Book Review – Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Walwrath

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Poetry / Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2018
Publisher: Finishing Line Press

A paradox of piercing and delicate, like a tendril of blood dripping down a shard of crystalline ice, an homage to Alice and her looking glass illusions.

Glimmerglass Girl is a realm in a globe of femininity and both the knives and hearts it bears, or the knives puncturing hearts when worse comes to worse, as it does.
Never faint, but it’s like a symphony cut short at the intermission – it ends all too abruptly, but doesn’t it glisten while it lives?

Quotes

  • “I am night and a thousand stars hurtle through my skin, punching through the ether. I crouch, prehistoric, in the space behind clouds, my volcanic heart attracting lightning, sympathetic interstellar.”
  • “I tell my sisters: cultivate loneliness like you might care for an orchid, turning it gently towards the light, serving it water like wine; aerated, purified, filtered.”
  • “When others see me, they will see a woman unhinged. I will crawl out of my skin, leaving it all heaped behind me and the naked me will walk home alone in the darkness; a disciple of shadows, an acolyte of the moon”
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Book Review – The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Thriller / Erotica
Series: The Original Sinners
Publication Date: June 5th, 2018
Publisher: 8th Circle Press

Enter decadence through a gilded looking glass…
The Chateau is like rich gâteau and jazz in the hours of the night when all sin is absolved, and a sensual-sinister echo of the Decadent Movement with modern sensibilities. Mostly.

Lieutenant Kingsley Boissonneault is tasked with infiltrating a secretive cult when his commanding officer’s nephew has been drawn into it, whether by will or force he’s not sure. The cult itself seems to Kingsley like a reverse garden of Eden, a haven of open decadence that is his ideal, if he’s honest, but it’s no stranger to a deeper darkness, and he knows there has to be a catch that both the officer’s nephew, himself, and the other men living there have fallen prey to.

It’s not my usual genre, but I liked its colours as both a mystery-thriller and darkest romance – it spares neither blood nor honey. I’m a sucker for the paradox of opulence and torment, and this has it in spades, especially with Kingsley, who could be its posterchild. A flawed and selfish protagonist, oh yes, but a bad protagonist he’s not.
The ice-blue, nightmarish dreams of his one past love are absolutely haunting.

The pace drops to a brisk walk in the second half, but its language is as luxurious as gold always, even when it’s rolling in the worst gutters of relationships. I think that more erotica should be like this – unafraid but intricate. The Chateau is a wink laced with twisted secrets and gleaming with an overdose of paradise. It sticks to your thoughts like sugar.

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – Whisper by Lynette Noni

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Science Fiction / Mystery
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Pantera Press

Whisper is an organic drama encased in technological dread, a warning but wholly alive voice echoing through a sterile ward. The power of words is a mighty one, and it bears a price to match if words are abused.
It’s a literal interpretation of the potency of language and the tendency for words and actions to fall upon their creator – a young woman, titled only ‘Jane Doe’, is held and experimented on by the government against her will because it’s discovered that she can alter anything in the atmosphere – time, objects, people – with words alone.

It’s a cross of warm, poignant character-building with the brutal nature of scientific politic and the “end justifies the means” mentality. No one ever wants to take the blame for the aftermath of their creation, even if it means violating and erasing the humanity of its victims.

“With my mental image well in hand, I open my mouth and speak for the second time in over two and a half years. The sound I make is barely a whisper, but the power behind it knows no bounds.”

I liked Whisper‘s concept more than its execution, it falls a bit into typical YA form, hinting at so many deeper things but never breaking the surface. You can’t argue that it’s an interesting idea, though, and pretty original.

Quotes

  • “The ground is dissolving under my feet. Surely I must be sinking into an alternate dimension. One where silent girls are befriended by armored knights and bouncing children and swallowed up in dreams so real they bleed life into the very walls, turning the blandness of whites, greys and beiges into rainbows so dazzling that the air itself comes alive with their colors.”
  • “Some memories are buried for a reason, but it’s still hard to keep them at bay. A mother’s loving touch has the power to break through even the most fortified mental defenses.”
  • “That’s just how our minds are programmed – to recognize and match what we say to things we imagine. And that’s why, even though it’s the intent that matters, often our words come automatically with their own pre-attached power.”
  • “Words are too precious to throw around carelessly. Words demand respect. They are beautiful; they are terrible. They are a gift and a curse. I will never forget what they can do. Because words have cost me everything.”

