Outlandish Lit

8 Interesting New Books From Minnesota Presses

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to a Minnesota booksellers rep night. Representatives from some local publishers and some bigger publishers talked to us about books. And let us take some. It's pretty much as glorious as an event can get, and I'm here to report back with some of the things I learned! Below you'll find 8 books, some recently published and some yet to come out, that sound super interesting to me + my summary of what the reps told us about them.


The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham (October 11)
I'm so excited for this one. It's about a black ornithologist (a very white field) and feeling like an outsider. Also how his family owns and lives on the land that his ancestors lived on as slaves. So writing about nature + race, which is perfection.

“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.


Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao (October 10)
This sounds so devastating. Vi Khi Nao talks around the death of a child by instead talking about how the father starts getting into fishtanks and how the mother starts making little aprons for the fish (or something). I started it and the prose is sparse and interesting. I'm prepared to be devastated.

How do you bear the death of a child? With fishtanks and jellyfish burials, Persephone's pomegranate seeds, and affairs with the neighbors. Fish in Exile spins unimaginable loss through classical and magical tumblers, distorting our view so that we can see the contours of a parent's grief all the more clearly.

Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin (October 11)
Unbearable Splendor is written in fragments (which I love). Race, adoption, religion, and robots?? Things I'm interested are discussed.

Sun Yung Shin moves ideas—of identity (Korean, American, adoptee, mother, Catholic, Buddhist) and interest (mythology, science fiction, Sophocles)— around like building blocks, forming and reforming new constructions of what it means to be at home.

What is a cyborg but a hybrid creature of excess? A thing that exceeds the sum of its parts. A thing that has extended its powers, enhanced, even superpowered.

Camanchaca by Diego Zúñiga (March 7, 2017)
If you're looking for another short, devastating book, here it is. Coffee House has a type, clearly.

A long drive across Chile's Atacama desert, traversing "the worn-out puzzle" of a broken family—a young man's corrosive intimacy with his mother, the obtrusive cheer of his absentee father, his uncle's unexplained death—occupies the heart of this novel. Camanchaca is a low fog pushing in from the sea, its moisture sustaining a near-barren landscape. Camanchaca is the discretion that makes a lifelong grief possible. Sometimes, the silences are what bind us.


Encircling by Carl Frode Tiller (February 7, 2017)
The first of a trilogy! Encircling is written in three letters from three different people explaining the main charater's life to him - an idea I love. The rep insists that it doesn't get old or boring.

David has lost his memory. When a newspaper ad asks his friends and family to share their memories of him, three respond: Jon, his closest friend; Silje, his teenage girlfriend; and Arvid, his estranged stepfather. Their letters reveal David’s early life in the small town of Namsos, full of teenage rebellion, the uncertainties of first love, and intense experiments in art and music.

As the narrative circles ever closer to David, the letters interweave with scenes from the present day, and it becomes less and less clear what to believe. Jon’s and Silje’s adult lives have run aground on thwarted ambition and failed intimacy, and Arvid has had a lonely struggle with cancer. Each has suspect motives for writing, and soon a contradictory picture of David emerges. Whose remembrance of him is right? Or do they all hold some fragment of the truth?

The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo (March 7, 2017)
When I heard this pitch, I circled the title on my paper at least 5 times. Creepy! Weird! Dark!

The Impossible Fairy Tale is the story of two unexceptional grade-school girls. Mia is “lucky”—she is spoiled by her mother and, as she explains, her two fathers. She gloats over her exotic imported color pencils and won’t be denied a coveted sweater. Then there is the Child who, by contrast, is neither lucky nor unlucky. She makes so little impression that she seems not even to merit a name.

At school, their fellow students, whether lucky or luckless or unlucky, seem consumed by an almost murderous rage. Adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by cruelty and soul-crushing hierarchies. Then, one day, the Child sneaks into the classroom after hours and adds ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks. This sinister but initially inconsequential act unlocks a series of events that end in horrible violence.

Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth (March 21, 2017)
I don't know anything about this writer, but apparently she's prolific. And she was compared to Barthelme, among others, so I'm interested.

Wait Till You See Me Dance consists of several extraordinary longer stories as well as a selection of intoxicating very short stories. In the chilling “The First Full Thought of Her Life,” a shooter gets in position while a young girl climbs a sand dune. In “Voltaire Night,” students compete to tell a story about the worst thing that ever happened to them. In “Stay Where You Are,” two oblivious travelers in Central America are kidnapped by a gunman they assume to be an insurgent—but the gunman has his own problems.

A Little More Human by Fiona Maazel (March 21, 2017)
I was nervous about this pitch until I realized it was written by a woman. So maybe it will be fine/good?? Maazel wrote a book called Woke Up Lonely about a cult leader that I want to read reaaally badly.

