Outlandish Lit

Two Very Different Books You Can Read In One Day

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2 Very Different Books You Can Read In One Day :: Outlandish Lit

At first I thought these two books didn't have anything in common with each other, apart from both being short. BUT they were both published on July 11, 2017! Imagine that. I might not recommend pairing these books together in a one day reading spree, even though you could definitely read both in that time, but they are both incredibly refreshing reads for different reasons.


Found Audio by N.J. Campbell
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio. July 2017.
Genre: ??????
Source: Publisher
Pages: 162



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Oh my goodness, this was such a fun read. I really can't help but love stories within stories. So basically, a mysterious man approaches an audio analyst with some tapes. He gives her a huge amount of money to transcribe them and learn what she can from them. She is explicitly told not to share this transcript with anybody. But, of course, she does and then she vanishes. All of this happens within the introduction, I swear I'm not spoiling anything. The vast majority of the book is the transcription, which follows an unnamed journalist telling his story of a bizarre and wildly implausible global hunt for a place called the City of Dreams - and it's great.

The set up was exactly what I wanted. Mysterious with people and locations that may or may not exist. People vanishing. And the manuscript itself contains all these wonderful little details about what's going on audibly apart from the monologue. I'm going to be honest, at first I didn't know if I was going to be able to get on board with the reading a monologue thing (even though every once in a while some other unnamed voices interrupt, which is so intriguing and unsettling). The writing made me a little nervous to begin with, but this dreamy, speculative story was exactly what I wanted. Found Audio is written like the fever dream of an incredibly adventurous travel writer. Once the book got to the second tape (of three) is when it really started to pick up for me. It takes a little while for the narrative to get to the point, which is to be expected considering it's a man telling a story and humans aren't always succinct (especially in this slightly psychedelic adventure context). By tape two, the City of Dreams is introduced and that's when it starts to get really crazy. I truly felt enraptured by the nameless main character's narrative. It's difficult not to get engrossed and just go along for the ride when the story is so confidently itself. By the end of it, I was deep in my own head about this search and what it could all mean. Little things I encounter in real life still make me think about this gem of a story, like the story has placed little mirages of itself into my reality, which is the most fun post-reading experience a person can have.




Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Publisher: Henry Holt. July 2017.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Friend
Pages: 196



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Goodbye, Vitamin is such a sweet book, I truly don't even know where to begin. It is a thing that I love: a quirky, contemporary, stream-of-consciousness first person narrative, which generally are a little less than hopeful. So this is truly refreshing. Hopeful isn't really the word I mean, because this book is only realistic and completely grounded. I feel like the word hopeful implies an intentionally "feel good" book, which this isn't. My friend, Annie, put it well: it's kind. This is a book written in diary entries from the perspective of an untethered thirty-year-old woman, Ruth, who just went through a break up and had to move home to take care of her father with Alzheimer's. She is forced into navigating her relationship with her rapidly changing father, as well as navigating her father and her mother's relationship, which she is forced to come to terms with. It is a fun read, often funny, and very honest. Parts might make you cry, but it is never manipulative despite having ample opportunity to be considering the subject manner.


The little snippets of days that we see beautifully illustrate the daily struggles of caring for somebody in declining mental faculties, as well as the small things that make a day bright. In tandem with Ruth's diary entries, every once in a while we get to see a journal that her father used to keep filled with things Ruth would say and do as a child. These definitely got me the most, because even when taking care of her father was getting tough, the snippets of his journal so viscerally overflowed with love for his daughter. On a very personal note, I can't remember what specifically, but something in these journals made me think of how my grandpa would sing "You Are My Sunshine" to me and how loved I feel even now just reminiscing on those moments. Grandpa, you have all of your mental faculties, but I don't know if you remember that because you haven't sang to me in a while (rude). But thank you for emailing me your personal responses to all of my blog posts (I save them all), and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this one. I love you! If you want to borrow this book, I don't have a copy - sorry!



Update: My grandpa did email me after reading this blog post. Some context: he was a musician in an orchestra. He said "The reason I sang that is in all my music I never had to learn lyrics. So you (and your mom) got to hear the only song I knew.." Then he told me to come over and give him a haircut. RUDE.


