Adult, Books

Slow Boat to China and Other Stories by Ng Kim Chew ARC Review

Disclaimer: I requested and received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge Update: 12/40
A Book About a Culture You Are Not Familiar With

Release Date: March 8, 2016

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Title: Slow Boat to China and Other Stories
Author: Ng Kim Chew
Translator: Carlos Rojas
Publisher: Colombia University Press
Page #: 304
Genre: Literary Fiction

Now despite the fact that there are a number of days between when I started this book and when I finished it I read it in only two sitting and I have to say that I recommend spacing these stories out more than I did. This is definitely a collection that needs each story to be taken in its own stride. It deserves having each story read and evaluated of its own merits because they are all thought provoking, beautiful, or haunting in their own way.

Due to the fact that I chose to push through it and read it in a handful of sittings, mostly because I put an imposed deadline on myself and for no other reason than that, I felt like the stories at the beginning were far stronger than those at the end while still constantly taking note of the fact that the stories were delicately woven and built filled with juxtaposed formal language and profanity.

I don’t plan to get into any detail of the stories individually because I honestly think this is a collection that is a must read. I will say that there are stories that involve a reporter searching for an enigmatic and completely unknown author who blew the world away with their writing, a boy eating turtles in the dark of night so that he can collect their shells obsessively to the point of fetishization, and the love between one regal tiger and an old boat long run ashore.

I feel like aside from the writing, the strength of these stories is the way that they seem to weave together seamlessly. That isn’t to say they have a continuing plot but they bring up elements, themes, or structures from the previous stories. The translator did an incredible job of making sure the order was perfect. That is one of the things that makes a good short story collection great, when they are presented in a way that facilitates the stories talking to each other and building off each other.  That is definitely the case here.

I do have to say that there were some elements that appeared so often it began to annoy me slightly, but this is most likely due to the fact that I read them all so quickly. I don’t think this feeling would persist if I reread it and spread them out over time. I do plan to reread this collection as there were many images and themes I found incredibly interesting. Why exactly does falling asleep on an ant hill have so much importance? Is it simply that the author had a traumatic experience as a child or is it something more? I feel like I can only discover this now that I know all of the stories as they are and how they stack up next to each other.

Reading this collection was like stepping into the middle of a tropical rubber forest in Malaysia and sometimes stepping out the streets of various countries in the south of Asia, places I have never been and had heard very little about but now want to visit and explore and learn about. It let me in on the tension and animosity between the Malay people and those of Chinese decent but Malaysian born. It discussed the changing times where subsistence farmers worry about sending their kids to college as is expected in the rapidly industrializing world that has just started to brush their lives, many discuss what literature means and what it can do, some focus on identity or personal gratification, but all of them have something to say and it was a wonderful experience to dip into. I would highly recommend you pick this up when it is released in March!

That’s all I have for you guys today folks!  I hope you have a lovely weekend and pick up this book when it is available to you!

Adult, Books

Uncommon Bodies Anthology ARC Review

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review!

This book is already published if you want to read it by all means pick up a copy!

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Title: Uncommon Bodies
Author: Anthology (full list of authors on Goodreads)
Publisher: Fighting Monkey Press
Page #: 300
Genre: Short Story Collection

I spent a long time trying to figure out how I would review this collection. It is difficult enough to review a collection of short stories written by one author, but when there are so many people writing so many pieces the challenge becomes ever greater. I feel as if that is the beauty of this anthology though. There are so many different stories in it. Some of them I was confused by, others I was awed. Some terrified me and others had me sighing at the adorable protagonist and their love interest. All of these things are held in one book and I was dumbfounded as to how I could sum it all up, and perhaps I can’t.

I’m not going to go through all 20 stories, it would take me forever and I doubt anyone would want to read that so I will do my best to discuss what I think was done really well here, and what I think could have been improved upon.

