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).

Review on reviews

Reviewing a book is easy. You open the book, you read the book, you finish the book and then you write your opinion on it. Your review may be on the book as a whole, on the story itself, the way it is written, or even in the cover only. At the end it does not matter, a review is an opinion and this opinion is personal and untransferable.

Now, there is people writing these reviews and these reviews exist because there is people reading them. People want to know what a book is about before reading it, they want to know if it will be worth the time, if they will get something out of it at the end. They are looking for something a preview will never provide as a preview will give you a glimpse of what is to come, but it will never tell you about how the book is written, or if the settings are credible, or if you will relate to the characters in any way.

Reviews provide a wider vision of what is inside a book and the tricky thing is that it comes straight from the reader’s point of view, subjectivity at its fullest you may say. But then, if this is the case, you may wonder: are reviews trustworthy?

Well, they are and they are not. They will never be objective of course, but they will give you a better and more reliable idea on the book in question, and just like with movies, if the amount of bad reviews is greater than the good ones, then why even bother. But of course, and being fairly honest, if you want to know if you would like a book, you should just go an read it yourself, because at the end of the day your opinion is the only one that will matter.

As I see it, reviews are tools for readers, and they should only be seen as such. Once you start doing some research and building a little community, you start to know who to trust and who shares your same –or similar- vision, and that is when you start to choose whether to read or not to read a book based on a review, and not before.

However, you should never judge a book by its cover (although marketing has improved a lot in the past five years), and you should never base your thoughts on other people’s views. Just go read, read a lot, and build your own bedrock, as your own opinion is the most reliable one.

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.

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.

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.