Book Review: Desert City Diva, by Corey Lynn Fayman

Desert_City_Diva_-_Cover_t240I have a “funny” relationship with mystery novels, and I tend to stay away from them as I normally end up disappointed by the result, or bored, or both, and so I was a little bit sceptical when I received a copy of Desert City Diva, but this turned out to be kind of sceptical-proof.

Rolly Waters is a guitar player that also works as a private investigator. He then meets Macy Starr, a client, who contacts him regarding a pretty weird guitar thingy with only one string. This Macy girl is very pretty and a little bit crazy, and so you expect what is to come: strange encounters with weird people and alien stuff involved. Well, maybe it is not what you would expect, but the characters are pretty much perfect for the mystery that is to come.

The story is very entertaining, and the way it is written is fair to the events, as it feels fast paced and the characters act according to expected, although, it may feel like they act too expectedly sometimes. I sort of knew what the result was going to be when I was midway, and I felt like Rolly was a little behind his times for being a private investigator. He is in his forties but this should not forgive him for not having a computer and not even trying to Google whatever information he receives throughout the investigation (which would have saved a lot of trouble and time).

“Rolly considered all the things he didn’t know in the world. There were a lot of them.”

Although I understand completely, this gives the author an excuse to make characters disappear throughout the story, making the book a trap for eager readers. I also believe that the book would still be good regardless the result of the story, because the characters are enjoyable by themselves, really full of life, and fairly funny.

“Things would get complicated with Macy now, accounting his hours, parsing them into the personal and the professional. Last night they’d had sex in the Tioga. The spider bite was a message. The message said he was an idiot.”

This is made literally for anyone, any age, regardless what you are into. It was fun, and entertaining, and different, so it is worth giving it a go. And trust me, it will force you to keep on reading, beginning to end.

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Book Review: Post Office, by Charles Bukowski

postofficecoverI find it easier for me to write a review on a book I dislike because the wrong comes easily to point out, but a review is way harder to complete when you find the book to be a really good one, and you have to pick and choose what is more important than the rest. I will try my best here, but I have feelings for this boozy bastard, so if I do not achieve what I intend to say, just know that I deeply like Bukowski.

“It began as a mistake.”

This is how we are introduced by our narrator, Henry Chinaski, who appears in this novel for the first time (basically because this is Bukowski’s first work), and who represents his creator himself and his experiences working in the Post Office (hence the name). This novel is completely autobiographical, almost, may I say, too autobiographical. It is basically every-day life made novel, as the character parades from work to home and then back to work, which may sound as the most boring thing taking into account that this is what almost all of us do in a daily basis. However, I believe here is where the greatness of this novel resides, because no one had ever thought that normal life could be so entertaining.

This entertainment has a lot to do with the way our narrator copes with life: alcohol and women, both in abundance. Now combine the rudeness of his character with an amazing literary style. No literary plethora, no academic words, no pretty writing, just pure words straight from a drunk genie.

“Was I some kind of idiot, actually? Did I make things happen to myself? It was possible. It was possible that I was subnormal, that I was lucky just to be alive.”

Bukowski received a lot of critic because of the same reason I find him so great. He was too real, and some do not get to read in between the lines. By writing this book he was criticizing the people around him, his job, the United States of America, and himself, all of this at the same time. Because he is not trying to be a figure to follow at all, he is only showing his vision of life, how one can still be happy with the small things in life. What if the guy is always drunk and has a serious weakness for women? He is just trying to survive the best way he can.

And he is funny, really funny.

“Look, let’s give it up. Let’s just lay around and make love and take walks and talk a little. Let’s go to the zoo. Let’s look at the animals. Let’s drive down and look at the ocean. It’s only 45 minutes. Let’s play games in the arcades. Let’s go to the races, the Art Museum, the boxing matches. Let’s have friends. Let’s laugh. This kind of life is like everybody else’s kind of life: it’s killing us.”

 “I was being raped by a high yellow enchantress! For a moment, it excited me. Then I told her. “Shit. Get down, baby. It’s been a long hard day. There will be a better time.” She climbed off. The thing went down like an express elevator.”

It was hard to choose quotes, I would put the whole book down here if I could. I can’t do that (copyright and stuff), so you may have to read it yourselves and decide whether you love it or you hate it. One or the other, this book is worth reading nevertheless.

Currently: trying to finish “How to be both” by Ali Smith before I start reading “High Rise” by J. G. Ballard (I have to read it before I watch Tom Hiddleston going crazy on screen).

