Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: California

Read 2/2/16 - 2/9/16
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended for lovers of the 'oh my god this could be our own apocalypse' fiction.
Pages: 393
Publisher: Little, Brown
Released: 2014

I've had this one on the Kindle for a long while - I downloaded after I had attended a panel where Edan read from it - and finally got around to cracking it open.

California is set in a dystopian world that breathed itself into existence slowly, where the government has begun collapsing, a near-invisible disintegration that was quickened under the additional pressures of serious illnesses and devastating storms that had hit the US over an unspecified period of time.

The novel starts out as a quiet survival story - married couple Frida and Cal have attempted to make a go of it on their own, after fleeing the dangers of the dying city to make a home for themselves in the relative seclusion of a ill constructed shed in the middle of LA's wilderness. Though they are frustratingly naive and prone to arguments (hell, who wouldn't be when you're each other's only company), they were also fortuitously well-prepared for the slow fade of civilization. Cal's green thumb and  his experiences at Plank as a college student come in extremely handy as they resort to hunting and foraging in the forest for sustenance.

When Frida realizes she is pregnant, the fear of "how do we have this child alone" pushes the young couple out of their little fantasy world in search of a nearby community. After a day and a half of travel, they timidly approach a labyrinthine series of large man-made spikes and are greeted by a man who escorts them into The Land. What initially appears to be a peaceful and pleasant settlement (c'mon, we all know better, right?!) turns out to be a society with some pretty dark secrets and a disturbing set of rules.

Edan has done something wonderful within a somewhat "been there, read that" genre. As a fan of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature, I've experienced just about every end-of-the-world scenario. From meteors to zombies to plagues,.. and while there is nothing wrong with that, I have a deep appreciation for the slow, unobtrusive way in which Edan ushered in hers. How scary to imagine growing up in a world where, little by little, we are pushed back towards the dark ages. Internet and electricity are spotty at best, colleges teach its students to farm, people trade gold for the silliest trinkets.

Through California, Edan addresses our biggest fears as she offers its characters the opportunity to rebuild society, and right past wrongs. Will they continue down the dark path that brought about their own undoings or move humanity forward in new and unexpected ways?

For the record, had my husband and I been characters in this book, fleeing the same dying city, we'd be dead within a week of exposure to the elements, dehydration, and us stupidly gorging out on poisonous berries or some ridiculously dumb infection by hangnail. We're just not cut out for the end of the world as we know it.

Do you think it's too late to influence my kids into becoming crunchy granolas? This novel makes me fear for their future.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Danger Slater's Guide to Books and Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Danger Slater whips up some totally killer drinks to celebrate his newest release I Will Rot Without You. Drink wisely, and by drink, I mean flush them down the toilet or sink when no one is looking. Hehehe


Greetings, my fellow alcoholics. Here is the ultimate drinking guide for my new novel I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU. These are cocktails based off of drinks that can be found in the book. A quick glance at the recipes below and you may be asking yourself: wait a second, what sorta sick fuck would advocate drinking Windex and industrial runoff? Well, the thing about that is I’M EXACTLY THE SORTA SICK FUCK WHO WOULD ADVOCATE THAT! 

You see, the main character in I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU is named Ernie Cotard, and he’s got a lot of problems. Not only is he dealing with a recent breakup, but the cockroaches that live in his apartment walls and the intelligent mold growing in his bathroom sink are conspiring against him. They’ve poisoned him. And his body is literally falling apart. In itself, this wouldn’t have bothered Ernie so much, but he just met a new girl named Dee who lives down the hall and with her, he thinks he might be able to finally move on with his life. That is, unless his current infestation, Dee’s (literally) overly-attached boyfriend, or Ernie’s quickly and disgustingly rotting body don’t stop him first.

I suggest you pick up a copy of the book, pour yourself one of my delicious cocktails, and slowly disappear into the endless and immutable void. 

The Resurrector


3 parts absinthe
1 part Windex®
Splash of grenadine
A couple of drops of arsenic
Severed cockroach wings

Mix the absinthe and Windex® together in a highball glass. Windex®-brand window cleaner is recommended for taste, but in a pinch any generic window cleaner will do. Squirt in a couple of drops of arsenic. The more potent the arsenic, the better. Add a splash grenadine for flavor. But don’t add too much grenadine though. The drink is supposed to be bitter. Bitter like the resentment you feel towards your ex for leaving you. Bitter like your undying and morbid love. Toss in a few cockroach wings and serve over ice.

