Review: Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom

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Buy Here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

A spirited young Englishwoman, Abitha, arrives at a Puritan colony betrothed to a stranger – only to become quickly widowed when her husband dies under mysterious circumstances. All alone in this pious and patriarchal society, Abitha fights for what little freedom she can grasp onto, while trying to stay true to herself and her past.

Enter Slewfoot, a powerful spirit of antiquity newly woken… and trying to find his own role in the world. Healer or destroyer? Protector or predator? But as the shadows walk and villagers start dying, a new rumor is whispered: Witch.

Both Abitha and Slewfoot must swiftly decide who they are, and what they must do to survive in a world intent on hanging any who meddle in the dark arts.

Review:

The old adage of “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” has been proven time and time again to be true. Sometimes the cover makes the book more attractive. Sometimes it makes it less attractive, and sometimes, like in the case of Slewfoot, it can be misleading. This cover is a woman hovering in front of the moon on a broom, holding a skull. Her feet and legs are cloven and furry, but the drawing looks peaceful and somewhat charming. This means I started this book thinking it was going to be whimsical, like most tales about witches. I was totally wrong. 

The story takes place in 1666, where the puritans are punishing women for talking out of turn and anyone who does not obey the town’s reverends and the Word of God. One half of the story is about Abitha, a widow who has to repay the debts of her missing (presumed dead) husband. Her husband’s brother is a real villain, and he is only trying to save his farm by taking hers. The other half is about Slewfoot, who wakes from a deep sleep and is trying to figure out his place in the world. A few people from the village see him and call him what they think he is, Satan. All of these worlds collide, and the fallout is swift and severe.

I did not have a great amount of motivation to read coming into this novel. I had not read Brom before, and I expected something like my misconceived notions about stories involving witches, that it is going to be fun and light. The truth is that this is a horror novel. There are no arguments against it. This is dark and muddy. This is bloody and gory. This is a revenge story. This is a slasher. This is Slewfoot doing what Slewfoot needs to do to protect Mother Earth and his friends.. And it could not have had a better setting, a better main character, a better villain, and a better ending. Brom writes in a way that is cinematic and emotionally captivating. The feelings that I have for these characters, the attachment I have for the plot, and the love I have for the story really transcends more than just the page. I had not read Brom before, but I have now poked around his website some, and I realize that he is the one that drew the cover, that he has been writing novels and creating art for a long time. I will be reading some of his back catalog based on the strength of Slewfoot.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

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Buy here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

For readers of Claire Messud and Mary Gaitskill comes a striking debut novel of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality, featuring a fascinating heroine who struggles to live a life with meaning.

Hausfrau
haus·frau \haus-frau\ n 1: Origin: German.
Housewife, homemaker. 2: A married woman. 3: A novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Anna was a good wife, mostly.

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.

But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

Intimate, intense, and written with the precision of a Swiss Army knife, Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut novel is an unforgettable story of marriage, fidelity, sex, morality, and most especially self. Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz is an electrifying heroine whose passions and choices readers will debate with recognition and fury. Her story reveals, with honesty and great beauty, how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.

Review:

Literary works about marriages and infidelity are pretty much the most boring books that you can possibly read. You have to bring something different or unique to the tired plot if you are going to write an adultery book that is worth reading. Hausfrau is just different enough for it to be interesting. Most of this is from the writing and from the character of Anna. 

The writing is very powerful in places, one of those books where you want to bring a pen and underline sentences and paragraphs. There are thoughts that are written in a very quotable manner. Like I could see memes floating around Instagram that says, “An obsession is a defense against feeling out of control. A compulsion is the failure of that defense.” or “There’s always a correspondence between one’s dreams and one’s wounds.” There are also interesting patterns that Jill Alexander Essbaum uses to tell this story. Like there are short breaks where she describes German vocabulary and grammar. These pieces have a metaphorical meaning but more it is a pause in the action that is going on, one that is needed at some points, to give us a second to process the things that happened before. There also seems to be patterns with the way certain lovers come up, like most of the time she is travelling when she is thinking about her history with Stephen and the language breaks are a large part of telling her time with Archie. The correlations between lovers and events is very well established, and an interesting way to tell the story. 