Short Story Review: The Story of Lucius Cane, by Vanya Ferreira

51MXFYPCahL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_Lucius Cane is a Vampire. Jack the Hound is a half lycanthrope. They are both in London, 1794, and they both happen to have an encounter that does not end up very well.

There is not much more to say about The Story of Lucius Cane (it is 20 pages long), but it happened to be quite entertaining. It kind of took me back in time to my younger days as it reminded me of the type of fantasy novels I used to read back then. The way it is written matches the story and the characters fairly, and so do the descriptions of the events. These descriptions may seem grotesque at some points but the fights, though very realistic and specific, did not really shock me, they just seemed right for the story.

It is a short story that I assume was excerpted from book one, which is still to come, or at least that is what I hope, as the author career is definitely promising and I would not mind reading the whole story.

Vanya Ferreira was born in South Africa and currently resides in Serbia. He has been reading since he can remember and has a passion for writing; he simply finds the syntactical nature of language to be a beautiful and mesmerizing creature. Apart from his short story collection, Vanya is also currently working on a full length psychological crime thriller that should be released before the end of the year.

If you are not a youngster anymore but you used to love vampire stories back at the time, then you should entertain yourself with this story, it is good.

INFO: I have stopped accepting books for review. You can get more information on my Review Policy page.

Book Review: What She Knew, by Nadine Galinsky Feldman

Liz Nabor, a woman in her 40s living in Manhattan as a money manager, with a perfect boyfriend and a perfect apartment and basically a perfect life, but everything is so perfect that it made me dislike the story from the beginning, because it simply feels fake and distant.

I think this was the biggest issue I had whilst reading What She Knew, because I could not relate to the character in any way and I ended up almost hating her. This did not only have to do with the character’s lifestyle, but with the character itself. She is in her mid-forties although she acts like she is in her mid-twenties, and when the trouble starts to come she proceeds the most un-professional way possible: avoiding the problem thinking it may solve itself.

The problem in this case is a lot of drama that does not get solved. Someone very important gets involved in a corruption scandal and so Liz’s firm freaks out because this person in question may be involved with one of Liz’s clients. Then Liz’s aunt is dying and, even though apparently they have not spoken for years, she leaves the city to spend her last days with her, avoiding her job, her clients and her boss. And do not expect the author to explain where the problem comes from between her and her auntie, because all you have instead is a vague explanation that does not feel enough for someone to just stop their relationship like that.

Now combine all this with a poor editorial work. You will find too many explanations that do not add anything of importance to the story and just make it boring and repetitive. These explanations slow down the story when what the story needs is to go way faster, because if a character’s life is disbanding, you cannot have this character just thinking about her problems over and over again and not doing anything about it, as she simply turns off her phone and goes running. I could not stop thinking how she got so far with that approach to life, honestly.

“All this happens while the West Coast is greeting the day. Liz, innocent of  what’s to come, lounges on the sofa, sore from the day’s work bending, stooping, and sorting. She grabs one of  her aunt’s journals and leafs through it.”

Of course she falls in love whilst being away with a handsome and loving man, and when she comes back to Manhattan there you have it, all the problems solved, magical happy ending.

I appreciate the hard work and I know how difficult it is for an author to self-publish a book, but I believe that if this book had had a second editor behind it, it would have been different and, well, better.

If you are a money manager with a perfect life, go read it. It is a simple story, with simple writing and basic characters, and I am afraid that I have to be honest and say that it is definitely not for me.

Book Review: Five Thousand, Three Hundred Miles, by Cecily Knobler

28425192I am not really into romantic novels as most of the times I have tried and get into one, and I either don’t feel related to the characters or I don’t like the story, and so I end up leaving it midway. However, I was gladly surprised when all the contrary happened whilst reading Five Thousand, Three Hundred Miles.

To put you into situation: Beth, the main character, receives a three days trip to London from her sister for her birthday, and, as expected, she falls in love during her trip. Almost half of the story is set in London, and the main character is a simple American girl to whom everyone can feel related to quite easily (because of the setting and the character itself, I am obviously not American). The first Irish man she meets in the story is the perfect representation of one of plenty you could easily find here any evening out (sadly), and the second and charming man, Jack, is the proper stereotypical image of the English gentleman, who is a bit less easy to relate to (they are endangered species), but who is obviously the one Beth falls for, giving the story that “Hollywood rom-com” atmosphere, which will make any young girl fall for this book.

What also surprised me is that, even though the way it is written is nothing too exceptional, the author achieves to be pretty funny and close to the reader, which matches the story and the characters involved in it pretty well.

