Books

Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

It was sometime in 2020 when I noticed a writer friend of mine had unfriended me on Facebook. It had been a while since he appeared on my timeline, but I thought nothing of it. I rarely got on Facebook anymore, only signing on when work required me to gather up writers of all sorts of readings. In the midst of the pandemic, however, all our in-person activities were canceled. 

I can’t remember what caused me to look. Maybe I saw him comment on a mutual friend and I clicked his profile to see what he was up to. Or maybe it was curiosity that had me search him up. Maybe still, he appeared on my “People You May Know” list. Either way, it was clear that he had removed me as a friend.

We were never on the same side politically, and it was something I long ago accepted. His religion drove his political beliefs just as my anti-religion drove mine. Still we were civil with each other. We may have had disagreements, but nothing to quietly end a friendship over. 

At least, so I thought. 

Now I can’t tell you when our friendship derailed, but I can guess when it started to get off track. And the reason why. 

In 2016, something happened in US history that I can’t begin to explain or fathom despite it happening before my eyes. On November 9, 2016, Donald J. Trump became president-elect, winning the electoral college vote while still losing the popular vote across the nation. While many true-Republicans stood at uncertainty, several more saw this as a success.

They had beaten Hiliary Clinton and that is all that mattered. 

I, like anyone liberal-minded person, knew this meant certain doom to our country, to the freedoms so many disenfranchised and marginalized communities. We would see the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We would see that the LGBTQIA demographic would no longer be allowed to be open in the military, and, worse still, lose their right to marry the people they loved.

Things voters like my former-friend cheered for. 

Continue reading “Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor”
Books

FEARFUL: Scary Stories of the Cursed Filter by Christian Nava

Christian Nava takes us back to Quiet Falls in the second book to his Fearful series

When we were last here, we followed Esau and company as they fought the evil app/phone that had taken control of his brother, Jake (aka GoatyJakey). Now a new evil threatens the citizens of not-so-Quiet Falls, once again proving that Nava has a Stephen King-esque aversion toward technology. 

There’s just one tiny problem – Esau isn’t in the story. And while CJ, Jake, and Kara (as  Ex-Machina) make an appearance, they’re downgraded to secondary characters. I do like that they’ve formed their own version of the Scooby Gang, hunting the horrors of Quiet Falls. 

In this story, we meet Lily Andrews, her brother Donnie, and the Sucky Siblings, Blair and Caleb. In an attempt to protect her brother from being terrorized by Blair and Caleb, Lily makes a deal with the mysterious Diana, whose shop just magically appears in the woods one day. She is given an irl filter, which has the power to transform Lily into someone’s wildest daydream to their most horrendous nightmare. 

But nothing in Quiet Falls is cheap, and Lily must pay the price. 

Continue reading “FEARFUL: Scary Stories of the Cursed Filter by Christian Nava”
Books

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of bizarro literature, and I haven’t been the same person since. These wonderful, grotesque pieces of works were one part science fiction and fantasy, one part horror, and dark comedy added for that special flavor. From Baby Jesus Buttplugs to young men orgasming tilers with their ejaculate, these stories were set in worlds where the fantastical seemed mundane.

Such tales wouldn’t be found mixed in with the “regular” books at Barnes and Noble, so imagine my surprise when I picked read Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory, a short story collection by Raphael Bob-Waksberg creator of BoJack Horseman. It’s hard to not categorize these tales as anything but bizarro-lite. While the crass, almost pornographic references are missing, they are replaced by with lifelong bus rides, nuptial goat sacrifices, presidential clone abominations, and doorways to alternate universes.

Set in their own pocket universes where the fantastical is commonplace, these stories are about love. The love you have for a complete stranger encountered on a train; the love you have for your fiancée as you plan a small wedding while your family forces tradition upon you both; the love you have for a sibling; and the love you have for your wife in an alternate universe. They will carry though with gentle hands as they explore emotions, which may cause some introspection (it did for me, at times).

If you were a fan of BoJack Horseman, I promise you this book is a must read.

Details

  • Title: Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory
  • Author: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
  • Pages: 243
  • Genre: Sci-Fi Short Stories
  • Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • Available in:
    • Paperback
    • Kindle
    • Audible with full cast narration featuring Nicholas Gonzalez, Colman Domingo, Natalie Morales, Raúl Esparza, Will Brill, Stephanie Beatriz, and Emma Galvin
  • From the back cover: Written with all the scathing dark humor that is a hallmark of BoJack Horseman, Raphael Bob-Waksberg delivers a fabulously offbeat collection of short stories about love—the best and worst thing in the universe.
Books

FEARFUL Scary Stories of the Evil App by Christian Nava

Mr. Nava offered me an opportunity to review his juvenile novel, FEARFUL Scary Stories of the Evil App after noticing my review for Max Braillier’s The Last Kids on Earth. Let me make clear that I received no monetary payment for reviewing this book. Mr. Nava only provided me with a free Kindle-edition copy of his novel. The rating provided is my own, and it is honest.