The Very Very Bloody Mary

1.5 oz. vodka
8 oz. human blood, preferably your own
1 tsp. horseradish
2 stalks of celery
1/2 tsp. mold spores scraped from under your bathroom sink
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 dashes of Tabasco hot sauce

Cut the celery, including the leaves, and puree. Weep quietly to yourself. Process until finely minced. In a salted glass, combine the human blood, horseradish, mold spores, and Tabasco. Weep some more.  Combine the celery puree with the human blood mix. Add vodka. Start laughing manically while continuing to weep. Stir with a celery stalk while the cockroaches that are infesting your disgusting apartment watch in silent judgment. Scream out: “Fuck you, you disgusting little vermin! You stay away from me, you hear?” Weep again.

Tissuewater Sweet

4 oz. industrial runoff
4 oz. natural spring water
1 tbsp. artificial sweetener
1 tissue
Twist of lime

Combine equal parts fresh spring water with the industrial runoff from whatever chemical plant is located closest to your house. Add in artificial sweetener. DO NOT use real sugar. Add the tissue and let sit until the paper dissolves and makes the drink look sludgey. By this point, the concoction should’ve take on a glowing blueish hue. This is normal. It means it’s working. Add a twist of lime. Or don’t. Who cares? Drink it and when you close your eyes you will see the true face of god.

The Filthy City

1 tall glass of slightly chilled bleach

Dirty. Dirty. Everything is dirty. Must clean everything. Inside and out. I must purify myself. I must purify the world. I can’t go on like this. I must end this. I must shed this skin, this horrible rotting skin I’m trapped in. I will show you how. I will make you love me.


Danger Slater is the world's most flammable writer! He uses a lot of exclamation points when he writes! He is the author of 3.5 books including I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU available through Fungasm Press. He's an East Coast kid living in Portland, OR where he continues to drive like he's still in New Jersey.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Giveaway: Fallen Land

Since July 2010, TNBBC has been bringing authors and readers together every month to get behind the book! This unique experience wouldn't be possible without the generous donations of the authors and publishers involved.

It's the beginning of a new month and you know what that means.
It's time to bring you March's Author/Reader discussion book!

We will be reading and discussing Fallen Land 
with Taylor Brown

St. Martin's Press has graciously given us 10 copies to give away!
(sorry folks, this one's limited to US Residents only)
Your choice of either 

(a) Hardcover 
 (b) Audio Download

What it's about: 

Fallen Land is Taylor Brown's debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. 

Callum, a seasoned horse thief at fifteen years old, came to America from his native Ireland as an orphan. Ava, her father and brother lost to the war, hides in her crumbling home until Callum determines to rescue her from the bands of hungry soldiers pillaging the land, leaving destruction in their wake. Ava and Callum have only each other in the world and their remarkable horse, Reiver, who carries them through the destruction that is the South. Pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they glean from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers. In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman's March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives. 

Dramatic and thrillingly written with an uncanny eye for glimpses of beauty in a ravaged landscape, Fallen Land is a love story at its core, and an unusually assured first novel by award-winning young author Taylor Brown.

This giveaway will run through February 12th . 
Winners will be announced here and via email on February13th.

Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads, and let us know your preferred formant - Hardcover or Audio Download. You must be a resident of the US in order to qualify for this one. 

2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from March 21st through the 27th. Taylor has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for him. 

 3 - Your comment must have a way to contact you (email is preferred).


 *If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion at TNBBC on Goodreads (the thread for the discussion will be emailed to you before the discussion begins). 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: Waste

Read 1/21/16 to 1/23/16
3 Stars - Recommended to readers who don't mind a slow start and time spent on secondary characters
Pages: 256
Publisher: Dzanc
Releases: March 2016

In his debut novel Waste, Andrew F Sullivan drags us down the dark and desolate streets of Larkhill, Ontario, where we meet Jamie, who was once a high school bully, and Moses, a half-hearted skinhead - two angsty dudes who live shit lives in a shit town working shit jobs. Moses hitches a ride home with Jamie one night and the two of them end up hitting, and killing, a lion on a back road. Rather than report the freak incident, they drag the body into the snow-covered ditch and take off into the night. What they don't know is that some men are looking for that lion, large men with long beards who carry power drills as torture devices, who take orders from a man who will stop at nothing to punish Jamie and Moses for what they've done.