16 Books To Look For This September

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

16 Books To Look For This September :: Outlandish Lit
I don't know about all of you, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer. At all. I know the cool book releases are ramping up now, but at what cost?? Anyway, at first I thought there were like five books that I cared about coming out in September, but I did a little more research and BOY, WAS I WRONG. This list is excluding the new and highly anticipated Jesmyn Ward, Celeste Ng, Salman Rushdie, etc. (even though I am quite hyped about those first two), because I'm sure you will hear all about those if you haven't already. Here I have for you some cli-fi, some literary horror, some trashy horror, sad things, saucy things, spooky things, murder, AND MORE. Pretty much the usual, but definitely the best.




The Age of Perpetual Light: Stories by Josh Weil (Sept 1)

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Josh Weil brings together stories selected from a decade of work in one stellar new collection that explores themes of progress, the pursuit of knowledge, and humankind's eternal attempt to decrease the darkness in the world. Beginning at the dawn of the past century, in the early days of electrification, and moving into an imagined future in which the world is lit day and night, each tale in The Age of Perpetual Light follows deeply-felt characters through different eras in American history; from a Jewish dry goods peddler who falls in love with an Amish woman while showing her the wonders of an Edison Lamp, to a 1940 farmers' uprising against the unfair practices of a power company, a Serbian immigrant teenage boy in 1990's Vermont desperate to catch a glimpse of an experimental satellite, to a back-to-the-land couple forced to grapple with their daughter's autism during winter's longest night. Brilliantly hewn and piercingly observant, these are tales that speak to the all-too-human desire for advancement and the struggle of wounded hearts to find a salve, no matter what the cost.


Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (Sept 5)

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Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood and a diagnosis of HIV positive. Some of us are killed / in pieces, Smith writes, some of us all at once. Don t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America Dear White America where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.


Clade by James Bradley (Sept 5)

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Adam is in Antartica, marking the passage of the solstice. Across the globe, his wife Ellie is waiting for the results of her IVF treatment. So begins the story of one family in a changing world, where the apocalyptic mingles with the everyday; a father battles a biblical storm; an immigrant is mysteriously drawn to the art of beekeeping; a young girl's diary chronicles a pandemic; and a young man finds solace in building virtual recreations of the dead...


I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Sept 7)

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Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here - each denies they deserve it. Until they see what's coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming. This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre.  - He wrote Let The Right One In! It seems like it is maybe just a digital release; unclear.


A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe (Sept 12)

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It is New Year's Eve 1990, in a small town in southeast Australia. Ru's father, Jack, one of thousands of Australians once conscripted to serve in the Vietnam War, has disappeared. This time Ru thinks he might be gone for good. As rumors spread of a huge black cat stalking the landscape beyond their door, the rest of the family is barely holding on. Ru's sister, Lani, is throwing herself into sex, drugs, and dangerous company. Their mother, Evelyn, is escaping into memories of a more vibrant youth. And meanwhile there is Les, Jack's inscrutable brother, who seems to move through their lives like a ghost, earning both trust and suspicion. A Loving, Faithful Animal is an incandescent portrait of one family searching for what may yet be redeemable from the ruins of war.


Worlds from the Word's End by Joanna Walsh (Sept 12)

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This collection cements Joanna Walsh's reputation as one of the sharpest writers of this century. Wearing her learning lightly, Walsh's stories make us see the world afresh, from a freewheeling story on cycling (and Freud), to a country in which words themselves fall out of fashion—something that will never happen wherever Walsh is read. - Joanna Walsh & her stories are a gift to this planet, truly.


Rebellious Mourning by Cindy Milstein (Sept 12)

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We can bear almost anything when it is worked through collectively. Grief is generally thought of as something personal and insular, but when we publicly share loss and pain, we lessen the power of the forces that debilitate us, while at the same time building the humane social practices that alleviate suffering and improve quality of life for everyone. Addressing tragedies from Fukushima to Palestine, incarceration to eviction, AIDS crises to border crossings, and racism to rape, the intimate yet tenacious writing in this volume shows that mourning can pry open spaces of contestation and reconstruction, empathy and solidarity. With contributions from Claudia Rankine, Sarah Schulman, David Wojnarowicz, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, David Gilbert, and nineteen others.


An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King (Sept 12)

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Under the One Child Policy, everyone plotted to have a son.