Anna is an expat from America who is living with her husband and children in Switzerland. She does belong, does not know the language, does not have many friends. There is so much existential dread and depression in her that she is trying to fulfill her life with something that can help her cope with not feeling like she belongs. Her choice is the comfort of other men, which is a pretty easy way to deal with the loneliness and sadness of feeling like you do not belong in the life you have created. The story, like all infidelity stories, is a cautionary tale and we know from the beginning that it is not going to end well. 


If this was not a well written and quotable as it is, Hausfrau would be just another boring marriage book, but Jill Alexander Essbaum writes the story in such a way that it is well worth the time and effort to consume it all, write down some of the quotable sentences and ideas, and mull over them.

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Review: Absolute Unit by Nick Kolakowski

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Buy here: Crystal Lake Publishing, Amazon

Synopsis:

Bill is a nobody, a health inspector who’s not above taking a few dollars to overlook a restaurant’s mouse problem, and hated by nearly everyone except his long-suffering girlfriend. His nephew, Trent, isn’t much better: sexually and morally confused, he’s probably the worst teenage con artist on the East Coast. But today, these two losers are going to become the most important people in the world.

That’s because Bill and Trent harbor a sentient parasite with a sarcastic sense of humor and a ravenous appetite. As the parasite figures out how to control its new human hosts, the focus of its desires grows from delicious cheeseburgers and beer to something much darker and more dangerous.

Absolute Unit is a dark carnival ride through the underside of the American Dream, where hustlers and parasites fight to survive against gun-toting furries, sarcastic drug kingpins, old ladies who are startlingly good with knives, and angry ex-girlfriends. It’s a hardboiled slice of modern American horror that asks the deepest question of all: Is the human race worth saving?

Review:

Nick Kolakowski’s new novella, Absolute Unit, starts with a bang. Bill is a corrupt health inspector who likes to drink, do drugs, have sex with his coworker in the office closet, and accept bribes from restaurants. He is also inhabited by a parasite, and what sucks you into the story immediately is the parasite inside Bill is the one telling the story. On a day when Bill is taking his nephew, Trent, with him to work, showing him how he makes his extra money by shaking down restaurants for better inspection ratings, the novella turns into a crime caper. Bill meets his corrupt cop friend, and of course things do not go as planned.

Part pulp crime story, part kaiju horror novella, Absolute Unit really has a lot of different elements. I love the beginning of this story. I love Bill and his wildness. I think the opening of this book is one of my favorites, to the point where I bought a few copies for my friends so that they could read it with me. The first half really is something amazing. The second half did not do it for me. The story switches directions so many times that the end does not even resemble the beginning. And I know that this is how books usually are, but the story seemed to lose steam and the special things that sucked me right into the story were long gone by the end. 

I enjoyed the first half of this so much that I still highly recommend it. With Bill’s character moving from a major to a minor character in the story is what changed things for me. I know that many people might not see him as a good person, because he is not, but he is definitely a good character, and it feels like the parasite inside of him is having a great time. We are given a treat with Kolakowski’s new novella, and even though I did not like the second half, it is still a fun novella and a good time. It makes me wish that I had parasites like these. 

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Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

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Buy at: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Review:

After the success of Blacktop Wasteland, S.A. Cosby could have played it safe. He could have written another heist book that would have been fun and entertaining. He could have used the success to keep writing the same book, and we would have loved it. S.A. Cosby did not do this. 

Razorblade Tears is the story of two dads, Ike, a ex-con who is running a very successful landscaping business and has a great marriage, and Buddy Lee, a hard drinking, single, trailer park redneck. Their sons are husbands, and when they are murdered, Ike and Buddy Lee reluctantly team up to figure out who killed them. In the process, they explore the grief and regrets of the way that they treated their sons as gay men. Ike and Buddy Lee both have a rocky relationship with their sons, and this adds to the mourning and regret they experience. Them finding out who killed them is something of a redemption song for the two men.