“I wanted to ask him everything about his life just because he had an English accent. The same went for the cabbie, the gentleman in customs and the lady who took my train ticket. I wanted to Facebook friend request every single person I came across, but I decided to tone down the Yankee in me, if only for a moment.”

The story is written in first person narrator, but it switches from Beth to Jack, the charming English man, from chapter to chapter, which makes the whole thing a bit more interesting having these two points of view. Why so? Because *spoiler alert* their ways are separated before they can swap details, due to an unfortunate situation right before Beth is leaving to the airport, and so they cannot find each other once she returns to America. This gives the author a great opportunity to explore both characters months after this happened, as the author does not stay in a simple love story, but narrates more realistic situations in their now separated lives, like the fears of being with someone unsure if they are the right ones, the uncertainty of love and the fear for the unknown future. Yet, the part I liked the most was the one set in London, but mainly because here is where the change happens, and where the story gains its intensity.

“His eyes, now looking as green as Hyde Park, lingered on me for a moment. They then expressed a sentiment that read: “Please forgive me, but I can no longer not kiss you”. If only there were just one word for that. I’ll bet the French have it. But English speakers don’t, so thankfully we can read eyes.”

It was a lovely reading. It was also refreshing to read a new author for once, not knowing what to expect. Recommended for any hinting people out there who is avoiding romance; you may fall for this one.

Book Review: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

5fa98b3d-55de-498e-bc0c-4d568001aeb4_editedI have always believed that for a story to be good it has to have an interesting plot and it also has to be well written, and I try to found my inclinations on this. Therefore, and based on this, I will dare to say that I have not disliked a book this much since Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (oh yes, I did hate that one indeed).

I understand if some of you disagree. This book has great reviews, and it promised a lot at the beginning, and I chose it myself mostly because of the way it was written -or, at least, promised to be written:

“However, if there wasn’t any special attraction, nor did any particular drawbacks present themselves, and theferore there was no reason for the two of us not to get married.”

But before you even finish the first part, this greatness-to-be fades away and the book is just a quarter of what it could have been. It tries to tell the story about how a woman decides to stop eating meat and then everyone around her starts going nuts.The book is divided in three different parts, each part narrated by a different character, and all these narrators seem to be equaly unpersonal and noncredible, and as flat as the rest of the characters in the story.

For me, the reason why it does not make justice to its promise is mainly because there is too much going on and the author did not really solve the problem, and cahotically and barely put the story together, leaving the reader with that feeling of apathy towards the characters.

I hope you do not get me wrong, the “main” character Yeong-hye- “main”, as she does not really have a voice of herself in the story- is intense and surrealistic, and I do get why the book has got so much attetion, as it presents something new, but this character, a character one should be able to feel at least empathy for, simply feels emtpy and unreal. There are inclusions of dreams throughout the book, which aim to give the readers clues of what is on her mind, but to me they just seemed randomly placed and non-related, and, again, they did not comply their finality.

“Sleeping in five-minutes snatches. Slipping out of fuzzy conciousness, it’s back – the dream. Can’t even call it that now. Animal eyes gleaming wild, presence of blood, unearthed skull, again those eyes.”

The worst thing that can happen to you when reading a book is that the book conveys you nothing, and that is what happened to me with The Vegetarian. Easy and quick to read, not a pleasure.

New Purchases

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How many times have you heard “New Year, New Me” so far this new 2016? To me it is more like “New Year, New Reads”, and I am already planning what my reading list is going to include this year (open for sugestions as always).

So here are my picks of the month again, which are basically auto-christmas presents as I like to call them:

The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark

Interesting plot, intriguing idea, and good reviews all over the place, I will be very disappointed if I do not like this one. Set in London, it presents “The Bachelors” as its characters, and the torments these will too suffer, which means drastic changes and excentric situations, or at least that what I expect.

– Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, by Dave Eggers

I mean, who is not attracted by that title? I am sure the “weird title” and the bright cover are a very well done marketing strategy, but I am certainly sold. Thomas and Kev, abductor and abducted respectivelly, find themselves in an abandoned military base, a perfect place for them to have “a conversation”, so high expectations for this one.

– How To Be Both, by Ali Smith

Not sure if I have the “camera” version or the “eyes” version of this book, but either way I am expecting something interesting and moving. It involves art and changes of time, mirrowing two different eras with different characters. Thanks to my friend Vivi for letting me borrow this one,  I have a feeling I am going to like it coming from her.

And I may be repeating the repeated now, but Happy New Year everyone, hope you have a good start and a better ending to this 2016, and please, read a lot.