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – The Jungle Book by Crystal S. Chan (Adaptation)

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Adventure / Classics
Manga Demographic: Shounen
Publication Date: April 28th, 2017
Publisher: Udon Entertainment

A lively retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic – the saga of a boy raised by the inhabitants of the jungle making up the first half, with the second being a series of individual short stories.

It’s a vibrant adaptation, and I appreciate that the artist goes their own way and doesn’t drawn too much from the iconic 1964 Disney film, considering how infused that adaptation has become with peoples’ image of the original.
I’ll admit that I only really know the Disney version, which I enjoy a lot but I know deviates from the novel, notably in tone, and cuts out some of the darker acts. I haven’t gotten the chance to read the original yet, though I feel from what I know about it that Chan’s version is probably a truer echo of Kipling’s novel than the animated movie was. I especially found the half with the unrelated stories interesting, because I hadn’t really known those existed – I had thought it was mostly about Mowgli and the jungle clans.

The Jungle Book is very symbolic of both the dangers and positives of both humans’ and animals’ instinct to behave as clans – how they can choose to accept an outsider as one of their own (as the wolves do Mowgli) or cast them out like a pariah (as the humans eventually do to him when he attempts to join them). Mowgli is sort of the sole exception in an environment where humans, or even humanesque animals like the monkey clan, are something strange and destructive, and to be kept away from. But only because the animals chose to raise him rather than kill him or leave him to die.

As for the art in the book, it’s very cute and crisp and the characters show a wide range of emotions. Some of the animals in particular look amazing, especially Baloo the bear and the tiger Shere Khan. It’s totally a good adaptation, overall.

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Upcoming Book Reviews (Updated!)

I know, I know. I’ve been straying from them to focus on poetry. I’ve decided not to review some of the ones I took on earlier in the year – either I just haven’t got anything insightful enough to say to bother, or I wasn’t interested the book enough to finish it, in which case it’s really not fair to review it based on only a portion of the book.

Here is the essential list for what’s coming up June through September, give or take a few books I might add in on whim. This is for my convenience mostly, but I do recommend searching these if you wish, they are all interesting books.

Mystery / Thrillers

The Shadow Killer – Arnaldur Indridason
Nightingale – Amy Lukavics
Triptych – Karin Slaughter

Horror

Ghost Virus – Graham Masterson
The Sisterhood – Florence Stevenson
In the Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami
The Evil Trance – Mark Dysan

Fiction / Drama

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
Wolfspy – Bruce H. Markuson

Poetry

A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver
Glimmerglass Girl – Holly Walwrath

Fantasy

Star-Touched Stories – Roshani Chokshi
Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

Art and Manga

Silent Hill Omnibus (1 + 2) – Scott Ciencin / Tom Waltz
Lychee Light Club – Usamaru Furuya
The Jungle Book (Adaptation) – Chrystal S. Chan
Ravine, Vol. 1 – Stjepan Šejić

Book Review – Hallaj by Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr
Genre: Classical Poetry / Religion
Publication Date: July 15th, 2018
Publisher: Northwestern University Press

The meat of these poems is rich and laden with subtle veins that give it a deep sense of intimacy. They pulse at the edges with emotion. Hallaj’s poems began addressed to the ideas of lovers, as many poets do, and they graduated as they evolved to more ambitious and intense heights of pain, joy and faith.

To paint a bit of backdrop behind this collection, Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj (also known as Mansur al-Hallaj) was a Persian poet and teacher of Sufism, a religion related to Islam, well known for his writings and preachings in the 9th century until his execution in the midst of political discord around the year 922. All of his poems, save for the early quarter in the beginning, revolve and intertwine heavily with spirituality and his relationship with God.

The sheer amount of work that went into both the original poems, their translation and compilation is visibly astounding – Hallaj is heavy in detail, reference, and artfulness with its change from Arabic to English. The translator leaves extensive notes regarding what had to be changed and what could not be changed in the linguistics, considering how distinct the two languages are from each other. It’s also an exhaustive and endlessly fascinating study of the intricacies of Sufism.