What makes Cosby’s telling of this story different from that of Blacktop Wasteland was that the motivation in Blacktop Wasteland is money whereas the motivation for Razorblade Tears is not only love and family but a search for understanding. And this is where Cosby changes the game. He knows that he is going to have a great deal of readers for the follow-up to his breakthrough novel so instead of playing it safe, he has two conversations that America is struggling to have: understanding between an older generation and the LGBT+ community and an understanding of race relations. When Buddy Lee and Ike start to go on this mission, Buddy Lee has a completely different outlook on Ike than at the end. Buddy Lee struggles with his “white privilege” when he is drinking all day in a trailer and Ike has a successful business. As the novel progresses, Buddy Lee learns that privilege is not the things he has but the color of his skin. The fact that Buddy Lee is written as a perfect character in this novel. He does not have much going for him, is unemployed, drinks and smokes his days away, and he thinks that white privilege does not exist because look at him versus Ike. The truths unfold in two ways: Buddy Lee learning about how race relations in this country affects Ike every day regardless of how successful he is, and how both of them learn about how the acceptance of their sons is really the biggest regret that they will face, so they face it together.


This might strike a few wrong cords for people, and this is fine. S.A. Cosby did not write this in a way that will make it comfortable for everyone to read. The characters are not refined. The language is rough. The action might be a little questionable at times, but sometimes the over the top fighting and violence is heightened due to the trials the two dads are going through. They want to get to the bottom of the story, so that maybe they can feel better about themselves, and this does cause them to lash out on people inexplicably at times. The truth is the men Razorblade Tears are motivated by grief and regret more than common sense.

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Review: Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

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Buy here: Amazon, Bookshop

Review originally appeared at mysteryandsuspsense.com

Synopsis:

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Review:

There are certain horror stories that grip you from the beginning simply due to the premise. In Tender is the Flesh, we learn a virus has made all animals inedible. With a lack of meat, people turn on each other, and eventually it becomes normal to go to the supermarket and pick up human meat to feed your family. This basic concept is horrifying, and by the time Tender is the Flesh begins, the entire world finds this practice acceptable.

Marcos works in the meat industry, a buyer for his dying father’s slaughterhouse, and estranged from his wife. He inspects his family’s slaughterhouse, buys meat from farmers, and makes sure all the customer orders are fulfilled and the customers are happy. This is actually pretty normal business if the business is not buying, selling, and killing humans.

Society has rules. For example, it is still illegal to eat someone with a first and last name, and there should be no personal contact between humans and the herd. All of the herd humans are to be registered and inspected. When Marcos receives a woman as a gift from one of the farmers, he does not know what to do with her, so he keeps her in his barn and goes about his life. This solution feels like the entirety of this novel, how everything is so terrible that the characters do not even see that it is terrible anymore. Instead they go about their business and their lives with just this little change to the culture.

There are many aspects of this novel that can be picked apart and examined, like how people can turn other people into food as long as there are rules and regulations and how those who cannot afford the meat in the store spend time at the slaughterhouse fence to get some of the leftovers, like how animals are treated during the outbreak and now that society has moved forward from eating them, or like how the virus affected animals but not humans, as if there was a barrier between the two. One of the small undercurrents that I could discuss all day is did the virus even exist or was it made by the government to control the population? Marcos’s sister always has an umbrella outside because she is afraid that she will get infected by birds flying over and her getting hit with their droppings, but that brings up the question of how birds exist? It makes me believe that the story before this story is just as important and a great thing to speculate. Even though this is a short novel, there is so much depth to explore that  Tender is the Flesh is a novel that will be valuable to reread often.

Tender is the Flesh (or Cadáver exquisito) is one of those books that it will be difficult to forget. There are no stories like it, but elements of it did remind me of the detachment of Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, the government anxiety of Orwell’s 1984, and of course the description of meat packing plants like in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Even though the feelings are comparable, the books are not. Tender is the Flesh stands as a unique work that really shows that horror is created by society just as much (if not more) than by individuals.

