Outlandish Lit

American Fire by Monica Hesse :: Review

Monday, August 7, 2017

American Fire by Monica Hesse :: Outlandish Lit Review
American Fire by Monica Hesse
Publisher: Liveright. July 11, 2017.
Pages: 255
Genre: True Crime
Source: Publisher



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What a true crime time to be alive! Podcasts and shows focused on real murders are super popular right now. But let us not forget an equally fascinating crime, the object of Sia and Rihanna's affection (or, at least, attention) in several music videos: arson! What else is super popular? The examination of rural American life. This book gives you both, with a side of thorough research and beautiful writing. American Fire is the story of Accomack county in rural Virginia that in 2012 was victim to 67 fires within a five-month period. It's the story of the two people, crazy in love, who set 67 (mostly) abandoned buildings ablaze undetected, and why.

"I spent the next two years trying to understand why he did it. The answer, inasmuch as there is an answer for these things, involved hope, poverty, pride, Walmart, erectile dysfunction, Steak-umms (the chopped meat sold in the frozen food aisle) intrigue, and America. America: the way it's disappointing sometimes, the way it's never what it used to be."

The narrative that Washington Post feature writer Monica Hesse has wrangled is complicated, yet extremely coherent and compelling. We learn a lot about firefighting and the investigation of arson. Seriously, I had no idea I would be so interested in learning about volunteer firefighting and its impact on a community. Hesse includes historical and psychological examinations of arsonists, as well as an analysis of the area’s economic situation. Accomack County is an isolated place under pressure from the rest of society to change. The ways that the residents made money are no longer profitable or no longer exist. Many of the residents feel forgotten. To then be betrayed by somebody in the community, who remains unidentified for so long, is an impossible struggle.

Hesse also looks at what people will do when they are deep in love and under a considerable amount of stress. Charlie Smith, the man who pleaded guilty to the fires, is a fascinatingly earnest and troubled person. More fascinating is his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick, and the dark shift that took place in their epic love story. This is great true crime, featuring details about the arsons, interrogations, and trials, with a “This American Life” tone of storytelling. If you have an interest in true crime, but haven't read a true crime book, this is a great place to start.


15 Books To Look For This August

Saturday, August 5, 2017

15 Books To Look For This August :: Outlandish Lit
Holy moly, there are so many August releases that I'm interested in. It took a lot of agony and suffering to narrow it down to 15, but somebody had to do it. And I don't mean to be shallow, but there are some really beautiful covers in this line up, MY GOD. Mostly unrelated: shout out to nobody who told me I spelled vitamin "vitamon" in my July post. Yikes. I've clearly been playing too much Pokemon Go, but who can blame me??



The Lauras by Sara Taylor (August 1)

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I didn't realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she'd lived as a child in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn't forget the home we'd left behind, couldn't deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business.

This enigmatic pilgrimage takes them back to various stages of Alex's mother's life, each new state prompting stories and secrets. Together they trace back through a life of struggle and adventure to put to rest unfinished business, to heal old wounds and to search out lost friends. This is an extraordinary story of a life; a stunning exploration of identity and an authentic study of the relationship between a mother and her child. - Sara Taylor wrote The Shore, a book I adored in 2015. So excited to start her latest novel!!


Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter (August 1)

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In 2088, humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar system. But one uncertainty remains: Where do we go?

Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer has an idea. He’s discovered an anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics, and proposes the creation of a deep-space mission to find out whether the star is a weird natural phenomenon, or something manufactured.

The journey will take eons. In order to maintain the genetic talent of the original crew, humankind’s greatest ambition—to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy—is undertaken by clones. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each new generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses. As the centuries fly by, the society living aboard the nine ships (designated “Convoy Seven”) changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie’s mysterious star and explore its origins—and implications.