The only thing I considered to detract from it – more in design than in quality – are the interpretations and histories given to introduce each poem, when I feel it would leave more to the imagination if they came afterwards, letting the reader make what they will of it before knowing more about the piece.

It is otherwise a flawless book, whether you are more interested in it for religion, history or poetry. It has a depth you don’t see nearly often enough in inspirational writing.

Quotes

  • “You lit two fires within me, one in my ribs and the other in my guts. And I have never turned to quench my thirst without seeing your reflection in the water. That fire cools my heart like ice, and a sword blow is softer than separation from my love.”
  • “When a youth reaches perfection from desire, and loses the remembered one in memory’s pride, he witnesses truth when desire attests to him that lovers’ perfection is infidelity.”
  • “While love remains secret, it’s dangerous, and ultimate safety meant to lower one’s guard. The most beautiful love is the one that gossip betrays, just as fire is useless when it remains in the stone.”
  • “Your spirit was mixed in my spirit, just like wine and clear water. If something touches you, it touches me, for you are I in every state.”

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – Planting Gardens in Graves II by R. H. Sin

Planting Gardens in Graves II

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018

“My heart is damaged in a way I can’t describe with words and any feeling I’ve had is gone like silence.”

Planting Gardens’ simplicity and forgiveness is resonant – it is a polite but meaningful warmth that carries neither arrogance nor assumptions in its demeanor. When they want, the words can be a kind hand or a pin of empathy in the heart.

I enjoyed and appreciated this book quite a bit more than Sin’s She Felt Like Feeling Nothing. Though it wasn’t a bad collection by any means, I felt Gardens had a disarming pour of heartache into it that gave it more depth. Inspirational poetry isn’t always my thing, but I love the concept of coercing beauty out of ruins, or if you will, gardens from graves.

I’m not keen on the stylizing of the shortest poems. They’re disorienting because some appear to be haiku, but aren’t haiku, and I’ve never favoured the aesthetic of a single sentence poem. It always feels empty rather than artistic to me. Regardless, I did strongly like several of the poems. It’s a good piece.

Quotes

  • “We were like roses / kept alive for the moment / left to die in the end”
  • “Sitting on the realization that you were never good and this was never love / like a beautiful peach rotten on the inside”
  • “Sometimes I’m eager to feel the warmth of love even though I’ve grown more familiar with the cold hands of heartache”
  • “The fact that no one is perfect doesn’t serve as an excuse to hold on to someone who continues to break your heart”
  • “And here I stand / surrounded by my own tears / knee deep in my own demons / reaching for the same hand who pushed me over the edge”

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – The Damned, Vol. 2 by Cullen Bunn

★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: The Damned, Vol. 2: Ill-Gotten
Genre: Horror / Mystery
Demographic: Older Teen / Adult
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: April 17th, 2018

This series is growing on me like a pair of horns. A more intense brand of darkness than the first volume, Ill-Gotten continues the seedy intrigues of demonic gangsters and a man, Eddie, who is cursed to die and be revived repeatedly, always at the cost of innocents.

While the previous entry was largely backstory and prelude, the second digs its teeth into the rotten meat of the underside, both the writing and characterization more vivid, gritty and gruesomely decadent this go around. Their dichotomous world of wealth and grime is a bit more developed, and the nature of its curses becomes more clear.

The idea is something fresh, successfully intermixing paranormal horror and 1920’s gang drama, and the art is clean and stylish, reminiscent of both classic American comics and the dark, chiaroscuro work of Mike Mignola. I recommend highly.

Art – 5/5
Story – 4.5/5
Characterization – 4/5
General – 4.5/5

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

[Read my review of the first volume here.]

Book Review – If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publication Date: June 26th, 2018
Publisher: One World

Composed of raw emotion, memory and urgency, If They Come For Us examines the injustice of war and division. Bloodshed is something that shakes and dismantles the roots of generations, leaving scars on even those who only recall it faintly, or don’t recall it at all. The aftermath doesn’t fade easily – what is lost and the price of what is gained must never be forgotten.