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Pretty Hate Machine by Daphne Carr

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Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

What is the world that Nine Inch Nails made, and what was the world that made Nine Inch Nails? These are the questions at the heart of this study of the band’s 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. The album began as after-hours demos by mercenary new wave keyboardist Trent Reznor, and was disciplined into sparse industrial dance by a handful of the UK’s best industrial producers. Carr traces how the album became beloved in the underground, found its mass at Lollapalooza, and its market at the newly opened mall store Hot Topic. For fans, Nine Inch Nails was a vehicle for questioning God, society, the family, sex, and the body. In ten raw, heartbreaking oral histories woven through the book, fans living in the post-industrial Midwest discuss the successes and failures of the American dream as they are articulated in Nine Inch Nails’ music. Daphne Carr illuminates Pretty Hate Machine as at once singular and as representative of how popular music can impact history and change lives.

Review:

I thoroughly enjoy every 33 ⅓ book I have read, and how they don’t have a consistent angle. There are some that talk about the recording of the album, some are about the history that influenced the album, and some are about the impact and importance of the album. The entry of Pretty Hate Machine written by Daphne Carr leans heavily on the last of these formulas, spending most of her time talking about Pretty Hate Machine and Nine Inch Nails through interviews with the fans, and the histories of the towns that influenced Trent Reznor and his upbringing.

 I like all of it because Carr is using Pretty Hate Machine as more of a metaphor than a solid thing. She writes that the pretty hate machine is not an album but a physical place, a time, and a mindset. The towns surrounding Reznor’s childhood, (Mercer, Pennsylvania, Youngstown, Ohio, and Cleveland, Ohio) are the places that are where the industrial machines are the influence of the economy (through steel mills and factories), and that if you are not a factory worker, there is not a place for you. Add this to the 80s, while Reznor was a teenager, when the towns were starting to fall apart, the factories were shutting down, and poverty and drug use were rising, you have a landscape for the soundscape. 

This is mixed with Carr interviewing Nine Inch Nails fans about their attachment to the band and the songs. An interesting part of this is how many of them did not site Pretty Hate Machine as their favorite, but the songs are important to them and got them through some tough times, whether a terrible childhood, an addiction, or a sense of desperation in their lives. I liked these stories, even though they do not always have much to do with the actual album. It is almost like Carr is showing that this album is one that people use to hold onto when they need something to hold onto and the motion of the machine helps them get through. 

My history with Pretty Hate Machine is extensive. I have been listening to Nine Inch Nails since early high school. My friend had a cassette tape of Pretty Hate Machine and the Broken e.p. I talked him into letting me borrow them while I went on a family trip, ten hours in the car through the mountains listening to Nine Inch Nails. I listened to Broken a few times, but it was inconvenient, because the cassette tape was all on one side, with “Physical (You’re So)”  on side B, smack in the middle of the side so it was difficult to cue up properly. I listened to Pretty Hate Machine more for convenience. It was the perfect soundtrack, a mixture of irritation, frustration, but also hope and longing for a world that was bigger than the one that I knew. 

Of course I loved all of it. I listened to it over and over for hours, and I loved that I caught the little bits, like the Jane’s Addiction sample in “Ringfinger”, but I really loved the emotion of “Something I Can Never Have.” This is a song that I really don’t listen to anymore, even when it’s on, but I used to get my feelings wrapped up in the lyrics and think about the girls I had crushes on, knowing that they were not even looking at me. 


I bought The Downward Spiral the day that it came out, and I do have a stronger connection to it, but I was driving through the mountains this summer, going the same route I went when I was a teenager in the backseat of the family car, and I still have those feelings from when I was a teenager, that the world is bigger than I ever imagined, and I will do better things in my life. The irritation, frustration, hope, and longing are still there, and will always be there.

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Review: Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

From the author of Annihilation, a brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things.

Security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control.

Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world.

Hummingbird Salamander is Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy. 

Review:

Jeff VanderMeer consistently writes some of the most interesting and weird fiction. After the Southern Reach Trilogy, it can be argued that he is one of the top five authors currently working today. The best thing about his work is that it is unpredictable and so varied that you never know what you are going to get. This makes me excited for every new book that VanderMeer releases. 

