Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Shampoo Horns

Read 8/21/12 - 8/22/12
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who remember what it REALLY was like to be a pre-teen kid
Pgs: 55
Publisher: Rose Metal Press

Show me a kid who never disobeyed their parents and I'll show you a liar. Sneaking out the bedroom window, or sneaking someone in in the middle of the night, hopping up on the roof of the house to steal a few puffs on a cigarette, breaking into old abandoned trailer homes and filling them with all the things you "lifted" from your neighbors or strangers... Any of this stuff sound familiar? I'm willing to bet that if you look deep enough and think back hard enough, you have a few good stories to share with us, don't you?

Aaron Teel, through a well balanced mix of fact and fiction, hits us over the head with the reality of coming of age in a Texas trailer park community with his award winning chapbook Shampoo Horns. We are introduced to Cherry Tree, an easily influenced twelve year old boy who would prefer nothing more than spending the entire day running around in his home-made superhero costume - red skivvies and a towel tied around his neck. He kills time reading comics with best friend Tater Tot and keeps his nose relatively clean. That is, until his troubled, older half-brother moves in and knocks Cherry's boyish little world straight down onto its ass.

Shampoo Horns is cleverly fierce, unexpectedly sweet, and for one horrifying moment, utterly disgusting (there's a nipple clipping, people! Someone loses a fucking NIPPLE!). It's got the rough-and-tumble bloody and bruised innocent bordeom of the prepubescent with the added confusion of sex and girls and the threatening maturity that comes along with it all.

Reading these interconnected flash fiction stories reminded me of my own good girl - bad girl struggles growing up. Hanging out under the piers in Florida with my dope-smoking friends, cracking open coconuts watching the sunset; sneaking out of the house after my father went to bed to hang out under the bridges with friends, or sneaking the boys in; and yes, a group of friends and I laid claim to an abandoned trailer that still had some furniture and running water, though sadly, the electricity had been cut by then. It's amazing what boredom and a whole lot of freedom will lead you to do!

Grab yourself a copy if you're in the mood to (1) jump into the way-back machine on a journey down memory lane, (2) vicariously live the life you wish you had when you were that age, or (3) want to experience a powerful, emotional firestorm of teenage angst and curiosity. You won't regret it. And you can thank me later.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Big Ray

Read 8/21/12
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pgs: 182
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Release Date: Sept 2012

In a completely unplanned Year of Grief in literature, I fall head over heels for Michael Kimball's Big Ray.

If Michael's books were record albums, I imagine they'd sound like Hayden with a dash of Midlake and a big ole heap of Great Lake Swimmers - that  lo-fi, slow indie rock sound - sweetly depressing, all enveloping, emotionally charged music that somehow makes you feel good as it talks about feeling bad.

I've yet to discover a Kimball novel that doesn't address death in one form or another. His Dear Everybody was a beautifully crafted collage of life gathered after one man's suicide. Us dealt with a husband's heart-wrenching attempt to refuse and then accept his wife's impending death. And now he gives us Big Ray, a son's tender, honest look back at the life and death of his abusive father and the impact it has had on his life.

You'd think that books about death would be sad and depressing, but not when they are created by Michael's hands. With each novel, he invents new ways of looking at death and dying and his unique approach to grief and loss leaves me breathless every single time.

The story of Big Ray is not an easy one for our narrator to tell. Initially relieved to hear of his father's passing, Daniel seems stunned by the lasting affect the death continues to have on him. Through a series of over five hundred short entries, Daniels feeds us snippets of his relationship with his dad growing up; the shame and humiliation he felt while Ray was alive, the physical and verbal abuse he, his sister, and his mom put up with;  his father's struggle with obesity and the impact that had on his health and temper over the years; the nearly obsessive thoughts he's entertained over the years about the cause of his father's death and the way in which his father's body was found; and how he's handling life as a man with a dead dad.

Big Ray is a microscopic look at how the things we do and say scar a person's soul, leaving permanent reminders of us, for better or worse, long after we are gone. But it's not entirely morose. Michael's thrown in some dark humor and "yo daddy's so fat" jokes to lighten the mood a bit, and because, well, it's human nature to find the funny in the face of death. If we can't find something to laugh at, we'll only end up crying.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where Writers Write - Jeff Somers

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where some of TNBBC's favorite authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen.

