Tuesday, January 31, 2012
3 Stars - Recommended to readers who like their sci-fi a little more literary
A man who managed to turn New York City against him suddenly disappears. His lover decides to find out where he went. Tracking him down will prove to be the biggest challenge of his life... if he manages to survive it.
Spaceman Blues is not your typical "aliens come to take over the world" story. Don't get me wrong, once you hit the end of the book, there is some of that. There are no little green men with anal probes who beam screaming humans up into their ships - although there are 4 Horsemen donning raincoats who fly around NYC on hovercraft-type machines, demolishing people and buildings with their guns of green light.
Forget the aliens for a moment, though. This is really a book about Manuel, who has gone missing, and his boyfriend Wendell, who is willing to go through just about anything to uncover what's happened to his "baby". And yet, it goes even deeper than that, doesn't it? It seems to be saying something profound about our ability to persevere and endure under the most trying of situations; our refusal to give up in the face of failure and defeat; our need to stand up against the unknown...
Ooooor, it could just simply be trying to tell us that bloody cockfights, underground cities, religious cults, unidentifiable dead bodies found floating in the river, and alien assassins are fucking awesome and I'm just reading too much into it.
Brian Francis Slattery winds his tricky and twisty prose around your head, filling it with momentary explosions and bright burning lights to confuse and disorient you. Because, truthfully, sometimes Spaceman Blues really does confuse and disorient you. But no worries, because once the smoke dissipates and the fires die down, you'll quickly find the trail back to our Spaceman hero Wendell. Just sit tight, breathe through it, and all will be well in the world. Well, unless, you know, you've awoken the wraith of an alien race and continue to test their patience...
Monday, January 30, 2012
3.5 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who like a little bizarro mixed into their fiction
Audio download (approx 11hrs)
Publisher: Iambik Audio / Small Beer Press
This was a book that had been sitting on my goodreads to-buy shelf for over a year, so I was thrilled to see it on Iambik Audio's website. I immediately downloaded a review copy on my Droid, and started listening on my commute to and from work.
First thing worth noting: Couch's Iambik narrator, Gregg Margarite, has an impossibly deep, grumbly voice. So deep, in fact, that I had to drop the bass on my car speakers to -10 to be able to decipher just what this guy was saying! He also has a very awkward "fake" laugh, but that is neither here nor there. These are things you will get used to.
Second thing worth noting: Once you start this book, no matter how silly and strange it gets, there is just no stopping until you reach the end. And boy oh boy, do things sometimes take a turn for the strange...
Couch begins with three unemployed roommates who are forced out of their flooded apartment. Rather than freak out about it, they decide to pool their limited funds together and go on a vacation. Only their landlord throws a bit of a wrench into their plans - they have to take their couch with them. Unhappy but unphased by this odd request, they carry the couch out onto the street with the intention of dropping it off at the nearest Goodwill. However, the couch has another destination in mind. As Thom, Eric, and Tree start trudging it down the sidewalk, the couch begins to grow incredibly heavy. Confused, and not quite believing what they just felt, the three turn around and carry it the other way. Sure as shit, after a few steps, the couch becomes lighter.
Now at the mercy of their seemingly magic (or perhaps possessed?) couch, our three friends reluctantly let it lead them on the journey of a lifetime... across states, across rivers and oceans, into uncharted foreign jungles... all the while being chased by people who want the couch for themselves, and will go to great lengths to get it.
An immensely fun book, Couch never takes itself too seriously. Prophetic dreams, wacky legends, and a secret council of anonymous couch protectors... It will ask you to suspend your disbelief, " If you fall asleep on the couch, it turns you near-comatose?" and ask you to suspend it some more, "The couch can float on the ocean and can't be damaged?"... again and again. No matter how much weird shit it throws at you, no matter how often you find yourself saying "oh, come oooon!", I guarantee you won't be able to stop until you find out just what the heck is up with that damn couch!
Couch is the first novel that I've consciously experienced in Third Person Limited, or Close Third Person. The author lives mostly on the shoulder of Thom - our oversized, recently dumped, computer geek - so, even though we are exposed to Eric and Tree's point of views, we are extremely privy to Thom's thoughts and feelings (though there is one part in the book where the close narration does switch, briefly yet clumsily, from Thom to Eric). For as much as this narration style initially distracted me, it's actually - strangely - a good fit for the story.
As is Gregg. Deep voice aside, he has this odd accent that's part Californian slacker, part hippy-burnout. And while he wouldn't be my first choice for an audiobook narrator, his voice has this slightly bored, resigned quality to it that slowly grows on you and seems to become its own character within the book.