Hummingbird Salamander does not disappoint in making me wonder what is going to happen next. Following up his past two post-apocalyptic books (Borne and Dead Astronauts) with an environmental thriller only makes sense in his world. “Jane Smith” is the main character’s fake name. She is large, an ex-bodybuilder, and works in security. When a stranger dies and gives her a taxidermized hummingbird, Jane’s obsession with the meaning only increases when people start following her, watching her house, and eventually shooting at her. 

VanderMeer’s novels can be very dense. The story unfolds in a very humid way, heavy, stifling, and hot. The more that “Jane Smith” discovers, the further into the mystery she gets. She ends being completely obsessed, leaving her husband and daughter to search for answers. One of the funny, interesting things that VanderMeer likes has returned to is the office politics novel. Most of Authority, the second in the Southern Reach Trilogy, is petty office politics, and there is some of it in Hummingbird Salamander as well. It is interesting that VanderMeer can spend such a great deal of time and detail writing about office work. Mix this with the secrets that every character not only hides from other characters but from the readers, and even though this does not seem like the typical VanderMeer novel, it really fits into his collective work. 

There are so many aspects of this novel that are intriguing, like we are left questions, just like “Jane Smith.” We have more to unravel and obsess about with Hummingbird Salamander, like does this story take place in the present or in the near future? It feels like Jane’s life falling apart is being paralleled with society falling apart around her, and his her life just a microscopic facsimile of the bigger picture. The search for the meaning for the taxidermy hummingbird (which is declared rare) and the clues to an accompanying salamander (rare as well) makes me think that many animals are dying out and the structure of civilization is failing. She thinks that there might be something in the meaning behind the gift, the hummingbird, because it is a preservation of the things that used to be. The more I think about the story, the more deeper meanings and questions are quarried from the story, like the true meaning of utopia and if it can exist. At the end, this is one of those novels you catch yourself thinking about, and one that leaves a lasting impression.

I received this as an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: She Who Rules the Dead by Maria Abrams

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Buy it here: Weirdpunk Books, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Henry has received a message: he needs to sacrifice five people to the demon that’s been talking to him in his nightmares. He already has four, and number five, Claire, is currently bound in the back of his van.

Too bad Claire isn’t exactly human.

Review:

The Maria Abrams novella, She Who Rules the Dead, starts with a semi-conscious, drugged woman, Claire, in a van being driven by a serial killer, Henry. Henry already has four dead bodies in the back of the van and killing Claire fulfills a dream he had. If this is not enough to give this novella a try, are you even a reader? The next 100 or so pages move at a breakneck speed, and prepare yourself to sit down and read this entire book in one sitting. 

I love the story because it does go in unexpected directions. There is not so much twist and turns as much as unpredicted directions. There is as much story and plot in this novella as there are in some 400 and 500 tomles, but this story fits perfectly to the pace. We feel the adrenaline and the anxiety from both Claire, the and Henry as the final solution comes. Without a wasted page, Abrams brings this tension to the reader. When there is only 20 pages left, then 15, then 10, and we know as the reader the countdown is happening even if we do not know what the final direction is going to be. This could be much longer, but this length gives the story the anxiety that it needs. 

I love the story, but I also love the writing. There is a simplicity to it that makes it read fast and clearly, even when there are some concepts that are a little trickier than others. I did not have any problem following the action, what Henry and Claire are really up to, and what the ramifications are for their actions. Abrams uses strong sentences and word choices that really makes this story sing. 
Like everyone published by Weirdpunk Books, She Who Rules the Dead has a quality that I have come to expect from this publisher, and I cannot recommend reading their entire catalog enough. For anyone who is hesitant on where to start, She Who Rules the Dead is a great place to start your obsession.

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Review: The Shining by Stephen King

Synopsis:

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old. 

Review:

I calculated how long I have been trying to read The Shining, and it has taken me almost 30 years to finally get through this book. I know that some people say that this is the pinnacle of Stephen King’s bibliography, and it is undeniable that this is firmly planted in the zeitgeist of American Horror culture, where I could say REDRUM to anyone and they instantly know what I am referring to, but the novel is a slog. I love the story, but it took so long for me to get through the whole thing. 