This is Jeff Somers. He was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and regrets nothing. He wrote his first novel at age 11 and was crushed when he learned manuscripts completely devoid of punctuation marks were unsellable, and vowed revenge on the publishing industry. After becoming an Eagle Scout, graduating from St. Peter's Preparatory School, and a summer spent working manual labor, he attended Rutger University and earned an English degree, having nothing better to do. In 1995 he published the first issue of his zine The Inner Swine, which saw its 60th issue hit the streets in 2011. In 1999 he sold his first novel, Lifers, to a small California-based publisher for a case of beer and some kind words; despite a favorable review in The New York Times copies of the book remain largely concentrated in his crawlspace. In 2004, he sold the first Avery Cates novel, The Electric Church. The fifth novel in the series, The Final Evolution, was released in 2011.

Jeff has also published a few dozen short stories. His story “Ringing the Changes”, which appeared in the anthology Danger City in 2006, was chosen for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2006, edited by Otto Penzler with guest Editor Scott Turow, and his story “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through” appeared in the anthology Crimes by Moonlight edited by Charlaine Harris, in 2010.

He drinks, has many cats, is married, and does not understand why pants are required attired at all social occasions. And now, he shows us where the writing happens:

Where Jeff Somers Writes

Check back next week and see where Jennifer Spiegel gets her writing on!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Audio Series: Caleb J Ross

Our new audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Last week we listened as A.M. Harte read from her short story When Passion Fails. Check it out if you missed it.

Today, Caleb J Ross reads his very first published story for us. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared widely, both online and in print. He is the author of Charactered Pieces: stories, Stranger Will: a novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin: a novel, Murmurs: Gathered Stories Vol. One, and As a Machine and Parts. He is an editor at Outsider Writers Collective and moderates The Velvet Podcast, which gathers writers for round table discussions on literature. 

Click here to experience Petty Injuries read by Caleb J Ross. 

Are you hungry for more? Caleb's novel I Didn't Mean to Be Kevin is up for grabs, for free, until 8/28. Go and get it. And then develop an unhealthy relationship with him at www.calebjross.comStalk him on Twitter. Pester him on Facebook. Circle him at Google+

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

Read 8/14/12 - 8/20/12
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book for ALL THE REASONS
Pgs: 276
Publisher: Algonquin
Release Date: August 28, 2012

Can I just say "Fucking Awesome! Go Buy It" and call it a day? Do you really need me to go into all the reasons why I want you to experience Jonathan Evison's The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving for yourself? Because I will. Oh, you can bet I will.

For starters, it features some of the coolest man-speak I have ever come across in literary fiction. Hell, in ANY fiction:  "Turd-Cutters", "Gorilla Masks", "German Knuckle Cakes", "Moroccan Meatballs", and Disappearing Pandas", just to name a FEW. Never mind the fact that I have no clue what those all mean. And please don't take that as an invitation to leave a comment and tell me, because I had too much fun imagining them for myself, and knowing what they really mean (or worse, that they don't really exist) would crush my already-fragile soul. You don't want to be responsible for crushing my soul, do you?!

And second, Jonathan Evison knows relationships. Wait, let me rephrase that. Jonathan Evison knows dysfunction and specializes in making it parade itself around as a relationship. In TRFoC, we have what should be a cry-fest of a novel from the moment you crack the cover to the snot-covered fingering of the final pages. But does Evison take the easy way out and write sappy, heart broken, woe-is-me characters that would feel at home in the middle of a Lifetime Movie set? Oh hell no! He takes the things that should have left them broken and beaten and, instead, he gives them the strength to deal with their individual grief and tragedies as a group through huge heaps of laughter and sarcasm. He knows how to manage his characters through awkward and sometimes humiliating circumstances without making us bat an eye. And he makes it all seem so natural, so possible, so... familiar. He brings the characters to you and places each one of them inside your heart where you will carry them around with you wherever you go. You will want to protect them all, from anything that might cause them pain or sadness.

Which leads to the third: Evison's novel is such a great demonstration of human resilience. Whether it's Ben learning to forgive himself for the death of his children, or Trev finding the courage to overcome his body's crippling limitations to kiss a girl for the first time, TRFoC dissects what it's like to simply be. To step outside of your routine. To plan and pack and check and double check and then how to just give in when the plans give out. To remove the safety net and suddenly realize that you never really needed it to begin with.