A mosaic novel of discovery, Noumenon—in a series of vignettes—examines the dedication, adventure, growth, and fear of having your entire world consist of nine ships in the vacuum of space. The men and women, and even the AI, must learn to work and live together in harmony, as their original DNA is continuously replicated and they are born again and again into a thousand new lives. With the stars their home and the unknown their destination, they are on a voyage of many lifetimes—an odyssey to understand what lies beyond the limits of human knowledge and imagination


Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian (August 1)

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It's the early 1990s, and Agnes is running out of people she can count on. A new college student, she is caught between the broken home she leaves behind and the wilderness of campus life. What she needs most is her mother, who has seemingly disappeared, and her brother, who left the family tragically a few years prior.

As Agnes falls into new romance, mines female friendships for intimacy, and struggles to find her footing, she writes letters to her mother, both to conjure a closeness they never had and to try to translate her experiences to herself. When she finds out she is pregnant, Agnes begins to contend with what it means to be a mother and, in some ways, what it means to be your own mother. - This one is compared to Jenny Offill and and Maria Semple so um yes hi.


The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (August 1)

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Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between ocean and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julia and James.


The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays by Megan Stielstra (August 1)

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In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece “The Wrong Way To Save Your Life,” she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family’s goes up in flames. “Here is My Heart” sheds light on Megan’s close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she's imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra's work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.


See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (August 1)

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On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. - Murder!


Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang (August 1)

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Centered on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City, Zhang’s exhilarating collection examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up. From the young woman coming to terms with her grandmother’s role in the Cultural Revolution to the daughter struggling to understand where her family ends and she begins, to the girl discovering the power of her body to inspire and destroy, these seven vibrant stories illuminate the complex and messy inner lives of girls struggling to define themselves. Fueled by Zhang’s singular voice and sly humor, this collection introduces Zhang as a bright and devastating force in literary fiction.


Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist by Paul Kingsnorth (August 1)

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Paul Kingsnorth was once an activist—an ardent environmentalist. He fought against rampant development and the depredations of a corporate world that seemed hell-bent on ignoring a looming climate crisis in its relentless pursuit of profit. But as the environmental movement began to focus on “sustainability” rather than the defense of wild places for their own sake and as global conditions worsened, he grew disenchanted with the movement that he once embraced. He gave up what he saw as the false hope that residents of the First World would ever make the kind of sacrifices that might avert the severe consequences of climate change.

Full of grief and fury as well as passionate, lyrical evocations of nature and the wild, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist gathers the wave-making essays that have charted the change in Kingsnorth’s thinking. In them he articulates a new vision that he calls “dark ecology,” which stands firmly in opposition to the belief that technology can save us, and he argues for a renewed balance between the human and nonhuman worlds.


Moonbath by Yanick Lahens (August 8)


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“A novel of violent beauty.” — Le Monde

The award-winning saga of a peasant family living in a small Haitian village, recounting through stories of tradition and superstition, voodoo, romance, and violence, the lives of four generations of women struggling to hold the family together in a volatile, roiling landscape of political turmoil and economic suffering.


The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet by Henry Fountain (August 8)

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On March 27, 1964, at 5:36 p.m., the biggest earthquake ever recorded in North America--and the second biggest ever in the world, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale--struck Alaska, devastating coastal towns and villages and killing more than 130 people in what was then a relatively sparsely populated region. In a riveting tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain, in his first trade book, re-creates the lives of the villagers and townspeople living in Chenega, Anchorage, and Valdez; describes the sheer beauty of the geology of the region, with its towering peaks and 20-mile-long glaciers; and reveals the impact of the quake on the towns, the buildings, and the lives of the inhabitants. George Plafker, a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey with years of experience scouring the Alaskan wilderness, is asked to investigate the Prince William Sound region in the aftermath of the quake, to better understand its origins. His work confirmed the then controversial theory of plate tectonics that explained how and why such deadly quakes occur, and how we can plan for the next one. - I love geology.


How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas (August 15)

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Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn't quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist--she's already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle's Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don't, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them if he doesn't run away from home first.