When I was a teenager, my inability to get into The Shining was mostly the focus of King on Jack Torrance being an alcoholic and a father. These two things were things I could not relate to. This time (which is about my fourth attempt to read it), I was not interested in Jack Torrance and his struggles to be a decent human being. He is a jerk, Wendy is an enabler, and Danny is wise beyond his years at five. When they enter the Overlook Hotel, the hotel sees them as vulnerable and easy to manipulate to it’s will. 

My favorite character is the Overlook Hotel. I like that it is filled with ghosts and demons. I know that critiquing a classic novel is like nailing Jell-O to a wall, but I think that I would have been more interested in this if King shifted the story from the Torrance family to the hotel much quicker. The outcome is foreshadowed like a brick to the head, but it would have also been interesting if the Hotel also used more for self preservation on the inside, like the topiary animals were doing on the outside. The hotel has more character and charm than the actual family it is after.

This is a hard critique, and I know that it really does not matter. Everyone loves The Shining  in one form or another. I can say that I have seen Kubrick’s version of the book so many times that I almost prefer it over the book. Maybe it is because it is the version of the story that I am familiar with and comfortable with, or maybe it is because it cuts out a great deal of Jack Torrance spending time wanting to drink. Either way, I did read all of Jack’s dialogue in the voice of Jack Nicholson, and this makes me think that there is no other person who could ever be Jack Torrance.  I will most definitely watch the movie more, but I will most likely never read the book again. This might be some people’s favorite classic King novel, but I think there are much better novels by him than this one.

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Review: Guillotine: Poems by Eduardo C. Corral

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Buy Here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Guillotine traverses desert landscapes cut through by migrants, the grief of loss, betrayal’s lingering scars, the border itself—great distances in which violence and yearning find roots. Through the voices of undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents, and scorned lovers, award-winning poet Eduardo C. Corral writes dramatic portraits of contradiction, survival, and a deeply human, relentless interiority. With extraordinary lyric imagination, these poems wonder about being unwanted or renounced. What do we do with unrequited love? Is it with or without it that we would waste away?

In the sequence “Testaments Scratched into Water Station Barrels,” with Corral’s seamless integration of Spanish and English, poems curve around the surfaces upon which they are written, overlapping like graffiti left by those who may or may not have survived crossing the border. A harrowing second collection, Guillotine solidifies Corral’s place in the expanding ecosystem of American poetry.

Review:

I have been expanding my library, adding some different types of books to my collection, thus reading some things I would not have picked up in the past. One of them is buying and reading poetry. I do not know much about poetry in a clinical sense, but I can tell what I like and don’t like due to content and impact. This means I have to review poetry more on content than on execution. If you are not much of a poetry reader, but want something that will really knock you down, Guillotine is that short collection. I read it in one day, sometimes reading a poem more than once, and by the end, I was in love.

 Eduardo C. Corral starts the collection with a long poem called “Testaments Scratched into a Water Station Barrel.” These thirty pages surround a stationary item in the middle of the desert that many immigrants use as a marker while moving toward the American border. This poem is more of a cycle with many different voices and different perspectives. The anguish and sadness in these pages burn, and by the end of it, the reader cannot help but think that anyone who tries to make this crossing is filled with courage and strength. The  emotions that Corral brings out of these pages, even with the anti-immigrant scrawlings of the border patrol, are expressed in a way that makes every poem scorch your heart.

The next section of poems scorch in a different way. Many are personal poems about desire, love, and lust. Corral brings the same intensity. The danger and longing he brings with “Testaments Scratched into a Water Station Barrel” resurface in “Guillotine”, “Autobiography of My Hungers”, “Black Water”, and “To a Straight Man” particularly. 

“1707 San Joaquin Avenue” is another heartbreaker toward the end, a poem inspired by newspaper articles of the immigrant men found in drop houses in Arizona. These pages are tough to read and are proof that there is more horror in the things we do to each other than in the outside world.


I can talk about every poem in this collection, break it down, and do my best with understanding the emotion and meaning behind each word. I could read this over and over. I could loan it to people who are harsh critics of the border crisis. I could also recommend Guillotine to anyone who does not read poetry but wants a good collection as a start.

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