In conclusion, (and here's the big sell...) it's a road trip story. It's a coming-into-your-own story. It's a you-can-never-be-prepared-for-whats-just-around-the-corner story. It's a taking-the-rulebook-and-throwing-it-out-the-fucking-window-at-sixty-miles-an-hour story. It's a it-might-not-be-a-bad-idea-to-have-a-tissue-laying-around-somewhere-within-reach-but-I-swear-it's-not-an-ugly-cry story. And yes, it's a I've-got-to-tell-everyone-I-know-to-run-out-and-read-this-book-right-now story.

Let me leave you with this: If my review didn't just seal the deal, this adorable book trailer MOST DEFINITELY will!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Exterminating Angel Press (EAP) On "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a monthly feature hosted here on TNBBC. We will meet a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them. 

Tod Davies is the editor/publisher of Exterminating Angel Press, as well as the author of Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking with What You've Got, and The History of Arcadia books: Snotty Saves the Day, and the upcoming Lily the Silent (Oct. 2012). She believes everybody needs to get out on the prairie and run free once in awhile.

Exterminating Angel Press - tell me you don't insta-crush that name? - took its name from the classic film by Luis Buñuel. According to their website, they value the everyday over the transcendent, mutuality over hierarchy, equity over power, the search for truth together over the scramble for victory apart, and jam today over jam tomorrow. Here's Tod, sharing her thoughts on what Being Indie means to her....

I can never shake one particular image that seems to me to perfectly express what I feel about being an indie publisher…or indeed, an indie anything. And that is of a mustang on the prairie, tough, wary, determined to survive on its own terms, always moving…and, I must add joyful, with the kind of joy that only comes with calling one’s life one’s own, and living on equal terms with even the most powerful forces that surround one.

That’s not a bad place to be, that prairie. The forage might be hard to find at times (damn hard, especially at certain unfavorable seasons), the predators canny and numerous…and you might, many days and particularly many nights, look enviously at the sleek, well-fed, well-cared for thoroughbreds in their comfortable stables with their regular meals. But in the end, it’s a matter of temperament and desire. Who are you? What do you want most? If who you are is an animal that most wants to be free to explore the terrain, and maybe tap out what you’ve found to your fellows, there really is no other truly satisfying road.

There’s a border, too, between the prairie and the well-kept paddocks, and maybe that’s where the most interesting communications happen between the wild independent mustang and (if you don’t mind me going on with my analogy) the well-bred stable horse. Those fences where the two can meet, and, if not frightened of each other, can exchange information…feelings, ways of doing, meanings. Needs. Those points may be the most interesting of all.

A world that has anything going for it needs different forms of life. To be an indie…to be out there on the prairie…is to live the life that risks disasters of all kinds, and gains insights that aren’t available to the more circumscribed round in the stables of the towns. Insights born, frequently, of the necessity of looking for answers to feed you where none have been looked for before…and of facing realities that might be hidden from those living an easier, glossier, more celebrated life. Insights that might help on a dark night, when the storm comes up, and the hungry cougars are on the prowl. Which is more likely to survive a night like that? A rosette studded thoroughbred with a pedigree an arm long? Or a tough little mustang that’s made it this far down the road? One who probably knows a thing or two about battling hungry cougars.

They’ve certainly both got their place. But before you jump to conclude that the thoroughbred’s life is the better one, you might want to stop and think that the little prairie mustang’s life may have benefits and joys and downright wallowings in truths that aren’t available to the lovely horses that live in the well-irrigated, well-fenced, well-kept towns. There’s something to be said for a free race across prairies and mountains in all kinds of weather, even if that freedom comes at the cost of things like gopher holes and snakes and snow three foot deep on the ground. There’s something to be said for that kind of freedom, after all.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets

Read 8/3/12 - 8/14/12
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who like their fictitious families shaken, not stirred
Pgs: 242
Publisher: Other Press
Release Date: Sept 2012

"Family" is a complicated concept. By definition, we are told a family is a group of people who live together; people of common ancestry; people united by certain convictions; a unit of crime syndicate operating under one geographical area (I'm throwing this one in for fun!)

It's no wonder, then, that the characters we come to know and love in Kathleen Alcott's debut novel The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets are as confused as we are about what family is. Ida, James, and Jackson - fiercely attached at the hips since infancy - have never known life without each other. Everything they've ever experienced has been experienced together. And so Alcott, by muddying the waters and confusing familial lines, sets the stage for a story about discovery, disappointment, and the severing of limbs you thought you would never be able to survive without.

When the novel begins, Ida - who grew up an only child and neighbor to brothers James and Jackson  - is struggling to deal with her father's ailing health and Jackson's absence, who we realize has recently ended their near-life-long relationship. As she shares stories from their childhood, listing every sweet and painful secret, we delve deep into a world where lines that were once crossed refuse to uncross completely.