Book Details:

  • Format: Kindle
  • Author: Christian Nava with illustrations by Jesús Duke
  • Publisher: Independently published
  • Genre: Juvenile Fiction; Juvenile Horror
  • Release Date: September 2, 2021
  • Length: 107 pages
  • Rating: 4-stars

Product Description:

Esau “S” Bryant is a twelve-year-old boy desperate to become an influencer to help his family. And when he finds a strange phone in an abandoned mall, it seems he finally got a lucky break, until he realizes his new mobile device is cursed.

Now he will have to face his worst fears and fight an online evil spirit to save himself, his family, and—the world.

Review:

Christian Nava’s FEAFUL is one part Goosebumps nostalgia, one part Stephen King’s aversion toward technology – in this case phones and live-streaming – and two parts entertainingly fun. Nava breathes life into a diverse cast of characters and molds a spooky-literary universe that will surely spawn a great series that both middle-graders and their parents will enjoy.

Nava introduces twin brother Esau and Jake in the midst of the Squall – an electrical storm that sparks up strange activity in the small town of Quiet Falls. The brothers are vastly different – or so says, Esau, our narrator. Jake is a prodigy, while Esau is an aspiring social media influencer. (As a father of a middle-grader who aspires to be a YouTuber, Esau hits close to home.)

Esau wants to win the Playoffs, an online competition with a money prize. His goal isn’t just to make it big, but to use the money to put his family back together again. These plans are derailed when Jake finds a mysterious phone in an abandoned mall. Using the phone, Jake’s online popularity rises while Esau’s fails.

However, something isn’t right in Quiet Falls. Rumors of strange happenings are spreading. Strange sightings are seen. And Esau is certain that his brother’s phone is at the center of it all.

I love the characters Nava breathes life into. There’s CJ, Esau’s best friend and next-door neighbor, whose geeky sensibility brings extra nerdom to the story – she named her cats after The Fellowship of the Ring! Not to mention CJ’s cousin, Kara, who was sent to live with her uncle for the summer after an incident at her old school. And while they play a small part, parents do have a role in this story. The twins’ parents are human. We see that their mom is having troubles of her own when Esau notes a bottle of sleeping pills by her beside table. And their father is chasing a dream that may have caused the riff in the family.

Nava engages the audience by using the current slang. He incorporates folklore into his story, digging deep into the Native American mythologies. My hopes is that this stirs some interest in his young readers to research the matter; although, I hope they have a better experience than Esau when he visited the public library (see Afterthought).

Afterthought:

While the story does keep the reader’s attention, there are some things that I frowned upon as an adult – surely the targeted audience will ignore these “faults.”

The first is, of course, the use of current lingo. The problem with trying to relate to much with youths today is their ever growing and altering vocabulary. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow.

Nava also leaves so many branches in his novel – untied strings that aren’t resolved by the story’s end. However, it is clear what he is doing – this is just the beginning of Nava’s literary universe which will surely span throughout several novels (something I look forward to reading).

The one thing that really got me is the library scene. Mr. Nava did you really ask me to read your novel without knowing that I’ve worked within the library world for the last decade of my life? Can we stop with the age-old, redundant library tropes?

Nava writes: “Instead of googling what I needed, I ventured into the local book cemetery (AKA the public library) to remain off the grid” (emphasis mine). Nava continues by writing: “…the librarian, a little bald man with glasses, kicked me out for being too loud” (emphasis mine).

Libraries aren’t the quiet, dusty-book filled chambers conjured up on popular culture. Instead, libraries are filled to the brim with public activities – not all of them quiet. Painting them as unwelcoming toward children only damages the work we’ve done thus far in trying to prove otherwise. So please – Mr. Nava – and all writers of juvenile literature – it’s time to end this library trope.

Also See:

Books

Quiet Kid poems by Grace Carras

Book Details:

  • Format: Softcover
  • Title: Quiet Kid
  • Author: Grace Carras
  • Publisher: Finishing Line Press
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Release Date: 11 August 2020
  • Length: 36 pages
  • Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Never have I experienced such raw power and emotion from 36 pages as I did while reading the work of Grace Carras. Her perfectly crafted scenes and imagery, the way she displays her emotions – all of it! – is nothing less than beautiful. If there’s one book of poetry you read this year, make sure it’s this book. You won’t be disappointed.

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Books

The Guardian

Book Details:

  • Format: Audible Audio
  • Title: The Guardian
  • Author: Alice Raine
  • Narrator: Stephanie Cannon, Mark Meadows, and John Guerrasio
  • Publisher: Audible Originals
  • Genre: Erotica
  • Release Date: 4 August 2017
  • Length: 1hr and 17mins
  • Rating: 2-stars

Product Description:

Eighteen year-old Jessica’s life is turned upside down the day the police knock on her door to deliver the news that her parents have been in a fatal accident. Her late father’s gambling and reckless lifestyle leave her finances in turmoil and threaten to leave her homeless…until a chance meeting with a 30-year-old stranger means that her life changes forever.

Finding herself an unofficial ward of a mysterious, serious man, our American heroine and her enigmatic British ‘Guardian’ get used to living with each other…with all of the tensions, pitfalls and excitement that entails….

Continue reading “The Guardian”