Asghar speaks rich lyrics also on culture, sexuality, and the delicate, haphazard art of growing up. They are unabashed, honest and hint at deeper intricacies. Her words also take a strong stance against all that leads to partition and war – namely misunderstanding or fearing another because their culture is different, without trying to understand them. Prejudice only leads to further prejudice, never to any sense of harmony.

Some were not to my personal taste, as is with any compilation, but I enjoy the collection’s earnest voice as a whole, especially with the earlier poems and the ones with feminist touches. Particular resonant poems for me were “For Peshawar”, “When the Orders Came”, “Boy”, and the disarming “WWE”.

If They Come For Us is sometimes painful and sometimes passionate, even the poems that weren’t my preference are never watered-down or weak in their meaning or choice of words. (The cover artwork is also beautiful, to boot.) I recommend.

Quotes

  • “Aren’t I a miracle? A seed that survived the slaughter & slaughters to come. I think I believe in freedom I just don’t know where it is. I think I believe in home, I just don’t know where to look.”
  • “From the moment our babies are born are we meant to lower them into the ground? To dress them in white? They send flowers before guns, thorns plucked from stem. Every year I manage to live on this earth I collect more questions than answers.”
  • “All the people I could be are dangerous. The blood clotting, oil in my veins.”
  • “Even nature is fractured, partitioned. I want to believe in rebirth, that what comes from death is life, but I have blood from someone’s father’s father on my hands & no memory of who died for me to be here.”

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Note that this was an uncorrected copy and there may be minor changes present in the final print.]

Book Review – California’s Deadly Women by Michael Thomas Barry

★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: California’s Deadly Women: Murder and Mayhem in the Golden State
Genre: True Crime / History
Publication Date: June 28th, 2018
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing

Darkly fascinating and tragic, California’s Deadly Women unearths the crimes of a hundred years. The blood, shame and sorrow of these womens’ acts of murder are shown in a versatile light – whether it’s forgiving or damning is up to the individual circumstance. Whether desperation or malice, accident or intent, the crime was done, nonetheless.

The cases in this book range from 1850 to the 1950’s, and speak volumes about the issues of their respective era, notably women’s rights. Some were nothing more than a straightforward act of evil, but many of the stories are ones of panic and desperation which led to the worst. These showcased with clarity how paradoxical, stigmatizing and merciless society could be to women, even if the law was lenient.
Consider that they were almost always victims themselves, and if it weren’t for that same system, they wouldn’t have been driven to desperate ends in the first place. The cases where it wasn’t intentional, but a necessity of self-defense, are a deeply disturbing portrait of the time. No one should get away with murder, but no one should be forced onto a path where something as vile as killing seems like the only means of escape, either.

The book delves heavily into different facets of women murderers and how they became that way, as well as the flippant inequalities of the American justice system towards criminals based on their gender, race, appearance and personal history – still unfortunately very prevalent today, as evidenced by the uncanny parallels between these women’s circumstances and recent stories.

The writing style is accessible and clever, and many interesting photographs of good quality are included – such as portraits and gravestones of the accused, as well as houses, locations and how these places look today. Ultimately a thought-provoking and well-constructed piece of nonfiction which gives a face and story to tragedies and cruelties buried by time.

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – Trolls in the Attic by Joanie K. Findle

★★★★ 4 Stars

Full Title: Trolls in the Attic and Other Tales of the Supernatural
Genre: Magic Realism / Short Stories
Publication Date: June 20th, 2017
Publisher: Year of the Book

Many a strange summer passes through here – human wolves, immortal birds, time-altering mirrors – so much to discover! Trolls in the Attic is all happenstance and secrets, sometimes bordering on creepy but never quite tiptoeing onto that threshold. It evokes the serene but distinctly odd dreaminess of late summer, where heat and colour cast an unreality on everything so it all seems unlikely.

Luck and circumstance are a mysterious and random science – in the right place at the right time, you could be witness to anything. That sense of unusual luck (or misfortune) is the main theme throughout – people who just happen to be where they are when they are, and one single act of curiosity or kindness they take evolves into unbelievable things. Almost in every story it takes place in the sweltering haze of July or August.