Meet Phil Snyder: new father, nursing assistant at a cutting-edge biotech facility on Staten Island, and all-around decent guy. Trouble is, his life is falling apart. His wife has betrayed him, his job involves experimental surgeries with strange side effects, and his father is hiding early-onset dementia. Phil also has a special talent he doesn’t want to publicize—he’s a mind reader and moonlights as Brainstorm, a costumed superhero. But when Phil wakes up from a blackout drunk and is confronted with photos that seem to show him assaulting an unknown woman, even superpowers won’t help him. Try as he might, Phil can’t remember that night, and so, haunted by the need to know, he mind-reads his way through the lab techs at work, adoring fans at Toy Polloi, and anyone else who gets in his way, in an attempt to determine whether he’s capable of such violence.

I'm so impressed by my local presses!! Do you have a favorite local press?

3 Scary Short Story Collections #WickedGoodReads

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

3 Scary Short Story Collections #WickedGoodReads :: Outlandish Lit

October is #WickedGoodReads Month here at Outlandish Lit and GXO. And it's the last week and my last post! Today's topic: scary short stories (see the full list of discussion topics here).

3 Scary Short Story Collections #WickedGoodReads :: Outlandish Lit


This is by far one of the best collections of supernatural horror that I've ever read. It does not at all feel like a contemporary read, so prepare yourself for that. Once you get used to his style, you can fully appreciate the scares and disturbing plots he has created.

Songs of a Dreamer was Thomas Ligotti’s first collection of supernatural horror stories. When originally published in 1985 by Harry Morris’s Silver Scarab Press, the book was hardly noticed. In 1989, an expanded version appeared that garnered accolades from several quarters. Writing in the Washington Post, the celebrated science fiction and fantasy author Michael Swanwick extolled: “Put this volume on the shelf right between H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Where it belongs.”


Honestly, everything Shirley Jackson writes is amazing. If you didn't have to read The Lottery in school, READ IT NOW. Another horrifying story I love (I don't know if it's in this particular collection) is The Summer People, so google that.

The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery:" with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range--from the hilarious to the truly horrible--and power as a storyteller.


I didn't love this collection, but I do love China Mieville. He's one of the most original minds in fiction/genre fiction today. It would be a mistake not to mention this book, just because it has a few of the scariest short stories I have ever read: The Condition of New Death, In The Slopes, Sacken.

London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure but violent purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse's bones—designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what?

What are your favorite scary short story collections? I need more in my life!

That's it for #wickedgoodreads! I hope you enjoyed it and read a ton of scary books this month.

4 Horrifying Graphic Novels/Comics #WickedGoodReads

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

3 Books With Monsters From Folklore #WickedGoodReads :: Outlandish Lit

October is #WickedGoodReads Month here at Outlandish Lit and GXO. This is the final week!. Today's topic: scary graphic novels and comics (see the full list of discussion topics here).


Charles Burns' illustrations are so iconic, you have to read this if just to see them. His mind is also particularly peculiar. Black Hole is a bit dark and gruesome, but it's utterly fascinating.

Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the out-set that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.

As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.

And then the murders start.


This is a comic series that's still running; currently volume one is out. The art is super charming and so is the main character. The "country haints" are delightfully creepy and so is the story of the witch that rules them.

Emmy always knew that the woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts and monsters. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures--and to the land itself--in a way she never imagined.
A southern gothic fairy tale from the creator of smash hit The Sixth Gun, beautifully and hauntingly realized by B.P.R.D.'s Tyler Crook!


SO cute and SO creepy. Beautiful Darkness looks like a big illustrated storybook about fairies and little animals, but then it gets so so dark. I highly recommend it.

Kerascoët’s and Fabien Vehlmann’s unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization's heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience.  The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoët’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann's story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over. Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society.


Another one with bonkers good art. This is a collection of creepy short, fairy tale-like stories. I LOVED it. You can read one of the best ones online here. The online format works really well. Upon looking at her site, you might be able to see all the stories there, but if you love them, buy the book!!

'It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

What are your favorite horror comics and graphic novels?

Sorry for the delay in this post. I just got a new laptop and scheduling got a little out of whack. Tomorrow is my last #wickedgoodreads post with scary short stories!

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon :: October 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Outlandish Lit's 24 Hour #Readathon Progress

Hello, super-readers! This is my fourth time participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and I'm ready to go hard. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out that link to sign up. It's exactly what it sounds like - try to read for 24 hours. And there are prizes!