After a pretty powerful opening, Sullivan seems content to back things up and takes his time introducing us to secondary characters. But stick with it. While it may appear unconnected at first, your patience will pay off after the groundwork's been laid out and you start following the trails of bread crumbs, each of which ultimately lead back to one of our original two bad boys, Jamie and Moses. From there, the book quickly becomes a page-turner  as everything begins to converge.

This is a bleak book, you guys. Larkhill is home to a bunch of down-and-outers, extended-stay motelers, and drug king pins. Nothing good will come of these wasted lives and the entire town is about to go through some serious pain and suffering, all on account of Jamie and Moses and that goddamn gored-up lion.Yet something tells me they were damned from the get-go. Happy endings seem to have no place here.

The book doesn't release for another month and yet it's making all kinds of waves, already appearing on some Most Anticipated lists. Will it make yours?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Drew Reviews: The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye by Yoko Tawada
3 Stars - it's hard not to be curious about what will happen next
Pages: 256
Publisher: New Directions
Released: 2009

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: On a state-sponsored trip to East Germany, a young Vietnamese woman is kidnapped and taken to the other side of the Wall. So begins a strange journey that will take her to Paris and through various iterations of life, as well as see her develop an obsession with the films of Catherine Deneuve. But the films may have more of an impact on real life than first meets the eye...

The Review: What is it about our favorite performers that make us want to dive into their lives - not necessarily their real lives (although those as well, more often than not) but the many lives they live throughout their careers? That's what really interests us about stars, I think: their ability to live different lives that all come back to the same starting point. 

Thoughts of the performers I love most were on my mind while reading this novel, Tawada's ode to Catherine Deneuve and also to ideas of film and film-structure. In many ways, the novel operates on a somewhat-more-rational version of David Lynch's "dream logic": things happen and they aren't necessarily spurred one from the next but rather simply a series of occurrences all featuring the same cast of characters (or at least the same main character). How else to explain the resonances between our narrator (although she adopts a handful of false ones, she never tells us her real name) and the characters Deneuve plays? Tawada encourages this in the reader, even going so far as to name the chapter titles after some of Deneuve's films, often ones that our narrator watches during the chapter and often ones that echo our narrator's plot. It can't be a coincidence that, when The Hunger is mentioned, our narrator ends up making money by participating in medical studies, many of which require them to draw blood... right? Or are we simply drawing conclusions in the same way that you might think "yeah, I'm just like the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes" for reasons that are, in fact, not at all real?

There is a note at the beginning of this slim volume that explains the translation: this version is based entirely on the German manuscript. However, Tawada (who is bilingual) worked simultaneously in German and Japanese and, in fact, ended up with two separate manuscripts of the novel. Not only is this obviously a fascinating experiment (and it would be thrilling to see the ways in which the two translations into English might diverge) but it actually informs the storytelling, too. Our narrator is often at a literal loss for words because of language barriers (German, French, English, and Japanese are all, at some point, languages she is unable to fluently communicate in) but also the literal instability of shifting space and understanding. Having just started listening to SerialBox's The Witch Who Came in From the Cold before picking this up, I was keenly thinking about the Cold War and the two sides of the Iron Curtain... and there's something interesting to the way our narrator, unable to actually keep up with the news, is somewhat stuck in time even as the world moves forward. I am curious, from a structural point of view, which came first - the idea for the novel's overall arc or the changing language of composition.  I don't know that it would change my experience of the novel at all but I'm just deeply fascinated.

It's funny, though - the book, even as I write about it, slips away to some extent. I'm more interested in seeking out the films of Ms. Deneuve (I realize that I've never seen a single one, except perhaps in passing or when I didn't realize - but I don't consciously know even The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) than I am of thinking about this story all that much more. There's something oddly episodic about the novel, fitting again into the idea of it having elements of dream logic, and the way each chunk of the novel sits slightly removed from the others and I struggled to stay fully engrossed throughout the reading process. I worry, sometimes, that this is often (although certainly not always) the case when I read translated novels: something about translation, especially into English, can deliver a detached tone to the proceedings, something cool and removed. This, I believe, is a failure of the English language more than it is the fault of any translator - but I wonder if this book has more heat to it read in either of the original vernacular. I don't suppose I'll ever know.