Couch is most definitely for readers who like their fiction a little loose. It toys with you, it plays with the rules, twisting them little by little, and before you know it you are knee deep in it and desperate to know how it's all going to end.
Have you listened to Iambik before? It's a great source for indie literature on audio and it comes at a great price too. Check it out...
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Have you enjoyed our week full of Larry-centric blog posts? Have you gained some new insight into the mind of this amazing author? Have you marked Beatitude as To Buy and To Read on your goodreads shelves, or better yet, gone out to purchase a copy for yourself? If you answered yes to each of those questions, our jobs here are done!
If you haven't been following the tour, and wish to see it in its entirety, this is your chance to catch up:
Day 1 hosted by yours truly - Larry defined what "Being Indie" means to him
Day 2 hosted by Emmet (..I Can Stay)- posted a review of Beatitude
Day 3 hosted by Mandy (MandytheBookworm's Blog) - guest post by Larry on how The Beats did and didn't inspire Beatitude
Day 4 hosted by Patrick (the Literate Man) - an interview w/ Larry on men and literature among The Beats and Today.
Day 5 hosted by Jenn (the Picky Girl) - an instagram photo tour of Beatitude by Larry
Day 6 hosted by Erica (BookedinChico) - an personal essay by Larry about New York City
Day 7 hosted by Tara (BookSexyReview) - an interview revolving around the book, the Beats, and the Ginsberg poems.
Throughout the tour, we are shown - post after post - that Beatitude is so much more than just a novel. It's a lifestyle, it's New York, it's a living breathing thing that you can connect with on multiple levels.
I want to thank the awesome bloggers who participated in this week's tour. Without them, this tour would not have been possible. They are among the best out there, and I truly appreciate the time and effort they put in over the past month to prepare for this week!
I also want to thank Larry - the author, the photographer, the New Yorker - who was willing to go along with us for the ride. He worked so hard behind the scenes to compose guest posts and respond to interviews, and sent us the amazing blog tour icon.
And of course, thanks to everyone who followed us day after day during the tour, sharing the links and spreading the word!
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Publisher: Quirk Books
Think a fictional book featuring a political figure just isn't your bag? Think again! Jason Heller smacks the White House on its ass and makes it his little bitch in his recently released debut novel Taft 2012.
This sweet little satire starts with Taft's unexplained appearance on the muddy White House lawn in 2011, where he seems to have just awakened from a 100 year deep sleep. After multiple tests confirm that this is indeed our twenty-seventh president returned intact and unaged from god-only-knows-where, Taft is reluctantly ushered into the twenty-first century - wireless telephones, airplanes, social media, state of the economy, Twinkies, and electronic golfing. Once the public catches whiff of Taft's presence, he soon feels the familiar rush of celebrity. Die hard supporters quickly create The Taft Party - nostalgic for the way things used to be, for the old, honest, American values - in the hopes of pushing "Big Bill" into the presidential elections once again.
The book is made even sweeter by short chapters paired with creative news and media coverage in the form of TV transcripts, news articles, book excerpts, secret service entries, and even a fictional @taft2012 twitter stream. It helps that Jason wrote William Howard Taft as this immensely lovable, slightly bewildered man who simply cannot understand the sway he still holds over the public, 100 years later. I mean, how often do you read about a character you kinda wish you could have met in real life, right? Taft felt real and down to earth while still managing to exude this sense of worldliness about him. I would love to snag a cup of coffee with the guy and pick his brain on the pros and cons of America then and now.
A political premise with some sci-fi thrown in for fun... Taft 2012 is a cleverly enjoyable, never gimmicky, read for readers of the left wing, right wing, and no-wing persuasion alike. It's an equal opportunity novel and I recommend you pick it up and give it a whirl. If you manage to grab a copy soon, you might still catch the man behind Taft 2012 in the Author/Reader Discussion taking place right now over at TNBBC. If you're unsure, why not hop on over to the discussion now and see what our readers are saying about it?
Still not enough for you? How bout feasting your eyes on these book trailers?
Did I mention how extremely timely the novel is? With the new presidential hoopla going on in the "right here and now", how can you NOT want to read this book? And with all the #ows and #sopa news, why not consider the potential old school, back to basics mentality that only a 150 year old president could bring to the table?
For more info on the book, you can listen to Jason Heller speaking to the book on Twenty-Twelve and also on this NPR interview . And check out this Taft 2012 Campaign website to whet your appetite even more.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar w/ genre
Publisher: New Pulp Press
"Roleplay is a dangerous game when you don't know who you are."
Truer words have never been spoken when used to describe the sticky situation JAG finds himself in. Recently abandoned by his wife and infant son, Jesus "JAG" Garcia finds employment as webmaster for First Church of the Church Before Church's online blog by day, while by night he plays the role of God for a bunch of fetishist he locates via an online sex site called Fallenangels.