My stack of to-read books may be out of hand (the books on the left in the photo are the ones I'm already halfway through), but I ain't got time to judge myself. I work for approximately 4 hours today, but that's nothing. This time around I'm going to be co-hosting the readathon, so be sure to say hi on the Readathon Twitter between 10pm and midnight central time. Also look out for my posts on the Readathon blog!

I'll keep my list of books finished here:

Zero K by Don DeLillo
Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky

Most of my real-time, v exciting updates will be posted on twitter, instagram, and you can now find me on Litsy as OutlandishLit! But I'll be using this post every few hours to update as well. Let me know if you're participating!


Hour 0

1 // What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2 // Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I'm super stoked about Fish in Exile and The Mothers.

3 // Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I haven't put that much thought into snacks this year, because I discovered I have brie cheese and Mike's Hard Strawberry Lemonade in the fridge already. I clearly love myself.

4 // Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a spooky gal who likes to read weird books. I sell books and take photos at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis. I like forests, intersectional feminism, horror movies, reality tv, propagating succulents, making pretty things, studying Japanese, and traveling.

5 // If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm not going to force myself to stick with a book if I'm not really feeling it. I think I'll be bummed by staying focused but reading very little. If I find something I'm excited about, I'll be happy. But, at the same time, I reaaaaally want to finish some of my half-read books.

Hour 5

Hey, everybody! I'm checking in now after a very relaxing morning of audiobook reading. I didn't wake up at 7 am, because I accidentally went to bed at 1 am (thanks, Twin Peaks). But I woke up at 8 and began audiobooking immediately. And it's 11am now and I just finished! It was Zero K by Don DeLillo, which I had started listening to a number of days ago. I had a physical copy, but for whatever reason I was finding it so hard to get myself to read it. I'm glad I did the audio. I think I liked it for the most part, and I got a bit of knitting done. Did the math and I read the equivalent of 162 pages. Now I'm going to move on to another unfinished book - Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Hopefully it's good.

Hour 7

I finished another one! Granted, it was a bit easier. After reading 10 pages of Hex, I switched to Saga volume 6, which was such a delight. I just ate lunch and let the boyf distract me with youtube videos for a while, but it's time for me to get back into reading. I'm very curious about Fish in Exile, so I think I might just go for it.

Hour 11

Well, I have to go to work now. I'll be back in a few hours, though. And I should be able to audiobook a bit during some of it. I read 14 pages of Fish in Exile, then swapped it out for The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky. It. Is. AMAZING. I didn't think I'd like it that much, but I love it. I'm halfway through and can't wait to come back and finish it. For the past 45 minutes I've been listening to the audiobook of The Sisters Brothers just because I was tired of reading with my eyes and it's also quite good. See you all again soon.

Hour 20

Oh my, I didn't mean to not check in here for so many hours! Work went well - I got to audiobook while at the bookstore, then I had a great time photographing Mark Frost. After that I enjoyed some pad thai and reading before hosting on twitter for two hours. I've got to tell you, that shit takes ALL your focus. After the first hour, I let my Sisters Brothers audiobook play. I think I'm halfway through that. And I just finished The Red Car which did not let me down at all. It's 100% one of my favorite books of the year. I know a ton of people I need to push this book on pronto. Ah, the joys of readathon.

Hour 21

It's 3:30am now and I think it's time for me to hit the hay. Did a little more of The Sisters Brothers then jumped over to HEX which I don't really hate anymore. Or, at least, there hasn't been bad dialogue in a while. I feel good about how much I read considering I had 5 hours of working and I also have work tomorrow morning so I need SOME sleep. This was SO much fun and I feel my reading-love renewed.

TOTAL HOURS READ: 13 hours, 30 minutes

Scratch by Steve Himmer :: Review

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Outlandish Lit's Scratch by Steve Himmer ReviewScratch by Steve Himmer
Publisher: Dark House Press. October 11, 2016.
Pages: 200
Genre: Literary?? Supernatural mystery??
Source: Publisher



Martin Blaskett moves to a small town to oversee construction of a housing development, where he encounters a shape-shifting figure from local legend—Scratch. He is taken under the wing of his new neighbor, a retired hunting guide named Gil Rose, and befriends a local woman named Alison. Along the way, trouble ensues as Scratch feels threatened by changes to the landscape, luring locals out into the woods, including Alison’s son. As the blame for a range of events falls at Martin’s feet, he is beset by increasingly inhuman dreams, and comes to doubt his own innocence. A literary novel of wilderness noir that engages the supernatural elements of folklore in the manner of magical realism, Scratch explores the overlapping layers of history, ecology, and storytelling that make up a place. -Goodreads

Scratch had just about everything I want in a book. A forest with more going on in it than we know? Check. Mysterious disappearances? Check. Weird animal stuff? Check. A formless shapeshifting narrator who puts our main character in harm's way for the sake of the story he wants to create? Ok, maybe I didn't explicitly want that, but I got it. Scratch's concept is pretty brilliant. A shapeshifter (named Scratch) has lived in a forest in the middle of nowhere since...forever, basically. At first he didn't have a form at all, but then he tried turning himself into animals to live like them and, hey, it worked! Scratch is both a protector and a mischief maker, and we get the opportunity to hear this story from his point of view. This novel gives a whole lot of credit to animals, nature, and dreams, which I love.

