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.

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).

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.

On Online Publishing

Getting a book published nowadays is undeniably easy, as you can just go online and create your own editorial and edit and upload your own book yourself. In the US only there are in between 600.000 and 1.000.000 books published every year, and going up. You can imagine the global figures.

This is fascinating, as this means that there are millions of people writing books every day. These books are being made accessible for everyone to read online and the possibilities are endless. This gives the author total autonomy on their book, from beginning to end. And this may sound idyllic, but, with all honesty, this is making more damage than good to the publishing industry.

I don’t think it is necessary for me to relate here how the book industry sales are actually declining, how hard it is for an author to have their book on an actual bookshelf on an actual store, and let’s not talk about having a best seller.

My thoughts on massive publishing and why it is not a recognized market has nothing to do with statistics. The problem comes with non-controlled releases and how this affects the quality of what is being published, because literally anyone can publish a book online right now.  Most of these online publications have been rejected by proper editorials, and, being harshly honest, there are books out there that simply should not exist.

And now you will say: “But there is a lot of good authors that are not being recognized and this gives them an opportunity to stand out by themselves without having to wait for a miracle”. Yes, indeed. But this also gives really amateurish authors the freedom to publish books poorly edited, making it even harder for brilliant authors to stand out in between the mess.

What I intend to say is that I have always thought that the editing of a book is almost as important as the story itself. If you write a book and you do not have a good editor behind it, that book will never be a master piece, as authors tend to be sentimentally attached to their job and stubborn when it comes to changes, meaning they will leave their book as they feel looks right to them, but not to the expected public.

I am not saying that this market should disappear, or that these new authors should stop writing books. I want to encourage authors to keep on writing, to keep on publishing, as the freedom of speech is one of the most sacred rights we have nowadays, something that has been really hard to achieve and which is still being watched closely by overly-offended people. So keep on creating, but learn from your mistakes, do not rush into publishing your work, do not take bitter reviews personally, and appreciate quality over quantity, as this is what will give you recognition at the end.

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.

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I’ve come back to the not-so-sunny-now Spanish coast for a few days right before Christmas, because it is my birthday and because the flight was way cheaper.

It is only a couple of hours in between the two countries, but I have decided to take some books with me, and, of course, bring some back with me as well.

My pick for the plane will not surprise anyone as I already mentioned this on my New Purchases blogpost: The lovely Franzen and his How To Be Alone. I really want to start this one, and I just thought it would be an easy reading for the waiting in the airport and the uncomfortable Ryanair seats, and a relief after The Vegetarian –and you will understand why soon. I will also bring some beloved books that I will have to abandon there, as the lack of space is starting to be an issue. Atonement and Pygmy among others, besides a HUGE AND GEORGEOUS compilation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, praying for my suitcase to be within the weight limits.

From my old room I will bring some books I left behind when I moved to London. I will get back to Freedom by Franzen (I am repeating myself, I am not sorry), as I never finished it and I would like to do so before getting into Purity. I also have a feeling that I will bring some Classics with me as I am weak and I love a classic novel in winter time, but that will highly depend on the space I have left after I pack my suitcase with all sorts of Spanish goods.

I am excited to put on a real Christmas tree, and eat as much as I can,  avoiding the fact that I will be one year older when I come back, but that is not such a bad thing as I am still here after all. Read you soon.

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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…