Rating: 3 out of 5. An interesting introduction to the bilingual Tawada, whose body of work (at least that so far translated into English for New Directions) seems to all deal with a certain amount of flickering identity and strange liminal states. The episodic plot never allows us to really care for our narrator but at the same time, I think it's hard not to be curious about what will happen next. Yet interspersed with storytelling are sometimes whole recitations of plot of Catherine Deneuve films, except seen through the lens of someone who can't necessarily understand the entirety of the film because of barriers both linguistic and more broadly cultural. It's a strange little book, unlike anything else I've maybe ever read - but while I wouldn't say no to more Tawada, I'm not sure I'm rushing out to get another of her books. This one feels, in ways both good and bad, a little too much like a very long waking-dream.

Drew Broussard reads, a lot. When not doing that, he's writing stories or playing music or acting or producing or coming up with other ways to make trouble.  He also has a day job at The Public Theater in New York City.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Indie Book Buzz: Freight Books

It's a great day for some Indie Book Buzz here at TNBBC. It's back again and we're inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share some of the upcoming 2016 releases they are most excited about!

This week's pick is brought to you by Laura Waddell
Digital Marketing Executive at Freight Books.

Three Craws by James Yorkston -  7th April

Having already been praised by the likes of Lauren Laverne and Pete Paphides, Three Craws is the debut novel from musician James Yorkston. Set in contemporary rural Scotland, it explores what it's like to return to a hometown after an absence, and coming to terms with failure to make a living as an artist. Centering around friends Stevie, Johnny and Mikey, it's a book about friendship, hope, and disappointment, and it's also very funny. 

Treats by Lara Williams - 3rd March

I wholeheartedly love this book and am proud we're publishing such a compelling new writing talent in Lara Williams at Freight Books. Treats is a debut collection of short stories covering a range of life experiences, and as well as being beautifully and empathetically written, the stories shine a light on issues of the modern day. There's a lot in here - sexual ethics, female friendship, self-navigation, alienation - and it's the observation of small, everyday moments and feelings and what they reveal about us that impressed me most.  As a debut, Treats is special, and makes me feel excited to follow Lara Williams' writing career and see what comes next. 

Gutter 14 - mid April

Gutter is a literary magazine published twice a year, containing prose, poetry, and interview, from both literary heavyweights and emerging writers. Issue 14 has a focus on playwrights and performance poetry, and excitingly, we're putting together a compilation of their readings to accompany the issue. This edition received the highest number of submissions to date; we were impressed and overwhelmed by their strong quality. We haven't released the names of contributors quite yet, but I can't wait to get it out into the world. 


LAURA WADDELL lives in Glasgow and works as Digital Marketing Executive at independent publisher Freight Books and as a freelance literary publicist. As a reader, she's particularly interested in literary fiction, indie publishers and translation and is a contributing writer to, among others, The Glasgow Review of Books and TYCI. Twitter: @lauraewaddell

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where Writers Write: Tabitha Vohn

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!


Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Tabitha. Tabitha is a pen name. Her creator is a certified bookworm, thanks to the countless fairy tales, Bible stories, and nursery rhymes she was read as a child, and the Gothic, Romantic, and Contemporary novels she enjoys today. 

She has earned a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Teaching, and currently teaches high school English.

On Writing, Tabitha says,"I strive to write the type of stories that I enjoy reading. Ones that question those blurred lines between love and lust, between good and evil. Ones that make us question human nature while simultaneously seeing the beauty in it as well." 

Where Tabitha Vohn Writes

Welcome to my favorite room! On summer days and snow days (perks of being a teacher), this is my favorite place to be. I'm ridiculously sentimental and love being surrounded by things that remind me of the people I love.  So here's a little tour:

The three pieces hanging above my "editing" couch were all created by former students. The middle portrait was my inspiration for my upcoming novel, A Different Path. Depending on whether I continue to self-publish or am fortunate enough to land a small press publisher, I want her to be my cover art. The cover is already done, in fact; I suppose whether or not I am able to use it is to be determined. The quilt was handmade by my father-in-law's late, adopted mother. I have so many quilts packed away. One day, I hope to have a house big enough to use more of them.