How do you let go of someone who has become a physical part of you? Who do you talk to when the only people you've ever confided in leave you? Is it even possible to move on?

Alcott addresses love and loss and the terrifying reality of letting go as she seamlessly moves us through past and present day, through memories and back again. Her writing, which takes some time to get used to, sits uncomfortably on the tongue yet blossoms beautifully across the page.

As the story of Ida and James and Jackson unravels, the title of the book seems to become more of a question for the reader. Were Ida and Jackson meant to be together, as close to one another as their initials sit in the alphabet? Was there a shared magnetism simply due to their proximity - proximity of age, location, children of single parents? Would they have lived the same lives had their names/proximity to one another been different?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where Writers Write: Margaret Atwood

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where some of TNBBC's favorite authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen.

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction. There's a good chance you may have read A Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, or The Year of the Flood. But did you know her work has been published in more than forty languages - including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian?

As I'm sure you are aware, Margaret is an ever-present voice of reason and support within the literary community, engaging her fans through social media sites like Twitter or interactive formats such as iDoLVine and Fanado. Her passion for the written word is truly endless and all-encompassing. Use TNBBC as an example.....

Last week, Margaret took a moment to respond to a tweet I sent out, hoping to secure some additional participants for this series:

True to her "tweet", the following afternoon on my lunch break, Margaret posted the following photo of her work space. In lieu of an essay, I share this tweet:

Many thanks to Margaret Atwood for taking a moment to contribute to our Writers series, and for her undying love and support of all things literary... no matter how great or small!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Audio Series: A.M. Harte

Our new audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Last week, we listened as Ryan W Bradley read to us from his poetry cycle Love & Rod McKuen. Check it out if you missed it.

Today, A.M. Harte shares a short story with us that she recorded once upon a time. She writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. Her current projects include the science fantasy novel Above Ground, and being the general whipping chief at independent publisher 1889 Labs. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what 'free time' means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.

You can find more of Anne's short stories on her website here. And check out her contribution to our On "Being Indie" series here

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Audioreview: The Third Reich

Listened 7/29/12 - 8/10/12
3 Stars - Recommended to people who know things about war and strategy board games, or don't care if they don't know things about war and strategy board games
8 CD's (approx 10hrs)
Publisher: MacMillan Audio

I don’t think Bolaño and I were meant to be.

Now, before you start throwing tomatoes, hear me out:

My initial experience with Bolaño had not been an easy one. I read The Savage Detectives back in 2009 and found myself alternately aggravated, disgusted, amused, and frustrated.

I was aggravated because I felt he was simultaneously writing “over my head” and talking down the bridge of his nose at me. And disgusted because he gave his female protagonist a stinky hoo-hoo and seemed to get a kick out of allowing her to whine about it again and again.

(Must I admit that this book gave me a huge case of the Do I Stink Too’s for months after I read it?) (And how strange is it that all I can remember about this book is the god awful contemplation of her stinky hoo-hoo, when I never even mention it in my damn review?) 

Yet I also found myself amused because, at the time, it was unlike anything I had read before. The high brow you'll-never-be-a-poet-the-way-we-are-poets-ness of it was sort of intriguing. And I was frustrated because he seemed to gain some kind of sick, twisted pleasure in making this anything but an easy, enjoyable read.

Fast forward to present day. I had successfully avoided all contact with Bolaño and his aggravating, disgusting, amusing, frustrating ways until Tara (BookSexyReview) gave me The Third Reich as a Christmas present. Still, I managed to suppress the urge (oh how difficult, right?) to read him until a few weeks ago, while nosing around the audio section of a new pop up wholesale bookstore – all new audiobooks for $5 bucks each! I saw The Third Reich just sitting there and took the low price, and the fact that it was even there in the first place, as a sign and made the purchase.

So I listened to it, with fingers fiercely crossed and hoping against hope that hearing Bolaño might be preferable to reading him.

I want to like Bolaño.  I really do. With so many people singing his praise, I can’t help but feel that I am missing something here. How am I not getting it? What do you people see in him? Am I picking up all the wrong books?

The Third Reich failed to hook me. The first hurdle? The story is told in journal format (oh god why do authors write in journal format? Don't they know how much I hate it? Hasn't it been done to death and beyond?). The second hurdle? Our main character Udo is a snoozer. Like, lock himself in the hotel room and play a solo historical war strategy board game while on vacation in Spain with his super patient and forgiving beach bunny girlfriend, snoozer! The third and most devastating hurdle? All this time and energy that Bolaño puts into setting things up - much like Udo's game pieces - with so very little payoff in the end.