Isidore's unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost. - George Saunders and Jesse Ball like this book, so I'm sold.


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (August 15)

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Practical-minded Isma has spent the years since her mother’s death watching out for her twin brother and sister in their North London home. When an invitation to grad school in America comes through unexpectedly, it brings the irresistible promise of freedom too long deferred. But even an ocean away, Isma can’t stop worrying about her beautiful, headstrong, politically inclined sister, Aneeka, and Parvaiz, their brother, who seems to be adrift—until suddenly he is half a globe away in Raqqa, trying to prove himself to the dark legacy of the father he never knew, with no road back.

Then Eamonn Lone enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The instrument of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined.

Home Fire is a nuanced, searing, and exceedingly timely novel about love and loyalty, ideology and identity, what we choose to sacrifice for and why.


Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life by Chelsea Martin (August 15)

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Funny, candid, and searchingly self-aware, this essay collection tells the story of Chelsea Martin's coming of age as an artist. We are with Chelsea as an eleven-year-old atheist, trying to will an alien visitation to her neighborhood; fighting with her stepfather and grappling with a Tourette's diagnosis as she becomes a teenager; falling under the sway of frenemies and crushes in high school; going into debt to afford what might be a meaningless education at an expensive art college; navigating the messy process of falling in love with a close friend; and struggling for independence from her emotionally manipulative father and from the family and friends in the dead-end California town that has defined her upbringing. This is a book about relationships, class, art, sex, money, and family--and about growing up weird, and poor, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Sip by Brian Allen Carr (August 29)

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It started with a single child, and quickly spread: you could get high by drinking your own shadow. At night, lights were destroyed so that addicts could sip shadow in the pure light of the moon.

Gangs of shadow addicts chased down children on playgrounds, rounded up old ladies from retirement homes. Cities were destroyed and governments fell. And if your shadow was sipped entirely, you became one of them, had to find more shadow, at any cost, or go mad.

150 years later, what's left of the world is divided between the highly regimented life of those inside dome-cities that are protected from natural light (and natural shadows), and those forced to the dangerous, hardscrabble life in the wilds outside. In rural Texas, Mira, her shadow-addicted friend Murk, and an ex-Domer named Bale, search for a possible mythological cure to the shadow sickness but they must do so, it is said, before the return of Halley's Comet, which is only days away.


My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (August 29)

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Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. The reader tracks Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, and watches, heart in throat, as she struggles to become her own hero--and in the process, becomes ours as well.



What books are you looking forward to this August?

3 Books That Defied My Reading Slump

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My blogging absence has sort of felt like the elephant in the room - for me at least. Blogging was a big part of my life, so I admit that it does feel strange not to be doing it on a regular basis. The reality is that reading has been very difficult for me for almost a year now. Maybe I'll get into that more another time. While my reading has slowed to a mere fraction of what it was before, that doesn't mean that I've stopped reading entirely. Every once in a while there is a book that brings back that excitement about reading that I've missed. Here are three of those books that I've read in the past couple months.


Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Publisher: Riverhead Books. January 2017.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Library
Pages: 192



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Holy shit, this is my kind of book. If you like your literature short, tense, and deeply unsettling, Fever Dream is an absolute must read. The whole (tiny) book is a conversation between main character, Amanda, and a mysterious little boy named David. She is in a hospital. It's not clear why. David asks her to recall what happened that got her there from the very beginning, fixating on small details here and there. Once I picked this book up, there was no chance that I was going to put it down. They talk about children, worms, motherhood, dying horses, pollution, fate, weird spirit stuff, etc. It is all the scariest. Nothing explicitly horror-y happens, but the dread throughout is so so real. And some seriously weird shit goes down... or does it?? This book feels like a dream for sure, and it will not disappoint you. Highly recommended for fans of Helen Phillips, Clarice Lispector (sort of, in her very close focus & claustrophobic writing), or Jesse Ball. So beautiful! So amazing! Read it and be astounded by Schweblin's clarity of voice and vision in her murky and hypnotizing story.


Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Publisher: Del Rey. April 2017.
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 325



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Last year I read a book called Sleeping Giants, which was a glorious combination of Ancient Aliens and Pacific Rim in a a super fun and easy to read interview style. I had some problems with flat characters in the first book, but the sequel, which came out this year, really blew me away. It was action packed, the characters felt less forced and more confidently written, and it was an incredibly quick read. We also got to learn more about the nameless narrator who I thought was kind of cheesy as an idea in the first book. He's just like your general nameless spy dude who seems to have his fingers in every governmental activity (classified or otherwise). Part of me sort of didn't want any actual background, but I ended up really enjoying what we got. This book did not pull any punches AT ALL and it kept surprising me throughout. It is a great read, and it's worth checking out the first book to get here.



His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrea Burnet
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing. October 2016.
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Library
Pages: 300



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I've definitely been on a true crime kick these past couple months, and it was a delight to experience this fiction book that reads like bonafide true crime. His Bloody Project was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2016, which I find to be a super interesting, and well deserved, pick. In it, we have a series of documents that all pertain to the case of Roderick Macrea killing a family in his village. There are neighbors' accounts, his own personal written account, and a transcript of the trial - all of which are biased. Roderick Macrae is such a fascinating guy to be in the head of - and to see from the outside after you know what's going on in his head. It's not a book where you come away knowing exactly what happened at the end of it. It's one that you'll keep thinking about, trying to puzzle out the details and decide who exactly to believe. Burnet places some amazing little hints throughout the book that close readers and true crime fans will be delighted by.



What books have helped you during a reading slump?


10 Books To Look For This July

Friday, July 7, 2017

10 Books To Look For This July :: Outlandish Lit
Honestly, we could just call this post "10 Books To Look For This July 11" because I guess that's the only suitable day for book publishing this month. Insightful and biting commentary aside, I'm super hyped about all of these books coming out this month and YOU SHOULD BE TOO (if you want to be, it is truly your choice). What have we got on the docket this July? Cults! Arson! Mysterious tapes! Sad stuff! Alien stuff! All the stuff you could ever need!!



In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult by Rebecca Stott (July 4)

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Rebecca Stott was born a fourth-generation Brethren and she grew up in England, in the Brighton branch of the Exclusive Brethren cult in the early 1960s. Her family dated back to the group's origins in the first half of the nineteenth century, and her father was a high-ranking minister. However, as an intelligent, inquiring child, Stott was always asking dangerous questions and so, it turns out, was her father, who was also full of doubt. When a sex scandal tore the Exclusive Brethren apart in 1970, her father pulled the family out of the cult. But its impact on their lives shaped everything before and all that was to come.


Found Audio by N.J. Campbell (July 11)

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Amrapali Anna Singh is an historian and analyst capable of discerning the most cryptic and trivial details from audio recordings. One day, a mysterious man appears at her office in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, having traveled a great distance to bring her three Type IV audio cassettes that bear the stamp of a library in Buenos Aires that may or may not exist.

On the cassettes is the deposition of an adventure journalist and his obsessive pursuit of an amorphous, legendary, and puzzling "City of Dreams." Spanning decades, his quest leads him from a snake-hunter in the Louisiana bayou to the walled city of Kowloon on the eve of its destruction, from the Singing Dunes of Mongolia to a chess tournament in Istanbul. The deposition also begs the question: Who is making the recording, and why?

Here—for the first time—is the complete archival manuscript of the mysterious recordings accompanied by Singh's analysis.


American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (July 11)

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The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage...

The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie’s confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder. He wasn’t lighting fires alone; his crimes were galvanized by a surprising love story. Over a year of investigating, Hesse uncovered the motives of Charlie and his accomplice, girlfriend Tonya Bundick, a woman of steel-like strength and an inscrutable past. Theirs was a love built on impossibly tight budgets and simple pleasures. They were each other’s inspiration and escape…until they weren’t.