Above my desk is my little collage of postcards, cover art, vacation pics, and pics of the most important women in my life: my mom, aunt, and sister-in-law.  On my desk is a little figurine I brought back from Germany this past summer.  I was so bummed when I got to the Black Forest and couldn't find a single fairy tale souvenir (apparently, Germans are over the whole Grimm Brothers thing). The figurine is of the Loreley, a Siren legend that comes from the Rhine River about a dangerous, rocky passage that was notorious for wrecking trade ships. It was as close to a fairy tale as I could get.

On the opposite side of my little room is a third of my book collection. I have a bookshelf in the living room and two closet shelves that were in the process of buckling under all the weight, so my hubby was sweet enough to bring this giant home to me. Behind the shelf hangs another piece of student art and next to the door is a stencil that my aunt gave me for Christmas. She always signs her emails to me, "love you to the moon and back".  The red vase is also from her and-I believe-was handmade in Vietnam.

My Earthbound Trading Company tapestry. It's awesome! I visited a store in Gatlinburg a few summers ago and was hooked.  My brother and sister-in-law were nice enough to procure this tapestry for me on a trip to Portland, Maine to visit my aunt, back before Earthbound offered online shopping and the closest store (to me) was a three+ hour drive to Pittsburg.  So it's special. Beside it are an early painting my brother did of one of the ponds at my granddad's and a portrait by a very talented student of mine, who allowed me to use this gorgeous, tortured guy as the new cover for a Gothic novella I wrote a few summers back.

So this is my sunny, happy place where I'm immersed in beauty and creativity. Thanks for letting me share my writing room with you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lindsey Reviews: Bad Baby

Bad Baby by Abigail Welhouse
Pages: 28
Publisher: Dancing Girl Press & Studio
Released: 2015

Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson 

If a book could be a best friend, I’d want this one to be mine. This succinct chapbook is able to create a fully realized personality, one which is wholly enjoyable. With each page readers are introduced to a multidimensional speaker, who is both relatable and as unfathomable as all human beings are.

The title poem shows up first in the collection and establishes the strong, self-reliant, feminist theme. Stating “That’s not a rattle. It’s my scepter./You will obey me or else/I will make a noise/you will never forget,” the final stanza should really be a rally cry for anyone (and everyone) who is looking to make themselves known. Later in the collection “Dawson Gets A Haircut” is a coming of age ode to all 90s babes, saying “I don’t want to relax./I just want to huff ocean./I skipped church in favor of baptism./This is the new holy water.”

Not all of the poems follow this personal journey, or this call to action. Several seem to mirror the way the mind works, with wandering paths that are both tired to the concrete and surreal. “Cows, Mad” and “Q&A” are two examples where, literary, there are times the reader may be lost, but emotionally every word makes sense. Often times this is how the human mind, and heart work; a flowing mix of memories and imagined scenes that form who we are and who we feel.

Of all the poems I can actually see myself framing “Hell Is” and hanging it over my desk. I don’t want to spoil the poem, since I think quoting any of it would pull the beauty out of context. Let’s just say that hell in Welhouse’s world is a scary, caffeine free place. I also would not be supposed to see the closing poem, “Stable,” show up in an ode to Plath collection, given the lovely similarity to the poem “Ariel.”

Basically, hunt down this collection, grab a cup of coffee, and meet your new best friend.

Dog Eared Pages:
1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27

Lindsey Lewis Smithson is the Editor of Straight Forward Poetry. Some of her poetry has appeared on The Nervous BreakdownThis Zine Will Change Your LifeThe Cossack Review, and Every Writer’s Resource: Everyday Poems.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Bronwyn Reviews: Tram 83

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Translated by Roland Glasser
Pages: 210
Publisher: Deep Vellum
Released: 2015

Reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin

If your only knowledge of Africa comes from the recent film Beasts of No Nation or a viral video called Koney 2012, if the only “African” literature you’ve ever read is by Alexander McCall Smith, then let Fiston Mwanza Mujila take to you Tram 83 for a whole new view: 

“There are cities which don’t need literature: they are literature. They file past, chest thrust out, head on their shoulders. They are proud and full of confidence despite the garbage bags they cart around. The City-State, an example among so many others – she pulsated with literature.”