The overall story was ok, if you can move beyond the fact that all of the characters are intensely unlikable and incredibly full of themselves. There's Udo - the above mentioned game board geek who eventually caves to his girlfriend Ingeborg's pleas and parties in the clubs at night; the vacationing couple they befriend - Charlie and Hannah, who cling just a little too closely for Udo's comfort; The Wolf and The Lamb - a strange twosome who weasel their way into the fold; and El Quemado - the hideously burned man who lives on the beach and has managed to catch Udo's attention.

While Ingeborg, Hannah, and Charlie hang out, Udo allows El Quemado to play opposite him in The Third Reich. And when Charlie suddenly disappears, and the girls head back to their hometowns, Udo stays behind under the pretense that he wants to find out what happened to him, while completely glued to the game board and his nightly meetings with El Quemado. 

The parts I liked? All the times Udo thought he was in control and wasn't and didn't have a clue. Why? Because he was so pretentious and assumed he always had the upper hand on everyone and was better than everyone, and I like watching (or in this case, hearing) people like that suddenly realize they don't and they aren't. 

The parts I could have done without? All of those chapters in which Bolaño details the movements of the counters across the game board. Yawnfest! I can't even begin to pretend to know what the hell he was going on about. And I certainly wasn't going to go and read something else to help me understand what the heck he was going on about so I basically just zoned out until he got back to the actual storyline again. 

The really sad part about all of this? This is one of Bolaño's earlier novels, a novel he never pursued publishing while he was alive, and there's a part of me (not a very big part, because I've only read one other book of his and really have no grounds for comparison) that believes that perhaps it shouldn't have been. It feels so blah and unpolished. But that might just be my angst talking. 

I think it's safe to say that Bolaño and I won't be seeing too much more of each other in the future. And while I can pretend to be concerned about that, I won't, because you and I both know I can't be. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Giveaway: A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space

Attention TNBBCer's...
We've got a no-strings-attached, international giveaway in 'da hoooooouse!!

Author S.D. Foster has very sweetly offered up 
3 electronic copies of his book

This giveaway will run through August 24th. 
Winners are chosen randomly and will be notified here and via email on August 25th.

If you'll remember, I reviewed this collection back in April, toting it as one helluva interesting little book. Contained within these 23 stories, you will find some of the most approachable bizarro fiction this genre has to offer. S.D. Foster's fictional shorts offer up twisted perspectives and completely implausible yet highly intriguing and emotionally stirring situations.

I also read...yes read aloud... my favorite short story The Trials of Ted. Take a listen

A collection of twenty-three bizarro fables in which you'll meet Nobody, a performing primate who wants to chew your children's lips off; pontificate with the Stork, philosopher and feces-eater; rejoice as Nordin "The Noggin" Nobel, noted socialite, is reconciled to his estranged head; share the existential despair of Slothra the suicidal kaiju; celebrate the love of Violet and her rotting lover; explore the meaning of life with Dr. Ebenezer A.T. Horkenheimer, sociopath, and the geography of heaven and hell with Ted the mangled toy. And so much more...It's Aesop, as imagined by John Waters.

Got you wanting more, right?! Good! 

Now enter by leaving a comment stating why you would like to win a copy and an email address for me to contact you if you win.

That's it. Nothing more! 

Truly a no-strings-attached giveaway. Good Luck!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: An Age of Madness

Read 7/31/12 - 8/1/13
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pgs: 293
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Release Date: Sept 1, 2012

2012 feels like the year of the grieving spouse/parent in literary fiction.

Two of my favorite reads from earlier this year remain Amelia Gray's Threats and Jac Jemc's My Only Wife. Additionally, I have just started reading Jonathan Evison's The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which so far has all the makings of a favorite as well. All three of these books contain male protagonists who deal with grief and loss (a wife in Amelia and Jac's case, children in Jonathan's) in their own, unique, and potentially crazy ways.

In David Maine's sixth novel, An Age of Madness, (upcoming from Red Hen Press) I found myself revisiting the grief and loss theme again, only this time it's from a female point of view. A female psychiatrist, to be exact.