"We found something," she says. "In the first hole."
"Found what?"
"Bones, Mr. Blaskett. We just started digging, and the ground's full of bones."

Martin, the main character, is a hapless man who doesn't have a lot going on in his life apart from his house constructing/real estate career. He decides to build a collection of homes in a very small town and in the back of his head he has the idea that he will move there and get away from the city too. He interacts with very few people other than Gil, the hunter across the road who is a delight, and Alison, the woman he's hired to oversee the construction of the houses. One day, he follows a fox into the forest and he can't seem to stop himself. He gets horribly lost and ends up sleeping in the woods, only to be awoken by a bear attacking him. That's where it all begins. The animals acting strangely, the surreal dreams Martin has about the wild, and people in the town beginning to disappear. Martin is somehow connected to all of it, and of course Scratch, the local legend, has something to do with it.

This book is only very slightly creepy. It was slow going at some points, and we spend perhaps too much time in Martin's head thinking about his past (living with a neglectful single mother) and the borderline stereotypical issues that past brings up. I wouldn't have minded had the book gotten a little bit weirder than it did, but that's obviously just a personal preference. I really enjoyed the concept and the idea of the ending, but it lacked a little in execution and consequence. There was nothing bad about this book, but the plot could have packed a little more of a punch for where the characters all end up.

I didn't begin as one of your own who was cursed--I was in these woods without form before the first warm-blooded body appeared. I was here before your kind arrived, before any kind arrived, because you needed me here to become what you are. You needed a reason to raise up the walls you hoped would keep me out, and to invent the electric lights and alarms that allow you to sleep through the night. Without me to spur your inventions, what would your kind have become? What would your languages be without the need to give your fear names?

3 Books With Monsters From Folklore #WickedGoodReads

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

3 Books With Monsters From Folklore #WickedGoodReads :: Outlandish Lit

October is #WickedGoodReads Month here at Outlandish Lit and GXO. This week, we’re focusing on books with Dangerous Creatures. Today's topic: books with monsters from folklore (see the full list of discussion topics here).

3 Books With Monsters From Folklore #WickedGoodReads :: Outlandish Lit


Starting off this list with some more comics. Moonshot is a collection of short comics by many different Native American creators. Even though they don't all feature monsters, they're super beautiful and interesting and important. And the ones that are about monsters from folklore are SO CREEPY. They just got funding on Kickstarter for a second volume, so look out for that!!

MOONSHOT brings together dozens of creators from across North America to contribute comic book stories showcasing the rich heritage and identity of indigenous storytelling. From traditional stories to exciting new visions of the future, this collection presents some of the finest comic book and graphic novel work in North America. The traditional stories presented in the book are with the permission from the elders in their respective communities, making this a truly genuine, never-before-seen publication. MOONSHOT is an incredible collection.


This is a perfect pick for this topic. All of the short stories in this collection are super strange, and most of them have some sort of monster or demon from Japanese folklore. I'm going to go ahead and say the stories that do are the best ones. Godzilla (and other kaiju), long necked demons, horrifying shapeshifting beings, etc.

“The Return to Monsterland” opens 'Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone,' a collection of twelve fabulist and genre-bending stories inspired by Japanese folklore, historical events, and pop culture. In “Rokurokubi”, a man who has the demonic ability to stretch his neck to incredible lengths tries to save a marriage built on secrets. The recently dead find their footing in “The Inn of the Dead’s Orientation for Being a Japanese Ghost”. In “Girl Zero”, a couple navigates the complexities of reviving their deceased daughter via the help of a shapeshifter.


I'm OBSESSED with selkies. I watched The Secret of Roan Inish at a very young age and it was a formative experience. I haven't read this one, but apparently it's wacky and sad and dark and beautiful af. One review said you'll like this if you liked the last episode of Twin Peaks. So I guess I'll like it? It's hard to say.

Rollrock island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells - and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness - the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen.

What are your favorite books with monsters from folklore?

That's it for #wickedgoodreads posts this week, because I have a lot of good stuff coming up for you all this week - plus Readathon on Saturday! But I'll be back Monday with scary graphic novels/comics!


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