Mujila’s novel is set in an unnamed breakaway City-State in an unnamed African country, governed by a powerful dissident General. Everyone in the city is dependent on the region’s underground wealth. “For-profit tourists” arrive from around the world to exploit both minerals and cheap labor. Diggers and students alike work the mines. The earth is so rich residents are rumored to dig up their gardens and living rooms searching for veins of cobalt, diamonds, copper or bronze, silver, barium, tin or coal. They dig so wide and deep the foundations are undermined and buildings sink. Brave and foolish souls sneak into the mines at night to scrape out a few pounds of valuable stone, risking death at the hands of the General’s guards.

Tram 83 is the bar that brings them all together, “Inadvertent musicians and elderly prostitutes and prestidigitators and Pentacostal preachers… disbarred lawyers and casual laborers and former transsexuals and polka dancers and pirates of the high seas…” the list goes on for another page, ending with “…baby-chicks and drug dealers and busgirls and pizza delivery guys and growth hormone merchants, all sorts of tribes overran Tram 83, in search of good times on the cheap.” All these people, and Lucien and Requiem. 

Lucien has just returned from the Back-Country where he has been writing a “stage-tale” about he history of his country. A friend in Paris is trying to arrange to have it performed. Requiem is Lucien’s childhood friend, an ambitious player in the City-State’s great game of trying to get rich quick.

It’s at Tram 83 where Lucien meets Ferdinand Malingeau, director of Joy Train Publications. Swiss by birth and a resident of the City-State by choice, he decides to publish Lucien’s stage-tale. But first Lucien must make a few changes that include reducing the number of characters by half. But how can he reduce the number of historical figures that have made his country what it is today?  

Tram 83 is the first novel by Mujila, a poet and playwright born in Lubumbashi, Congo (formerly Zaire), a country in collapse. The language and rhythms of the book are inspired by the jazz and Congolese rumba he loves. In a recent interview Mujila said, “The City-State is like a paradise that’s run out of gas. And in this paradise, time is an illusion.”  

Perhaps the most haunting feature of the City-State is the never-ending parade of prostitutes soliciting business. “Do you have the time?” and “Would sir like some company?” and “Take me to your country” and countless variants repeat over and over in an arrhythmic chorus that breaks into every conversation, every argument and quiet reverie:

“Foreplay is like democracy, as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t caress me, I’ll call the Americans.”

The prostitutes of the City-State are just as dependent on the minerals beneath the ground as everyone else, eking their living off what people earn from the mines. When Lucien first arrives, he responds to their solicitations, if only to dismiss them. After a while they fade into the background for him and for us as readers. They become part of the music of the City-State, contrapuntal punctuation marks in Mujila’s jazz-inflected prose.

In the City-State, no one is immune from the stones in the mines. Even Lucien finds himself underground one night, pickaxe in one hand, notebook in the other, hacking away with Requiem and a few of his friends. As always, it is Lucien’s notebook that gets him into trouble.

Mujila’s novel is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, the language as beautiful as the mine-scarred, train-wrecked landscape is ugly. It is a story of how people survive the impossible, usually over beers at Tram 83. 

Bronwyn Mauldin is the author of the novel Love Songs of the Revolution. She won The Coffin Factory magazine’s 2012 very short story award, and her Mauldin’s work has appeared in the Akashic Books web series, Mondays Are Murder, and at Necessary Fiction, CellStories, The Battered Suitcase, Blithe House Quarterly, Clamor magazine and From ACT-UP to the WTO. She is a researcher with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and she is creator of GuerrillaReads, the online video literary magazine.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review: The Blizzard

Read 12/20/15 - 1/1/16
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pages: 192
Publisher: FSG
Released: December 2015
Translated by: Jamey Gambrell

What better day to review Vladimir Sorokin's The Blizzard, as I sit here on the couch in the midst of our very own blizzard? Wrapped up in the relative warmth of a fuzzy blanket, hands cupping a mug of spiced tea, as the wind whips the ever falling snow back and forth beyond my front windows, it's easy to take for granted the bone-chilling, snot-freezing cold that our brave protagonist ventures out into in an attempt to save a small 19th century town from the grips of a terrifying zombie plague. 