Yes, you heard me right. Fetishist. Women who want a "daddy" figure to come and spank them, or reenact a rape scene, or go to town with a box full of toys. And as JAG loses himself to this dark and dirty underworld, creating different identities to match what each of these girls need, he begins to slowly lose himself and things start falling apart at the seams.
Interestingly, the book is written as a sort of "tell-all" from JAG to his estranged little brother. JAG details the events that led him to this sad and dangerous lifestyle, while also preparing us for what we know is going to be a story that does not end well for our kinky minded main man.
If you can stomach the coarse, sometimes raunchily described, sex scenes, you might agree that Jesus Angel Garcia's pulpy, fetish filled transmedia novel is a great example of what print publishing can be - because it's a book with online extras. Jesus has created multiple documentaries that draw from some of the themes within the book: Fear, Self Destruction, Sexual Morality, among others. Delving into an anonymous population of streetwalkers, authors and writers, husbands and wives, Jesus catches in-depth honest reactions to these words, these specific human conditions and tendencies, on film. What do you fear most? Is it death? Is it losing everything you love? Is it something tangible, something living and breathing, or something abstract? What is the most self destructive thing you have ever done? Was it something you controlled or something you had no control over? These documentaries confirm just how fucked up and unique each life is.... I enjoyed the way these mini-films complimented badbadbad's storyline, pulling you out of the chaotic web JAG weaved for himself and proving that real people go through these same or similar things too.
It also comes with it's own soundtrack. While I am not personally a fan of the type of music that he uses, it does appear to hold some influence over the book's style and cadence.
All in all, badbadbad is a true multimedia experience that helps hesitant digital readers like myself bridge that e-gap comfortably. To be honest, I wish more print books came with online extras to enhance the reading experience.
Check out books like Empty the Sun by A Barnacle Book (musical cd accompaniment), The Recipe Book (musical cd accompaniment, free app) by Black Balloon, and The French Revolution (free app) by Soft Skull to see more examples of multimedia print books.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
TNBBC is at it again. Oh yeah, that's right, we've gone and organized ourselves another amazing little blog tour! We're ushering in the new year with a big loud bash across the blog-o-sphere to celebrate debut author Larry Closs and his incredibly passionate and poignant novel Beatitude.
Beatitude is one of those books that everyone should be reading, and I'm on a mission to make that happen. As are these fine bloggers, who have joined forces with TNBBC to spread the love in a variety of clever and unique ways over the course of the upcoming week.
Allow me to introduce you to the wonderful bloggers who have taken the time to contribute to our tour:
(Mark your calendars. You really don't want to miss this!)
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Meet KMA Sullivan, owner and publisher of YesYes Books.
I accidently stumbled across her amazing publishing company a few months ago and it' s been true love ever since. (And I'm not just saying that because one of the YesYes poets, Nate Slawson, premiered a previously unpublished poem here a few weeks ago.)
KMA Sullivan'spoetry has been published (or is forthcoming) in Potomac Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Gargoyle, > kill author, diode, and elsewhere. She has been awarded residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in creative non-fiction and from Vermont Studio Center in poetry and is the co-founder and editor of Vinyl Poetry. Today, she defines indie in her terms, while giving you a taste of YesYes Books has to offer....
We Mark Time with Ceremonies
from 30 30
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre
8 CD's (approx 9 hours)
Audiobook Publisher: AudioGo
The middle class residents of Chelsea Marina are rebelling. Tired of being squeezed, they are influenced by neighbor Richard Gould to make a stand - by refusing to pay their mortgage and heating bills, smoke bombing random pedestrian businesses, and setting fire to their homes as the police come to evict them.
Meanwhile, David Markham - this story's emotionally detached narrator - learns that his ex-wife was killed by a bomb that exploded in the Heathrow Airport Baggage carousel. Desperate to uncover the people behind this seemingly meaningless act, he pretends to join Gould's movement in the hopes of sniffing out the truth. It isn't long before David finds himself slowly being pulled under by Gould's charismatic speeches and unarguable charm, and becomes a part of much more than he initially bargained for.
At the heart of JG Ballard's novel is a theme that eerily mirrors the recent #OWS picketing that took place in New York City (and other strategically placed pockets throughout the country) - a group of middle class people who have grown tired of being abused and bled dry by the government. Wanting to be noticed, wishing to be taken seriously, both groups - our posh residents of Ballard's Chelsea Marina and our peaceful protestors of OWS - find creative and increasingly aggressive ways to communicate their unhappiness with the way things are being run and the decisions that are being made.