I feel like Trolls in the Attic would be a brilliant entrance into the magic realism genre for younger readers, or those on the fence about delving into it. It’s not overwhelmingly surreal or as dark as the genre tends to be, and is a little friendlier, but with magic realism’s signature twist endings and novelty.

-Story Rubric-

Midnight at Camp Hideaway – 3.5/5
Birds of a Feather – 5/5
Reflections in the Mirror – 4/5
Buddy – 5/5
Messages From Beyond the Grave – 4.5/5
The Haunted Inn – 4/5
Trolls in the Attic – 4/5
Trolls in the Forest – 3.5/5

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – The End of Chiraq by Javon Johnson (Editor)

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry / Social Issues
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Publisher: Northwestern University Press

“Mixing culture for the sake of chaos is a sin. Mixing culture for the sake of love… now, that’s God’s work.” -Demetrius Amparan

Poignant and sobering – simultaneously a love song to the city of Chicago and a desperate cry for it to change, for the rapid and unforgiving cycle of violence to end. I feel unequipped to review this book fully, as I’ve never been to Chicago, so I don’t know what it’s like. I can only imagine from the words of those who have seen it at its best and at its worst.

In these poems and essays lies optimism, faith and hope alongside an overwhelming sense of oppression, aggravated further by factors such as poverty, racism and corruption in law enforcement. There is both criticism and dissection of the term “Chiraq” used to describe the city and its violence. Mariame Kaba warns not to embrace the term, as they feel it leads to negation and “shoving to the side” of serious issues, or worsening them:

“The act of renaming the stolen land upon which they live, considered to be agency by some, perversely seals their fate. […] In ‘Chiraq’, community voices are drowned out. […] ‘Chiraq’ conditions how we think of ourselves and neighbors. It traps us into considering solutions that are steeped in a punishment mindset.”

The End of Chiraq is both a call for action and a call for solace – a thought-provoking anthology with a strong chorus of voices. It is both the songs of pain and beauty, or in the echo of its own words, a flower that is brave enough to rise from the concrete and seek freedom. Powerful, and I recommend to all.

Some essay and poems that stood out to me in particular were “To Live and Die in Chiraq” by Mariame Kaba, “My grandmother tells me…” by Demetrius Amparan, “Concrete Flowers” by Aneko Jackson, “When Asked About Chicago” by Alfonzo Kahlil, and “History as Written by the Victors” by Krista Franklin. I also found the essay by Leah Love on interviewing a female graffiti artist to be fascinating.

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Stacy King (Adaptation)

★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Classics
Manga Demographic: Shoujo
Publication Date: October 17th, 2017
Publisher: Udon Entertainment

The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe is a worthy compilation of the horror master’s most popular tales, adapted to a sleek manga style. Each is the exact dialogue and malcontent spirit of the original, and each features a different artist.

The collection succeeds at recreating that overbearing fog of ghoulish madness and lurking abyss that permeates the originals. I always love a bit of trivia and making-of tidbits, which are included as well. I rate these individually based on the art and amount it captured the essence of Poe’s writing.

  • THE RAVEN – Art by Pikomaro ★★★★

“For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore – nameless here for evermore.”
The iconic poem of a dead love and a harbinger bird gets a more traditional shoujo look, meaning softer, more petal-delicate looks to the characters and settings.

  • THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO – Art by Chagen ★★★★

A man takes revenge on the unfortunate Fortunato with a plan to bury him alive in a catacomb wall. The story is sinister and creeping, with a sleek art style to match.

  • MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH – Art by Uka Nagao ★★★★

The proud, hedonistic and shameless few laugh in the face of the suffering many, to which Death does not take kindly. Most would choose The Raven, but forever I have been a Red Death fangirl. I think that, at least for Poe’s more famous works, it tends to get the least genuine appreciation. The body horror pervading the original is downplayed. However, the art style is good, and it’s conveyed surprisingly well in black and white for being a story drenched in colour metaphors.

  • THE TELL-TALE HEART – Art by Virginia Nitouhei ★★★★★

Be still, my festering heart. The ambiguous madness of a younger man possessed, for some reason beyond even his own comprehension, to kill an older man. He succeeds, but yet he can never stop hearing the man’s heartbeat. A subtle horror matched by a subtle, delicate art-style.

  • THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER – Art by Linus Liu ★★★★★

A ravenous gloom grows inside a mansion, engulfing a brother and sister in illness, despair and insanity while their guest cannot do more than watch them fall apart. The art in this one was my favourite – it has a bit of a Junji Ito aura, especially in the characters’ eyes, and it melds powerfully with the story.

 

[I received a copy of this through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – The Day is Ready For You by Alison Malee

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel

Can you transform mourning into melodies? Can drowning lungs be relieved as they mold into gills? Malee can do this sort of magic with words. It should be said that there exists a tender and flimsy line between inspiring and cloying when it comes to poetry, and that this collection steadies far on the former half of that line, and that it actually is inspiring means something to me. A large chunk of modern poetry, well, let’s say it does some violent jump-rope with the line.

I think for me it has such a saturated power because it is something I feel familiarity with – it’s trying to rise from the dragging apathy life throws upon you, like dead hands pulling you down into an abyss, not because they want you alongside them but because they don’t want you free. There is always the opportunity to break from them but doesn’t it seem so rare?

The Day is Ready For You also explores some feminist themes with dignity, empathy and without blind rage, which I respect. The romantic poems I wasn’t as fond of, but I thoroughly enjoyed the earlier poems and the darker, rainier poems. They are all like the covers suggest, blossoms caught perfectly in their own spheres to shine.

Quotes

  • “This heart is deeply, deeply hidden. Like an old wooden box under the bed stuffed with secrets. / Mostly, love notes. Though also, postcards. Handprints. Glimpses. People who don’t belong anymore but are. Just are, still.”
  • “Gravity never quite drew blood from us. We spin, dizzy. We keep our feet running. Not away, only forward, they say we are only dreamers, but in dreams we become something more, don’t we?”
  • “We forge whole worlds in the pits of our stomachs. Nestle vines between our palms. Urge them to bloom but only if they do so discreetly. / We live stories. Live wars. Live wars that become stories. Become indispensable in our homes. (Yet always feel dispensable.)”
  • “Being close to you is something like blood underneath fingernails / meaning, we have been both prey and predator and somehow we are still alive.”

 

[I received a copy of this through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – Come to the Rocks by Christin Haws

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Romance / Fantasy
Publication Date: April 16th, 2018
Publisher: NineStar Press

A poignant, short and bittersweet novella about a woman, Linnea, who by fate or chance, has always been drawn to a ragged, dangerous outcrop of rocks by the sea, though she has no fear for she knows the ocean will never drag her in. On the contrary, it brings to her a mermaid, Mren, of such a glistening and preternatural beauty that every day away from her is another thorn in Linnea’s heart.

A daydreamer of the waters myself, I really love the vivid character of Come to the Rocks. However, it is incredibly short – even for a novella, it can be churned through in about two hours. I think it definitely has potential for elaboration and development into a full-fledged heartbreaker, but I enjoyed it as it is. There is also a powerfully executed point and pathos surrounding the antagonist, Linnea’s ex-boyfriend Mikey, about authority’s neglect towards or inability of resources needed to punish harassment and mental abuse.

Charming and evocative, with an ending reminiscent of the barbed fortunes of fairytale characters, Come to the Rocks is a novella I would recommend.

[I received a copy of this from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – Child of Nod by C. W. Snyder

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Fantasy
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Alice in Wonderland retellings of all varieties ignite some freakish literary mines inside of my brain, forcing them out of dormancy – I love these retellings intensely as a sub-genre, so naturally it would be impossible for me to dislike Child of Nod.

Child of Nod is an alternate-Alice of sorts that delights in tarts of blood and flesh rather than cherries and jam. Nod’s capacity for imagination is titanic, interweaving reanimated death, the capricious gore-lust of fairytales, ancient mythological themes and even a pinch of survival horror in a wicked brew of creative magic.

Neither the writing nor characterization falters, yet some oddness about the pacing doesn’t do it justice – it doesn’t quite engross you fully into its deadly frameworks. Not quite. However, its ambition and sheer quantity of style makes it worth a read or two, as it’s unique from other Grimm-Alice remixes in look and substance.