Book Review: Bark, by Lorrie Moore

3170385-9788845279096I love compilations of short stories. There is something really intense about them, a fixed moment on a bigger story, a memory, filling up the gaps with your own conclusions, and Lorrie Moore has proved to be pretty amazing at them.

The basis of the stories put together in Bark are nothing you could ever expect. You get easily trapped in them from the start, and when they come to an end you just want to know the rest of the story, where those characters come from and what happens next in their lives.It feels like finishing a meal whilst thinking what you are going to have for dessert.

I will also dare to say that the combination of the stories’ themes and the way they are written is close to perfection. Somehow Lorrie Moore has managed to transmit the characters’ feelings and thoughts through their actions, something that is already hard enough to achieve in novels, and this is another reason why I am so impressed by this work.

“At this my heart sickened and plummeted down my left side and into my shoe. My appetite, too, shrank to a small pebble and sat in stony reserve in the place my heart had been and to which my heart would at some point return, but not in time for dessert.”

To be fair, she is basically good with words. The combination of words is outstanding, and she does not fall in the routine of using literary jargon just for the sake of it, the words are simple and pure, and so the message gets transmitted smoothly, and, of course, she does not forget about giving the stories a touch of irony and humour as well.

“You could lose someone a little but they would still roam the earth. The end of love was one big zombie movie.”

“The plastic panel where the number should show was clouded as if by a scrim, a page of onionskin over the onion – or rather, over a picture of an onion. One depiction on top of another.”

The stories are intense and touching, easy to read but nonetheless perfectly put together. A book anyone would enjoy and no one would regret reading.

NEW PURCHASES

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When it comes to books, I have to admit that I am more of a buyer, as I tend to buy books and collect them in between my tiny room in London and my not so tiny room in Spain, and I feel quite proud of my little collection, although it does not make a difference if you like to spend money on books or you prefer to read for free in the library, the list of books to read is never ending, and so I guess I will have to rent a bigger room eventually.

Anyways, and regardless my lack of space, these are my picks of the month (only three, I’m taking it easy, I still have books that I bought last month and haven’t had a chance to read yet):

  1. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

Excited about this one, I read the first page before buying it and I was already loving it. It is the story of Yeong-hye and her husband, and how their life changes when Yeong-hye starts seeking for a more ‘plant-like’ existence. Definitely doing a review after I finish it.

  1. How To Be Alone, by Jonathan Franzen

I know we can always expect something good from Franzen, as he does not publish anything he is not really happy about, but I have not heard about this one before, although it is supposed to be a collection of essays with critic tones, and I am a sucker for those.

  1. Hangover Square, by Patrick Hamilton

This was a random pick, I was basically attracted by the title and I did not even check what it was about when I bought it. It is set in London 1939, and it is supposed to be one of those convoluted stories you get yourself trapped in, so it seems worth reading.

Also, as you may have noticed walking down the streets after Halloween, it is Christmas season!  Which means Santa is coming with new books in his sack, and I think the 2016 list is going to be long…

Book review: Imperial Bedrooms, by Bret Easton Ellis

images  I am sure you all have watched American Psycho, and Bret Easton Ellis is the person we should all thank for such a master piece. Written with same satiric tones, Imperial Bedrooms will also play with your mind. Set in Hollywood, Clay is a current script writer who moves from New York to LA for the production of his new movie, and here is where everything gets complicated.

It is supposed to be a sort-of-continuation for Less Than Zero, although I skipped this prequel and went straight to the older Clay, but after reading Imperial Bedrooms I truly believe reading the first part would have helped me understand the character a bit better, which is not something easy to figure out through such an eccentric first person narrator.

From the beginning you can already tell it is going to be an intense story. Money, sex, drugs, you have all of those in this fiction, and it could not be any other way. The eccentricity of the work gives the plot and the character a tint of lunacy that will make you doubt throughout the whole thing.

The representation of the Hollywood society is what I loved the most. Bret Easton Ellis is a master in the art of “not saying anything but saying everything at the same time”. The background is explained by the actions of the characters themselves. Furthermore, the lack of punctuation marks and the overuse of the conjunction “and” will get you into the paranoiac of the situation, and the amok of the narrator’s mind.

“The movie was very different from the book in that there was nothing from the book in the movie.”

“She could be twenty. She could be thirty. You can’t tell. And if you could, everything would be over.”

If I had to choose one word to describe this work it would be chaos. If you can get easily offended and you dislike works with abundance of strange encounters and people that seem to be crazy, then you might want to skip this one, but I must say it is a sterling representation of the ostentatious life of Hollywood and the consequences of the greed for fame, and I do not regret reading it.