Doctor Garin holds the vaccine that will stop the epidemic from spreading and feels compelled to bully his way through the wicked snow storm, which currently has him stalled and horseless at a station house. After much shouting and cursing, the stationmaster is finally convinced to hook Garin up with Crouper, a local bread man with a fleet of partridge-sized ponies and a sled, who might be convinced to take the pushy doctor where he is determined to be. 

Garin applies the same bossy tactics with Crouper, who reluctantly agrees to head out into the raging storm, against better judgment. A trip that, under normal circumstances, should take but a few hours slowly and painfully turns into a never ending battle of man vs. nature.

It's the kind of book where nothing really happens but everything is just told so perfectly that you really don't care. It's got just the right touch of the fantastical too. I'm calling it "soft apocalyptic fantastical fiction". The zombies, strangely, never make an appearance, but other odd and wonderous things do. The deeper into the storm we travel, the more fantastical and otherworldly their circumstances become and all the while our characters grow more and more suspended in this sort of timeless past-future, which adds to the overall awesomeness of the novel.

It's beautiful, relentless, and tenderly harsh. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kate Reviews: Death comes to Happy Acres

Death Comes to Happy Acres by J T Moss
4 stars – Strongly Recommended
257 pages
Publisher: Kenmore Books
Released: September 2015

Reviewed by Kate Vane

What happens when you’ve followed your passion but never quite made it? Wade Lovett, former jazz musician, is in his sixties and living in a trailer park. He has unexpectedly found, at this late stage in his life, that a number of women find him attractive, though he is self-deprecating enough to acknowledge that this is largely due to outliving the competition.

Now Carol, one of the three women he is seeing, wants to marry him and another, Peggy, is dead. Peggy named him beneficiary of her life insurance (and her pedigree cat) before she died. The police suspect him of her murder. Wade has seen enough cable TV to know that being innocent is no bar to being convicted and so he sets out to find out who really did murder Peggy. And he needs to find a home for that cat.

Wade plays down his ill health and financial worries with dry humour. He and his fellow residents at Happy Acres (where the streets are named after the fifty states, in no particular order) form an ill-assorted community. There’s a sense for all of them that life hasn’t quite worked out as they’d hoped but there’s also a dogged determination to wring what pleasure they can from it.

The fact that Wade juggles three women and can’t even be bothered to lie might seem shabby in a different character but here it says something about his disengagement. He appears genuinely surprised to learn they’re not as cool about it as he is. Wade keeps everyone at a distance. No one is allowed in his home – for reasons that become clear.

This book makes deft use of all the classic mystery devices but more than that, it’s the story of Wade’s realisation that his life at Happy Acres isn’t over. There’s a whole world in there, albeit one where Rhode Island is next to Nebraska.

Kate Vane writes crime and literary fiction. Her latest novel is Not the End

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: Mesilla

Read 1/4/16 - 1/8/16
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Page: 113
Publisher: Dock Street Press
Released: September 2015

Confession: I've had this book downloaded to my Kindle for quite some time and for reasons that are not completely clear to me, I left it sitting in the good ole TBR pile. After seeing The Hateful Eight a few weeks ago, I suddenly had this overwhelming urge to read a gritty western that wasn't too concerned with the fact that it was a Western and turns out, Robert James Russell's Mesilla was the perfect choice. 

In this tight little story about survival in the unfriendly New Mexico desert, we meet up with Everett Root as he hides out in a mine after a recent shoot out. Having taken a bullet to the leg, Everett's in pretty rough shape. His only chance of survival is to outrun his pursuer, and get to Mesilla - a town he believes will offer him sanctuary. 

You'll find the usual Western tropes, or what I assume are the usual, since I don't typically read westerns - an unintentionally charming gunslinger; a relentless antagonist; hostile Indians; a mouthy damsel in distress; and a small chunk of silver that will hopefully ease his passage through the desert. But the beauty of the novel lies in Russell's prose, which flows like poetry off the page. 

Breathtaking, beautiful, and bloody as hell, Mesilla kept me captivated straight through to the very end. The book is all landscape and language, Russell is one helluva talented writer. The only complaint I have is that I wish it were longer. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Christian Larsen's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Christian Larsen tells the tale of the perfect drink for his sophmore novel The Blackening of Flesh:


Al Capone is losing his grip on Chicago, but he’s still out to protect his turf, so when an upstart gang led by the Cerutti brothers gather at a farmhouse to wait for a shipment of alcohol, he sends his thugs to do to them what they did to the Northsiders the previous Valentine’s Day: wipe them out.