...A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. - Reading this right now and it is SO GOOD.


What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (July 11)

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Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss.


The Rift by Nina Allan (July 11)

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Selena and Julie are sisters. As children they were close, but as they grow older, a rift develops between them. There are greater rifts, however. Julie goes missing aged seventeen. It will be twenty years before Selena sees her again. When Julie reappears, she tells Selena an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. Does Selena dismiss her sister as a the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity?


Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (July 11)

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A young woman returns home to care for her failing father in this fine, funny, and inescapably touching debut, from an affecting and wonderfully original new literary voice.

A few days after Christmas in a small suburb outside of L.A., pairs of a man's pants hang from the trees. The pants belong to Howard Young, a prominent history professor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Howard's wife, Annie, summons their daughter, Ruth. Freshly disengaged from her fiance and still broken up about it, feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job and arrives home to find her parents' situation worse than she'd realized. Her father is erratically lucid and her mother, a devoted and creative cook, sees the sources of memory loss in every pot and pan. But as Howard's condition intensifies, the comedy in Ruth's situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief. She throws herself into caretaking: cooking dementia-fighting meals (a feast of jellyfish!), researching supplements, anything to reignite her father's once-notable memory. And when the university finally lets Howard go, Ruth and one of her father's handsome former students take their efforts to help Howard one step too far.


Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (July 11)

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1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven't seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she's got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter's been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.


Dichronauts by Greg Egan (July 11)

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Seth is a surveyor, along with his friend Theo, a leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right. Theo, in turn, relies on Seth for mobility, and for ordinary vision looking forwards and backwards. Like everyone else in their world, they are symbionts, depending on each other to survive.

In the universe containing Seth's world, light cannot travel in all directions: there is a “dark cone” to the north and south. Seth can only face to the east (or the west, if he tips his head backwards). If he starts to turn to the north or south, his body stretches out across the landscape, and to rotate as far as north-north-east is every bit as impossible as accelerating to the speed of light.

Every living thing in Seth’s world is in a state of perpetual migration as they follow the sun’s shifting orbit and the narrow habitable zone it creates. Cities are being constantly disassembled at one edge and rebuilt at the other, with surveyors mapping safe routes ahead.

But when Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they discover a terrifying threat: a fissure in the surface of the world, so deep and wide that no one can perceive its limits. As the habitable zone continues to move, the migration will soon be blocked by this unbridgeable void, and the expedition has only one option to save its city from annihilation: descend into the unknown.


Tomorrow's Kin by Nancy Kress (July 11)

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Tomorrow's Kin is the first volume in and all new hard SF trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday's Kin.

The aliens have arrived... they've landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth's most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster, and not everyone is willing to wait. - Nancy Kress is an amazing writer and if you like literary sci-fi, you should definitely check her out.


The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt (July 18)

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In these marvelously inventive stories, Samantha Hunt imagines numerous ways in which lives might be altered by the otherworldly. An FBI agent falls in love with a robot built for a suicide mission. A young woman unintentionally cheats on her husband when she is transformed, nightly, into a deer. Two strangers become lovers and find themselves somehow responsible for the resurrection of a dog. A woman tries to start her life anew after the loss of a child but cannot help riddling that new life with lies. Thirteen pregnant teenagers develop a strange relationship with the Founding Fathers of American history. A lonely woman’s fertility treatments become the stuff of science fiction.

Magic intrudes. Technology betrays and disappoints. Infidelities lead us beyond the usual conflict. Our bodies change, reproduce, decay, and surprise. With her characteristic unguarded gaze and offbeat humor, Hunt has conjured stories that urge an understanding of youth and mortality, magnification and loss, and hold out the hope that we can know one another more deeply or at least stand side by side to observe the mystery of the world.  - Author of Mr. Splitfoot! Yes!


What books are you looking forward to this July?

