. Someone who can come up with the sort of ideas that get the general audience all steamed up and then cobble it together into a book, one flat serviceable sentence at a time. As this techno-thriller proves so perfectly.
The idea behind it is huge and bombastic, straight out of Michael Bay’s catalog and movie adaptation-ready. A man accused of a crime he didn’t commit is sent back in time because apparently that’s what they do to criminals in that reality.
Yeah, it’s one of those things that totally doesn’t hold up to overthinking. So there he is, with the dinos (and there’s sadly not enough of it), while back in his timeline his young daughter is fighting to solve the murder and prove her father’s innocence.
The twist is that her father is actually behind the technology that enables time-traveling and it was meant to be something different originally, but there it is.
Enter some pseudo-scientific babble, lots of business jargon, some dubious time-traveling logistics and paradoxes and a bunch of suspense, et voila, you got yourself a book. A much too long of a book for the quality of writing, but at least it reads quickly, due to its whambam thriller-pace.
Cardboard characters all around, the set is practically flammable with them. Nothing special, but lots of things in it that sell. An imminently marketable feature. Not something to love. Probably just waiting to be adapted into something starring Chris Pratt. Read at your own discretion. Thanks Netgalley.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.