Told in first person present, Regina Moss introduces herself as someone Freud would call a lousy mother. Overbearing and emotionally distant. Perhaps it's a good thing her job is diagnosing mental disorders and not, say, in marriage or guidance counseling. Her rough bedside manner and thick professional skin, however, might not be solely a product of her work environment. Sure, working with crazies must take its toll on you after awhile. But we get the feeling really early on that Regina's got some personal issues she hasn't been able to work herself through just yet. She's been protecting herself, and us, from some nasty skeletons in her closet. And now, it would appear the bones behind the door are begging to be let out and the walls she's built up around them are starting to crumble right before our eyes.

It certainly doesn't help that her college-aged daughter is having a hard time while away at school, informing Regina that she's started seeing a shrink. Withdrawn and stubborn, just like her mother, she's pushing Regina away, which only reignites the ugliness and fear that Regina's been trying to keep bottled up.

Let me be clear. Regina Moss is a liar. She lies to us, she lies to her daughter, she lies to those with whom she works, but much more devastatingly, she lies to herself. Through the brilliance of David Maine and his impeccable timing, we act as witnesses as Regina slowly and painfully comes to terms with the awful truth of what happened to her family all those years ago.

Like a child who refuses to confess to a horrible, shameful sin, Regina shares the truth in fits and starts. Little by little, things are brought out into the light. Testing the waters, she watches reactions and waits before dusting more dirt off the truth. And just when you think she's laid it all out, that she's finally come clean and started to deal with things, there's more. Much more.

I've always been a big fan of David's writing. I love his biblical fiction, I got a kick out of his rompy B-movie novel, and I enjoyed his jump into sci-fi. I like how he reinvents himself with every new book that comes out,  as though he is breaking molds and laying new ground.

Wherever David Maine's writing takes him, this little lit-groupie is sure to follow!


Speaking of following David, did you know that TNBBC is hosting our very first author reading event?!

It's called A TNBBC Evening Out with David Maine and it's taking place in Brooklyn at the Book Thug Nation used book store on September 14th at 7pm. David will be reading from An Age of Madness and we'll have books for sale for $10 bucks! We'd love to see you there! 

If you can't make that one, no sweat! We've got an encore reading over at KGB in New York City on September 16th at 7pm. Books will be for sale there too! Won't you come hang with us and celebrate our love of literature??

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

... And Then There Was This

So, if you follow me around the interwebs, you know I'm all about the author/reader connections, yes? My blog content contains lots of author series and reviews and very little else nowadays. So much of my time is spent behind the scenes wracking my brain for cool new ways to bring the authors to you, and then spreading the word like a mad woman and building relationships with the small press and self published authors to build up a backlog of posts for each one.

During the lulls, every once and awhile I get a little ballsy and throw out a tweet like this, just to see if I can get any of the bigger name authors to bite:

Typically I'm met with silence. Which is cool. Really. Because in the big scheme of things, who am little ole I to these amazing and best selling authors? Though, sometimes, when I cast that line, I get some really sweet nibbles.

Take a look at what had me smiling from ear to ear tonight:

And then moments later, this pops up in my stream:

I nearly fell off my chair! Christopher Moore lays down a Breakfast Club tweet.. but now I'm worried because if by freak he means Judd Nelson, then that would make me Anthony Michael Hall??

And just when I thought it couldn't get any better... Neil Gaiman sends me a link to photos of his private writing space which appears to be out in the middle of the woods, all glass and wood and peaceful.

Once I get my heart to start beating again, I might just be able to pull all of this together into some sort of celebrity author writing space mega-blog post.

Where Writers Write: Christopher Moraff

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where some of TNBBC's favorite authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen.

This is Christopher Moraff  – writer, photographer, commentator, blogger and unrepentant bibliophile. He lives in Philadelphia where he writes for a number of local and national media outlets. Chris serves on the Board of Editors of In These Times  – the Chicago-based political magazine founded in 1976 by the leftist intellectual James Weinstein. He is also a collector of books and several months ago began the unforgiving task of bloggingthrough his entire library. In his spare time he makes slow, meandering progress on a collection of short stories, as yet untitled, which he hopes to see in print while he is still of this world.  

Chris was only recently introduced to TNBBC, and parlayed his precocious use of social media into a place in Where Writers Write. We admired his spunk (ahem), not to mention his writing room.    

Where Christopher Moraff Writes

I'm lucky enough to have an entire room devoted to writing now, although over the years the magic has happened in all manner of spaces: bars, coffee shops, kitchen tables, subways, places of employment, my car, and –  most recently – the cramped living room of the one-bedroom apartment I shared with my wife (who also works from home).  Last year we bought a house with three bedrooms and now I have the luxury of writing, painting, playing guitar, gazing out the window and taking my afternoon siestas all in the privacy of my own studio. 