Serafino ‘Sam’ Cerutti sits on the porch, waiting for the truck as he sips on his favorite drink, a concoction of malört and ginger ale his brothers laughingly call a ‘horse dick’. It’s April and cool, but Cerutti feels warm with the drink halfway into his bloodstream. That’s when the headlights appear, but they aren’t the headlights of a truck. They’re the headlights of a 1928 Cadillac…

Behold, the HORSE DICK. 

3 parts ginger ale, 1 part malort, and a splash of cranberry juice on the rocks with an orange wedge. Stir with a licorice whip, and you’re good. 

Rumor has it, it's the last thing Serafino Cerutti had to drink before the Capones closed in…


Christian A. Larsen grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and graduated from Maine South High School in 1993. He has worked as an English teacher, radio personality, newspaper reporter, and a printer’s devil.

His first novel, Losing Touch, was was named Best Horror Novel of 2013 in the Preditors & Editors™ Readers’ Poll. The story is about Morgan Dunsmore who, in the midst of a mid-life crisis, finds that he can walk through walls. 

The Blackening of Flesh is his second novel. In it, the grisly murder of five Prohibition-era mobsters starts as a means to get to know a girl, but becomes more than an obsession for a lonely high school graduate.

Larsen lives with his wife and two sons in the fictional town of Northport, Illinois. Follow him on Twitter @exlibrislarsen or visit

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Gint Aras' Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. And just to spice it up a bit, each author gets to ask their own Would You Rather question to the author who appears after them....

Gint Aras' 
Would You Rather

Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?

Feet. It sounds like a way of writing and doing yoga at the same time. 

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

I guess the only way to satisfy my fantasy of waiting to check out at Costco and seeing a lady with my novel, a lobster and a robot in her cart would be to have one giant bestseller. 

Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?

I’d rather anyone who bought my book right now be considered a genius. I need to be known now or I’ll never have my Costco moment.  

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

Or rather not use formal sentences at all? And sustain the madness over 65,000 words? But throw in some clausal variety, like this: Yet the selfless woman bought the lobster only to set it free, and the novel only to help the author achieve fame, whereas the robot she needed for a private matter which remains none of the gentle reader’s business.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

This sounds like a choice between the modes of torture from In the Penal Colony and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. How would you like to be executed? I’ll take listening to my own Vogon poetry. 

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?

The only compromise of all my values turned overnight success would be a memoir of how I made my fortune investing in Halliburton and Pearson. I’ll take the familiar hell of obscurity to the company of demons.

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

Some characters deserve hatred. If Iago turned out to be a handkerchief tailor, and spent time filling a huge order from Morocco, Othello would suck. 

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?

I still write phone numbers on my forearm. Recently I wrote, “Get lobster.” 

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?

Trick question! You’re making me realize I should allow my characters more fulfilling sex lives. But model it on what experience? There’s the rub! 

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?

Dude, I’ve always wanted to be a Japanese writer! あなたは日本語で素晴らしい小説を書くことができます。Thanks, Google! 

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?

I would like to have written the first banned book of standardized tests. 

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?

Easy one. Come here, Dylan. We won’t go gently into that bad night. 

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?

That’s taking the Japanese fantasy a bit far. I’ll take speaking in haiku. 

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?

Looks like I won’t be doing any reading on the island. 

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?

Sounds like the options available for the child of an alcoholic. I’ll take being ignored. It’s easier on the heart. 

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?

Does the voice get to be Scarlett Johansson? My behavior would change, believe me. Twitter doesn’t need to see my thoughts. 

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?

Computer! I still hand write in a journal, one of my favorite pleasures. 

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?

On my back. 

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

I mean…they’d clear out. At least they thought it might be interesting, but it turned out to be some guy’s package.

Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 

The beautifully described lobster, still alive, beside a robot and my novel. I’ll quote my hero, Tom Waits: “The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.” 


Gint Aras (Karolis Gintaras Žukauskas) lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his family. He's a community college instructor, photographer, and has worked as an editor, columnist, interpreter, translator, and has published two novels, FINDING THE MOON IN SUGAR and THE FUGUE, Learn more at, or follow on Twitter @Gint_Aras