11 Books To Look For This June

Monday, June 5, 2017

11 Books To Look For This June :: Outlandish Lit
Oh hey, reading friends. Long time, no see. I'm here to bring you a list of books that you should try to get your hands on this June! It's finally summertime and I can finally be a happy person again. I recently got back from WisCon, a feminist sci-fi convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and it got me super hyped about book things. Inspired by panels I attended there, I made a point of including some speculative fiction in translation on this reading list (definitely a subcategory of book I've always enjoyed). Enjoy, and happy summer!!



The Answers by Catherine Lacey (June 6)

ADD TO GOODREADS
In Catherine Lacey’s ambitious second novel we are introduced to Mary, a young woman living in New York City and struggling to cope with a body that has betrayed her. All but paralyzed with pain, Mary seeks relief from a New Agey treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, PAKing for short. And, remarkably, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive and Mary is dead broke. So she scours Craigslist for fast-cash jobs and finds herself applying for the “Girlfriend Experiment,” the brainchild of an eccentric actor, Kurt Sky, who is determined to find the perfect relationship—even if that means paying different women to fulfill distinctive roles. Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection.


ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino (June 6)

ADD TO GOODREADS
This novel centers on the “It’s me” telephone scam—often targeting the elderly—that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, “Hey, it’s me,” and goes on to claim in great distress that he’s been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.

ME’s narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi’s tray at McDonald’s. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki’s mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.

Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki’s mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a “me” living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.


Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash (June 6)

ADD TO GOODREADS
“In Stephen Florida, Gabe Habash has created a coming-of-age story with its own, often explosive, rhythm and velocity. Habash has a canny sense of how young men speak and behave, and in Stephen, he’s created a singular character: funny, ambitious, affecting, but also deeply troubled, vulnerable, and compellingly strange. This is a shape-shifter of a book, both a dark ode to the mysteries and landscapes of the American West and a complex and convincing character study.” —Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life

Foxcatcher meets The Art of Fielding, Stephen Florida follows a college wrestler in his senior season, when every practice, every match, is a step closer to greatness and a step further from sanity. Profane, manic, and tipping into the uncanny, it's a story of loneliness, obsession, and the drive to leave a mark.


American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron (June 6)

ADD TO GOODREADS
In the scorching summer of 1878, with the Gilded Age in its infancy, three tenacious and brilliant scientists raced to Wyoming and Colorado to observe a rare total solar eclipse. One sought to discover a new planet. Another—an adventuresome female astronomer—fought to prove that science was not anathema to femininity. And a young, megalomaniacal inventor, with the tabloid press fast on his heels, sought to test his scientific bona fides and light the world through his revelations. David Baron brings to three-dimensional life these three competitors—James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison—and thrillingly re-creates the fierce jockeying of nineteenth-century American astronomy. With spellbinding accounts of train robberies and Indian skirmishes, the mythologized age of the last days of the Wild West comes alive as never before. A magnificent portrayal of America’s dawn as a scientific superpower, American Eclipse depicts a young nation that looked to the skies to reveal its towering ambition and expose its latent genius.


The Sacred Era by Aramaki Yoshio (June 13)

ADD TO GOODREADS
The magnum opus of a Japanese master of speculative fiction, and a book that established Yoshio Aramaki as a leading representative of the genre, The Sacred Era is part post-apocalyptic world, part faux-religious tract, and part dream narrative. In a distant future ruled by a new Papal Court serving the Holy Empire of Igitur, a young student known only as K arrives at the capital to take The Sacred Examination, a text that will qualify him for metaphysical research service with the court. His performance earns him an assignment in the secret Planet Bosch Research Department; this in turn puts him on the trail of a heretic executed many years earlier, whose headless ghost is still said to haunt the Papal Court, which carries him on an interplanetary pilgrimage across the Space Taklamakan Desert to the Planet Loulan, where time stands still, and finally to the mysterious, supposedly mythical Planet Bosch, a giant, floating plant-world that once orbited Earth but has somehow wandered 1,000 light years away.