I sit on a faux leather office chair in front of a cheap particle board desk that is cluttered with all the usual tools of the trade. I recently swapped my laptop for an iMac, which was intended for photographic work but gradually evolved into my primary writing platform. I compose in Apache Open Office, a free word processing platform that I'd put up against the criminally overpriced Microsoft Word any day.

Speaking of words, I like to be surrounded by them when I write; depending upon what mood I am in they either inspire or dishearten me, but in either case I am moved. Books line both sides of my desk, stand sentry over my head and keep an eye on my back. On the wall in front of me I have hung framed dictionary and thesaurus pages in several languages sporting entries like defiance, profligacy and lardoire. I have an enduring respect for language. Some of my favorites words are opprobrium, foofaraw and leitmotif, although I tend to resist the temptation to employ them in everyday usage. I collect antique cameras, framed New Yorker covers, old newspapers and magazines and just about anything the city casts off that piques my interest (and that my wife will let me take home.)  

I work in a perpetual state of organized chaos. The man who invented Post-it notes is my best friend. I also think I am the only person left who still uses a physical address book (yes, a real book) to store important contacts.  

Check back next week to see where Jeff Somers writes. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: The Obese

Read on my phone 8/12/12
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book - Excellent gateway to Bizarro Fiction
Pgs: 80 (eBook)
Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press

Don't you dare look away! It's not the kind of thing I would want to be staring at either, those rosy red cheeks and thunder thighs... but trust me, you're going to want to add this book to your wishlist once I'm done with this review.

Lazy Fascist Press (the guys attached to the whole recent "nicest cease and desist lawyer letter in the history of ever" thing) belongs on your radar. An imprint of Eraserhead Press, Lazy Fascist focuses on the less extreme, yet still highly unclassifiable fiction. Their backlist includes some of the most accessible bizarro fiction books out there. Familiarize yourself with them. Please?

The Obese by Nick Antosca is probably one of the most hilarious and strangely coincidental short fiction books I've ever read. I, erm, devoured it on the car ride back from New York City. I mention this only because of the circumstances surrounding how I came about reading it in the first place.

When we ran out of the house on Saturday and headed into the city, I completely forgot to bring my current read with me. I drove there, so I didn't notice until much later that the book still sat on my kitchen table. We killed the day at The Museum of National History with the kids and their grandparents on Central Park West. While we were there, we caught one of the planetarium shows - about the lives of stars - and then finished it up with a walk through Central Park to visit the Lennon memorial. On the ride home, I was chilling out in the passenger seat, now unhappily aware of my book situation. I knew I had a few ebooks downloaded in my phone, so I randomly chose The Obese to keep me company till we got back.

 Are you paying attention? Because here's where the uncanny coincidences come in - the main character Nina, who makes her living photoshopping the models for a fashion magazine, lives on Central Park West. Within the first few pages, Nina shares a strange dream she awoke from that involved a star turning supernova. Are you seeing the connections? I was just on Central Park West, she lives on Central Park West. I had just stared up at the ceiling of a planetarium mere hours before watching a star turn supernova, and she dreamed about one. Weird, right?! It was like I was meant to read this book at that exact goddamned moment, guys! I couldn't have manufactured a better time to read it if I had tried.

But that's not the really cool part. Because the cool part is what happens in the book, to Nina and the group of semi-friends she finds herself stuck with when all hell breaks loose in New York City. The fact that I was literally just walking the same streets this shit will go down on was icing on the cake.

See, Nina is a skinny bitch. She hates fat. Fat people disgust her. And when a chubby high school friend asks to crash at her place for a few days, Nina reluctantly agrees. But then Nina gripes about Dora's fatness online to her ex-boyfriend and Dora sees it, so drama ensues and Nina decides to use her male-model one-night-stand as a revenge weapon to get back at Dora.

As all of this shit is going down between Nina and her male-model-one-night-stand-turned-Dora-weapon, the fat people of New York City are beginning to act strange. They start to reek of rotten pumpkin. Some are seen running through the streets, making nom nom nom noises. And just that fast, the skinny people of the Upper West Side find themselves fighting for their lives... against the obese!

So that's really all I can tell you. I'm afraid if I say any more, I'll ruin it for you. You've really got to read it for yourself.

