I don’t know how effective longer reviews on personal blogs really are, so I’m experimenting with shorter ones that’d fit on Goodreads since reviews on there seem to matter to industry people. However, my blog still craves content. So here’s three reviews of books that aren’t related aside from the fact that authors have signed them and I think more people need to know about ’em!
Part of me likes the idea of not really theming the reviews I group together here since a lot of books I’ve enjoyed were just blindly stumbled across while I was trying to find something else, so… here goes an attempt at recreating that.
Stay Crazy, by Erica Satifka
I think a lot of portrayals of mental illness in media lack necessary nuance. In Stay Crazy, Emmeline struggles with the stigma of taking or not taking medication, worries over telling friends and family, and still manages to save the world from malicious interdimensional beings in the midst of all that.
The plot with Escodex and the potential invasion keeps the book moving at a steady pace, and the surreal elements have just enough deniability (at first) to put readers off-balance. Despite the alien provocateurs trying to contact Emmeline through RFID tags at her dead-end retail job, the book stays fairly grounded when dealing with her conditions, never stooping to basic “lol she just cra-ha-haaazy” jabs at her expense. There are plenty of jabs, though! They’re just all punching up.
Marrero, by Kataalyst Alcindor
Being in the audience of a good poetry slam is a better experience than having sex on the moon and I’m not gonna brook any complaints from more academic poets on that subject. Kataalyst is one of the best slam poets I’ve gotten to see here in New Orleans and, while the whole experience can’t be conveyed in print form, the words alone still hit like a pallet of cinderblocks.
There are some excellent indictments of America’s failings featured in Marrero, but the poem I found most interesting was “When Dating a Sexual Assault Survivor.” When it comes to men addressing sexual assault in writing, it feels like the default mode is to speak aggressively about the perpetrators. Kataalyst takes a different route and speaks with eloquent sympathy for the victimized and cautious optimism for those they let in to their lives. It’s fucking potent. Watch it here on Write About Now, then time your next New Orleans vacation to coincide with one of his readings because goddamn.
The Ultra-Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, by A.C. Wise
With a stylized cover like that, I wasn’t really expecting anything more than fun camp with a nod towards representation. How glad I was to have underestimated this book.
Yeah, the Glitter Squadron’s adventures are full of 70s scifi action facing off against gribbly aliens and ancient mummies. But the Squadron members themselves are all well developed outside of their monster-fighting capacity. Before we see Bunny fight a sea monster, for example, we know why she became Bunny. But it shouldn’t be surprising that a confident, self-possessed character with healthy social support fares better against Lovecraftian horror than Lovecraft protagonists do. Wise’s thoughtful characterization even comes through in the themed cocktail recipes interspersed throughout the collection!