You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (June 13)

ADD TO GOODREADS
"It is fitting that I'm beginning a new notebook up here. New surroundings and new ideas, a new beginning. Fresh air."

These are the opening lines of the journal kept by the narrator of Daniel Kehlmann's spellbinding new novel: the record of the seven days that he, his wife, and his four-year-old daughter spend in a house they have rented in the mountains of Germany—a house that thwarts the expectations of his recollection and seems to defy the very laws of physics. The narrator is eager to finish a screenplay, entitled Marriage, for a sequel to the movie that launched his career, but something he cannot explain is undermining his convictions and confidence, a process he is recording in this account of the uncanny events that unfold as he tries to understand what, exactly, is happening around him—and in himself. - This book is SO TINY, both in length and height.


The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (June 13)

ADD TO GOODREADS
In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . . An emerging AI uprising . . . And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about. - WHAT.


The Changeling by Victor LaValle (June 13)

ADD TO GOODREADS
Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air. Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.


Aberrant by Marek Šindelka (June 15)

ADD TO GOODREADS
A multifaceted work that defies easy classification, a variety of genres and styles are mixed and mashed together to thwart the reader's expectations. The result is a heady concoction of crime story, horror story (inspired by the Japanese tradition of kaidan), ecological revenge fantasy, and Siberian shamanism where nothing is what it seems. What appears to be human is nothing more than a shell occupied by an alien spirit, or demon. What appears to be a built-up district of Prague reveals itself to be a flood plain once the waters of the Vltava rise to inundate it. And what appears to be an unassuming plant is an aggressive parasite that harbors a poisonous substance within or manifests itself as an assassin, a phantom that has no real substance. The blind see and the seeing are blind. Through these devices ┼áindelka weaves a tale of three childhood friends, the errant paths their lives take, and the world of rare plant smuggling – and the consequences of taking the wrong plant – to show the rickety foundation of illusions on which our relationship to the environment, and to one another, rests. It is a world of aberrations, anomalies, and mistakes.


Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones (June 20)

ADD TO GOODREADS
Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you'd rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost. - A Native American author to check out if you haven't read him yet!!


Amatka by Karin Tidbeck (June 27)

ADD TO GOODREADS
Vanja, a government worker, leaves her home city of Essre for the austere, wintry colony of Amatka on a research assignment. It takes some adjusting: people act differently in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja finds herself falling in love with her housemate, Nina, and decides to stick around. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony and a cover-up by its administration, she begins an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.

In Karin Tidbeck's dystopic imagining, language has the power to shape reality. Unless objects, buildings, and the surrounding landscape are repeatedly named, and named properly, everything will fall apart. Trapped in the repressive colony, Vanja dreams of using language to break free, but her individualism may well threaten the very fabric of reality. - Ok, Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck is one of my favorite short story collections OF ALL TIME. I'm so excited to read her linguistics-heavy, queer debut novel. Seriously, her writing is so so beautiful & original.


What books are you looking forward to this June??

A Readathon Mini-Challenge: #CoverFromMemory

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Happy Readathon, everybody! I'm happy to be here with a ridiculous mini-challenge for you. I don't know about you all, but even before I was a bookseller, I prided myself on how I would remember the covers of books. I'm not completely helpless when a customer comes up to me and says that they don't know the name of the book, but it's blue. But how good would I actually be at reproducing these book covers? It's time to find out.

What I want you to do is think of a book. Now, with no googling or shelf-searching, you need to draw it. You don't need to be an artist! Let's be real, the uglier it is, the funnier it is. Imaginary bonus points if you use MS Paint. Here's my example where I drew Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter.




Oops.

Accuracy won't get you the win; just participation! Either post your creation in the comments or share it on social media with the hashtags #Readathon and #CoverFromMemory. The winner will be randomly chosen and will get to choose a prize from the prize page. Good luck!

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