It's a quick and dirty look at the cruel and emotionally scarring lines society draws around the morbidly obese, severely anorexic, and.. erm.. cannibalism??.. stirring in a little gore-and-gross to keep things light. Told in first person present, the story moves at lightening speed and throws you right into the center of things.

While this book is certain to piss some people off, I think it's important to remember that this is satire at its strongest and.. erm.. tastiest?? It's meant to boil your blood while it.. erm.. drains it??

Ok, enough. I've got to stop before I give it all away.

Go. Get it. Read it now. And thank me later.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Audio Series: Ryan W Bradley

Our new audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Last week, we listened as Carissa Halston read from her novella The Mere Weight of Words. Check it out if you missed it. 

Today, Ryan W Bradley whispers sweet nothings in our ears. Ryan is the author of Prize Winners, Code for Failure, and writer and editor of the collaborative poetry project You Are Jaguar. He has also published two chapbooks - Mile Zero and Aquarium.  His writing may be heavily influenced by the jobs he's had pumping gas, changing oil, painting houses, sweeping the floor of a mechanic's shop, working on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronting a punk band, and managing an independent children's bookstore. Then again, it may not be. 

Ryan spoofs on Rod McKuen's poetry style

For those of you who may not be in the know,  Ryan also designs book covers and posters, and just about anything else he can get his hands on. Heck, his designs are so cool, Vol.1 Brooklyn fell in love with this and dubbed it the best cover of 2012! When I mentioned this audio series to Ryan, I kinda-sorta selfishly requested that he read from his unpublished collection of Rod McKuen-esque poems. I've loved Rod McKuen's poetry ever since I stumbled across it in my college library freshman year. And I love what Ryan has done with these. 

With Ryan's permission, here is the first poem in written form:

The Recent Knowledge of Fear

I have decided
poetry is fear.

Every line
wants to get

Like our

Your breath
sounds so perfect
over the phone.

When will we

When will you listen
to the poetry

my fear is writing
for you?

I am afraid
of the dial
       and what it means
       for this relationship.

You can totally download an ecopy of Love & Rod McKuen right now! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: At the Mouth of the River of Bees

Read 7/24/12 - 7/28/12
4.5 Stars - Highly Recommended to readers who have a little of the animal in them and love stories that will turn them to mush
Pgs: 300
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Release Date: August 14, 2012

The thing with short stories? I wish the ones I liked were longer. Like full-length-novel longer.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees is bursting at the seams with great short stories, most of which I was reluctant to see end. Kij Johnson's quirky characters made their way through their semi-scifi worlds and had me chasing after them, hopeful and enthralled.

The opening story 26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss - a tale about a woman whose world is changed forever when she buys a travelling magic show involving monkeys - is by far one of my favorite (you can read it here) and sadly one of the shortest.

Magic, incidentally, appears to be the sun around which Johnson's stories orbit. It's the unifying element that's woven throughout each uniquely exquisite piece.

Fox Magic, a dead giveaway by title alone, is about a family of foxes who weave a magical spell around a wealthy man so that he might fall in love with their daughter. In My Wife Reincarnated as a Solitaire, a man's dying wife seems to transform into a rare, living bird at the moment of her death. Ponies warns about the dangers of attempting to fit in, when a young girl takes her pony to a "cutting out" party to have its wings and horn removed. In The Man Who Bridged the Mist, which is vaguely reminiscent of Stephen King's The Mist, we read about Kit and the strange things that happen during the time it takes for him to build a bridge over a river of mist that contains scary, unspeakable things. And in the final story (another personal favorite), The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs in North Park After the Change, we are introduced to a world where dogs have evolved and can speak and think as humans do and the horrible fate that change brings on.

Things are not always what they seem in this collection. Sometimes Kij lets us in on the secret from the start. We read on, knowing what the protagonist doesn't, slapping our foreheads in disbelief  that they can't see what we see. Other times, I get the feeling the joke is on us, that the characters are all in on it and they're just messing with us as they go. Mostly, though, things unravel for us in time with the characters.

I remember cracking this open and reading 26 Monkeys, thinking to myself that if the rest of the stories in this collection were anything like this one, I was going to be mush by the time I got to the end. And then I read the last story, The Evolution of Trickster Stories, and it mushed me, totally and completely.

Were there stories in this collection that felt like filler and fluff? Sure. Were those stories forgotten before I had even finished reading them? Yes. But the ones that hit home really hit home HARD and will blow you away and make Kij Johnson and Small Beer Press people to keep an eye on. I promise.