OK, I am about to share a little secret with you. You have to promise not to let this little confession come between us, alright? I am about to tell you something that may forever change your opinion of me, but I need you to try really hard not to let it... ok?! You promise?
I admit to being your typical GenXer. I love to talk a good game when it comes to the way this country is flushing itself down the shitter, like so much vomit and diarrhea. But I prefer to keep my nose out of the political scene and I will never do anything about the things I don't like because (1) I find politics and political thinking to be a bit boring, and (2) it all just seems like too much friggen work. I mean c'mon, they refer to my generation as "slackers" and for good reason. Most of us just don't want to be bothered. Or, perhaps more correctly, we don't know how to be bothered. We don't know things to be any other way, honestly. As we were coming of age, this country was already heading full speed towards the brick wall. Things have been falling down around our ears for as long as we can remember, and we're kind of OK with that. Or, at least, that's what we tell ourselves.
Thank god for the Gen Nexters - that digitally equipped, emotionally upset generation born into social unrest. These guys have some bite to go with their bark. They are scared for their future and are not afraid to rip it from the hands of those in power. My pathetically copacetic generation could learn a thing or two from these guys.
So, here-in lies my issue with Millennium People. The middle class residents of Chelsea Marina definitely belong to my generation, so I find it a bit difficult to believe that these characters have agreed to not only take economic matters into their own hands and attempt to affect change, but that they do so willingly, together, in the way that they do. I suppose it is possible that the GenXer's of the UK (in which this novel is set) demonstrate behaviors that are the complete opposite of their US counterparts... Then again, once I look back at how the book ended, I kind of see that JD Ballard agrees with me on this one. So perhaps my issue is null and void?
Beyond that, I felt the story moved at a rather slow pace. Now, I should admit here that I am reviewing this novel based on the audio version of the book, so the pacing of the story could actually have been impacted by the audiobook's narrator, David Rintoul - who, if I'm being honest, sounded quite bored and emotionally unattached from the whole thing. Perhaps if I had read it in print, I could have better controlled the pace of the novel, increased the speed at which things unraveled? Rintoul has this soft, sighing sort of voice that - even when reading a scene in which things are happening quickly - fails to fully convey the panic.
If I were to compare this book to a pot of water on the stove, it would most resemble that point where the water is poised to boil.. where you can see the little bubbles beginning to cluster at the bottom of the pot, but damned if they never actually break off and rise to the top in a roiling, chaotic foam.
I understand that this novel invokes strong "love it / hate it" feelings in its readers. When I finished the book, I scanned through the review on Goodreads.com and saw people who refer to it as a British "Fight Club" for grown-ups , liken it to Karl Marx's Revolutionary Theory, and then others who disliked it enough to put it down unfinished. It stirs up different triggers in different people. I don't feel bad that I didn't enjoy Millennium People because I understand that my reaction to it is based on my own personal feelings and experiences. I'm not criticizing the writing. I'm simply working through my own subjective baggage.
Friday, January 6, 2012
This is a dark, literary spy novel written in Laird Hunt’s unmistakable style. When first released in 2001, no one else was really writing this kind of modern, literary noir novel, where the dark, atmospheric, shadowy tone and unexpected plot twists of a traditional spy novel also infiltrated the style, structure, and language of the text in such innovative ways. For Laird, words and meaning are not necessary a straight and narrow path, and no where is his dexterity with language as strange and beautiful than in this, his debut novel. For the first time in paperback, and with a new introduction by Percival Everett, The Impossibly is Paul Auster meets Kafka meets Terry Gilliam’s Brasil and the result is a tense, funny spy novel that you will not soon forget.
Quincy Troupe is truly a legendary poet. The author who helped bring the story behind of The Pursuit of Happyness to life and whose account of his friendship with Miles Davis in Miles and Me is also heading to the big screen has been writing soulful, bluesy poetry for decades and his latest is his most polished and powerful collection to date. One of my favorites is the long poem dedicated to Michael Jackson called “Michael Jackson & the Arc of Love,” which somehow manages to distill Jackson’s whole career, his cultural significance, unavoidable controversy, symbolism, -- his own conflicted, fragile soul — into one beautiful, and sad, poem. Always a lover of invention, Troupe took the title from the French word errance, which means ‘to wander,’ but the word errançities itself is something he made up as an “expression [he] felt more at home with.” And wander he does, through the sights and sounds of the New York City subway, through images of life and nature that inspire him—or vex him. The poem “What’s the Real Deal Here,” another of my favorites, is a great example of the latter, starting out as this kind of rant against media sensationalism and “empty-headed showbiz prevaricators” and ends with just one of the most beautiful images I’ve come across. Quincy is nothing if not surprising and this is great poetry—a fun and fascinating journey with a brilliant storyteller.