Now 40 million of them can't find wives. China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than twenty-five percent of men in their late thirties will not have a family of their own. An Excess Male is one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering. Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. He finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only a single family—one harboring an illegal spouse—shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected to like never before. But everyone and everything—walls, streetlights, garbage cans—are listening, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.


My House Gathers Desires by Adam McOmbers (Sept 12)

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Adam McOmber's lush, hallucinatory stories are both familiar and wholly original. Drawn from the historical record, Biblical lore, fairy tales, science fiction, and nightmares, these offbeat and fantastical works explore gender and sexuality in their darkest and most beautiful manifestations. In the tradition of Angela Carter or Kelly Link, My House Gathers Desires is covertly funny and haunting, seeking fresh ways to consider sexual identity and its relation to history.

In "Sodom and Gomorrah," readers encounter a subversive, ecstatic new version of the Old Testament story. In "The Re'em," a medieval monk's search for a mythic beast conjures forbidden desire. And in "Notes on Inversion," the German psychiatrist Kraft-Ebbing receives a surreal retort to his clinical descriptions of same-sex desire.


Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (Sept 19)

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Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work.

On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Joe and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.


Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix (Sept 19)

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Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried. - Anxiously awaiting the arrival of this book to my home.


The Good People by Hannah Kent (Sept 19)

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Based on true events in nineteenth century Ireland, Hannah Kent's startling new novel tells the story of three women, drawn together to rescue child from a superstitious community. Nora, bereft after the death of her husband, finds herself alone and caring for her grandson Micheál, who can neither speak nor walk. A handmaid, Mary, arrives to help Nóra just as rumours begin to spread that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley. Determined to banish evil, Nora and Mary enlist the help of Nance, an elderly wanderer who understands the magic of the old ways. - Hannah Kent wrote one of my favorites, Burial Rites!!


A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba (Sept 19)

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Even monsters need families. What are the “bamboo”? They are from China. They look just like us. They live by night. They drink human lifeblood, but otherwise keep their distance. And every century, they grow white blooming flowers.

A boy name Kyo is saved from the precipice of death by Bamboo, a vampire born of the tall grasses. They start an enjoyable, yet strange shared life together, Kyo and the gentle Bamboo. But for Bamboo, communication with a human being is the greatest sin.


The Visitors by Catherine Burns (Sept 26)

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Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden. As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn't the only one with a dark side. - It seems as though this is more of a slow burn character study than a thriller, FYI.


After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search by Sarah Perry (Sept 26)

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When Sarah Perry was twelve, she saw a partial eclipse of the sun, an event she took as a sign of good fortune for her and her mother, Crystal. But that brief moment of darkness ultimately foreshadowed a much larger one: two days later, Crystal was murdered in their home in rural Maine, just a few feet from Sarah’s bedroom.

The killer escaped unseen; it would take the police twelve years to find him, time in which Sarah grew into adulthood, struggling with abandonment, police interrogations, and the effort of rebuilding her life when so much had been lost. Through it all she would dream of the eventual trial, a conviction—all her questions finally answered. But after the trial, Sarah’s questions only grew. She wanted to understand her mother’s life, not just her final hours, and so she began a personal investigation, one that drew her back to Maine, taking her deep into the abiding darkness of a small American town. - YO, apparently this is completely amazing. Can't wait to read it.


Sefira and Other Betrayals by John Langan (Sept ??)

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“These are stories of betrayal,” author John Langan confirms.

Apart from this thread, the stories are otherwise quite distinct from each other in terms of their characters, plots, settings, themes and even varieties of horror.

There’s “In Paris in the Mount of Kronos,” a snappy, neo-noirish, action packed Laird Barron-esque encounter with ancient malevolent forces; the dark, character-driven relationship dramas of “The Third Always Beside You” and “Renfrew’s Course”; the vaguely Lovecraftian horrors of “Bloom”; the atmospheric steampunk weirdness in the form of “The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn’s Balloons”; and apocalyptic surrealism in “Bos Uros”. Finally, the title novella, Sefira, is about a woman who is chasing a succubus across the United States, while the novelette At Home in the Devil’s House offers a new, nightmarish concept of Hell.




What books are you looking forward to this September?

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?

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