Writing – 4.5/5
Plot + Pacing – 3.5/5
Characterization – 4/5
General – 3.5 rounded to 4/5

[I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Murder, Melancholy and Mystique – More NetGalley Picks and Books for Summer / Late Spring

Ah, NetGalley, you blatant sadist. Every time I think I’ve gotten my review backlog to under fifty books, here you come dangling more enticing literature in front of me. Anyway, I’ve been mostly consumed with an attempt at writing a novel and trying to churn out another free book before the month’s end, so unfortunately I still have a large amount of books I own and books generously approved to me by the Galley left to review. However, they will all eventually make it on here in the next few months, including these freshly-picked beauties listed below. This batch includes the mystical intrigue of poetry and romance, juxtaposed alongside the griminess of horror and thriller.

❤️NEW❤️ – My new Patreon page – please consider becoming a Patron or sharing this page on any social media – 100% goes towards improving this blog and all of my work. I can’t promise any large-scale rewards, however Patrons get first notice of all work beforehand and the chance at free advance copies of anything I publish, and if it’s successful will be personally thanked and featured right here on BRV. If you would like to donate but not long-term, I also have a Buy Me a Coffee page. These are brand-new and still in the touching-up phase, so you’ll have to forgive their looks.

Recent NetGalley Approvals

Other Books to Be Featured Soon

  • “The Paying Guests” – Sarah Waters (Historical Fiction / LGBT)
  • “Tipping the Velvet” – Sarah Waters (Historical Fiction / LGBT)
  • “The Sisterhood” – Florence Stevenson (Retro Horror Review)
  • “The Legacy” – Jere Cunningham (Retro Horror Review)
  • “Chasing the Omega” – Jessica Edwards (Independent / Fantasy YA)
  • “The Day is Ready For You” – Alison Malee (Poetry)
  • “Trolls in the Attic” – Joanie K. Findle (Fantasy YA / Short Stories)
  • “California’s Deadly Women” – Michael Thomas Barry (Nonfiction / Crime)
  • Several new artbook reviews with included photographs, of varying genres.

Book Review – Anatomic by Adam Dickinson

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Science / Poetry
Publication Date: April 24th, 2018
Publisher: Coach House Books

A phosphorescent amoeba splitting into a garden of phrases – Anatomic is a prose-and-poem mimicry of the delicate chaos that is biology, eternally in bloom. Biology is a survivor no matter how it’s suppressed. Always, you will find it creeping into even the most sterile, brutally industrial places – all it takes is a single crack in the foundation, and in will seep organic life, the cold metal but a skeleton for a writhing body of flora and colour.

This is a wildly ambitious project, and frankly too rare. I find myself unexpectedly bonded to it, even the more explosion-of-thought poems I wasn’t as fond of. I’m passionate about biology and like to include it in my own work. Dickinson does it with more scientific tact rather than the fever dream runoff mine (barely) functions on, but I’m glad to see that others are inspired by the same intricate strangeness in nature.

Something also of interest is the way Anatomic compares the way people (mis)treat themselves and the other lifeforms on Earth and how it relates to the twisted state of politics that seems to have engulfed the world in recent years. I’ve actually caught flack for thinking this before, but I firmly believe a growing knowledge in biologic science will lead to less social problems. There are so many variables in life, and our own cellular composure does not act in malevolent disregard, nor rigid black and white structures, so neither should we.

I could say that technically, this is the most personal poetry collection I’ve ever read, as not only is it emotionally and intellectually personal but genetically personal, as the author includes portions drawn directly from information on his own individual chemical compounds and cells. It is quite literally an artwork made with blood, sweat and tears.

Quotes:

  • “I wear multinational companies in my flesh. But I also wear symbiotic and parasitic relationships with countless nonhumans who insist for their own reasons on making me human.”
  • “Every nation feels it is promised the whole earth. Every nation sits atop a pile and waits.”
  • “The unconscious is structured like a hormone. The ideas of the past are already quorum sensing the ideas that will replace them.”
  • “If they worked together, the microbes could eat us in a few days. Our bodies would blacken, liquefy, and run into the streets. I keep thinking I can feel them, and so I wash my hands of their stop-motion ponds. Anxiety is a form of autoimmunity. You can’t be trusted with your own intentions.”
  • “Over the surface of a world whose merchandise circulates within my cellular respiration, each exhale was injuring the air. I didn’t consent to carrying these chemicals inside me. I walked until I couldn’t see stars.”

 

[I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review – The Little Book of Witchcraft by Astrid Carvel

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: History / Spirituality
Publication Date: March 20th, 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel

I’m not honestly very knowledgeable about Wicca or Paganism, nor do I practice either, but I respect both as belief systems, namely their omnipresent respect for nature, something we could all learn from. Their history is fascinating as well, which is largely why I picked it up from NetGalley.

Wicca and Paganism are still shamefully misunderstood and continue to catch a bad rap in media and culture, but as the author says, like any belief there are positive, healthy ways to convey it (like those described in the book), and there are ways that perpetuate evil, often under the guise of being more “true” to the religion’s roots (which they aren’t).

From Carvel’s descriptions, in a nutshell – true Wicca is not cursing people, selling your soul, transfiguring people into animals, luring in humans with gingerbread houses or anything else media and witch hunts would have you think. As she explains it, it’s essentially a strong focus on the power of the mind and the power of plantlife and things existing in nature, and combining them to yield positive results in your life or someone else’s. It’s never to be used for malice, as all malice comes with vicious consequences for daring to want such things.

I didn’t have much interest in the spellbook half, personally, but the history half was nothing short of intriguing. A few facts that stood out:

  • The “Witchcraft Acts”, laws set in place to punish accused witches or practitioners of magic in England and Scotland, were introduced to largely unnecessary harm and hysteria in the 1500’s, but not fully repealed until the 1950’s.
  • Witches’ marks, ancient symbols of protection, have been found at the birthplace of William Shakespeare, as well as the Tower of London.
  • The earliest artistic depiction of witchcraft is believed to be a cave painting (circa 12,000 BC, possibly older) in what is now France, depicting a horned god and a pregnant woman standing in a circle with others.

I love the decorations and style of this book, and I think its information is useful and would make a great gift book.

[I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Further Reading:

On the Witchcraft Acts (Wikipedia)
History and Information on Paganism (BBC)
History and Information on Wicca (Wicca.com)

Book Review – Ebb and Flow by Heather Smith

★★★★★ 5 Stars

Genre: Poetry / Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018
Publisher: Kids Can Press

“On the shoreline there was a lion, tame enough to be climbed, wild enough to play with the waves […] I will stay here until I get stranded. The water will get higher and higher and no one will be able to reach me, to save me, and I will deserve it. I will deserve to be stranded on an island all by myself.”

The fortunes of life are much like the waters of the sea, full of malice as often as they are full of kindness, both on different flipsides of the same waves. This Ebb and Flow gently plucks at the heartstrings, enough to stir but not so much to hurt.

Its prosaic soul tells of how a boy, Jett’s, year and most vital friendships are marred by a few bad events and to him the damage looks like it might be beyond repair. A bully for a friend, a criminal father, the loss of a real best friend who feels Jett’s betrayed him, and a mother who has no more patience for him, all culminate in the summer he leaves for his grandma’s house on the seashore.

Jett and Junior’s friendship is really poignant, if poisonous while it lasted. It’s hard to describe other than a “devil’s deal” – they both shared a dark bond that came from having fathers who had done horrible things, and that no one but them understood, but with a friendship like that no matter how genuine it is, comes with some toxic costs. In the fashion of such a deal, they may have gained a friendship for awhile but it loses them so much more and in the end dissolves anyway.

“I never knew the devil could cry.”

Ebb and Flow‘s characterization is nothing short of beautiful – Jett is a truly kind and patient character warped into cruelty by someone who has never known anything but cruelty, and while Jett can’t change that he can change himself to be different.
The relationships between Jett and his grandma, as well as Junior’s mentally disabled uncle, are absolutely heartwarming but carry a powerful tinge of sorrow.
An engaging and haunting story.

Prose – 4.5/5
Story – 4.5/5
Characterization – 5/5
Overall – 5/5

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.