As far as the collection as a whole goes, I definitely think that it had a great breadth of pieces. I also appreciated how many of the pieces were incredibly inclusive not only because of its seamless discussion of common ailment, disfigurements, and disabilities along side mythical or magical creatures, but its inclusion of different sexualities. I actually thought the relation of physical “deformity” with non-hetero-normative sexuality identification incredibly interesting and if I could go into more detail without spoiling you I would. It is perhaps something I will write a paper on at some point in my life.

I am not sure, however, whether or not I liked the order in which these stories were curated. The breadth of the tones and genres in here is astounding for sure but it was a little difficult for me to go from a romantic story to a horror story to a poem to something else entirely. While I feel like it does allow the book to keep the stories separate from each other it is also a little jarring.

If you want to know some of my favorite stories in the bunch then I would say that the opening and closing stories, We is We by Michael Harris Cohen and Scars: First Session by Jordanne Fuller were incredibly poignant. I think they book end this collection incredibly well. The first was moving in its portrayal of the duality of opinions in conjoined twins. Whether or not it is better to be a spectacle behind the glass or experience the real world. The latter was an incredible story about over coming years of mental and physical abuse. I also want to shout out Undead Cyborg Girl by Kim Wells for its ability to make me laugh and awe on cue.

Stories that I found uncomfortable were mainly only uncomfortable because they were not my preferred style of story. All The Devils by Keira Michelle Telford read a bit like Jack the Ripper fanfiction to me, not only because of its erotic overtones, but because the writing wasn’t pushed as far as I thought some of the other stories were, and Reserved by SM Johnson was equally uncomfortable but only because of the over-sexualization to the point of fetishization of disability. Now I don’t have a disability and I cannot say whether these stories accurately or inaccurately portray such fetishization because of this, but it made me uncomfortable and I would put that forward as my only grievance.

The stories were interesting enough to keep me engaged. I was able to read two or three a day and finish it within a week. If you have an interest in magical realism there is plenty of that in here for you, if you have an interest in connections between perceived deformity and assumed deformity I think this also has some interesting comments.

Overall I really enjoyed the collection and would recommend it to you all if you haven’t already to look into it!

Adult, Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link Book Review and Discussion (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

Taylor and I have a special edition of Bibliomancy for Beginners for you guys!

We decided to try out the book club in podcast format.  You can find it on sound cloud at the moment and we are hoping to get onto iTunes soon.

We discuss the newest collection of short stories from Kelly Link and don’t always see eye to eye.

Adult, Books

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (Review from the Dreggs)

Well, it is the work of Mr. Gaiman so it has to be good.  This high school review, perhaps not so much.

Title: Fragile Things
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Page #: 355
Genre: Anthology of Short Stories and Poems, Horror, Mystery

This compendium of 31 short stories and poems is overall an interesting read.  Each story was completely different from the last.  It ranged from an old fashioned detective story that reminded me very much of Sherlock Holmes to a story about a mysterious one night circus to zombie girl scout like coffee sellers to a story where the months personified tell their favorite stories.  Each story was interesting and unique though there were some I could have gone without reading.  Due to the sheer number of components to each story and the number of them I think that I will review the best and worst stories in the book in further detail.

My favorite story is titled: A Study In Emerald.  The narrator is an army vet who takes up residence with a doctor who has mysterious guests every now and again.  The doctor solves certain problems for these guests that do not seem so medically involved but more mysterious.  The setting is a twisted London in what I would say is around the same time as Sherlock Holmes as it is described, but there are details that make it seem a much darker and twisted place than in reality.  One specific inquiry comes from a police office and this is the first time the doctor allows our guest to assist on one of these adventures and the plot takes of from there.  The whole thing had a very Sherlock Holmsey feeling to it from the banter between the characters to the doctor’s explanation of his clues to the ending.  I happen to be a fan of mystery and this was a good one.  I did not see the ending coming and wish there was more to the story than just the 25 pages it takes up.  It kept me turning the pages and always wanting more.

My least favorite was The Flints of Memory Lane.  I could have gone my whole life without reading this short recounting of a memory.  I saw no point in the story what so ever.  While the other stories were intriguing and creepy this story just did not stand in comparison.  The fact that it was a meager 4 pages long means that I did not waste too much of my life on it and the many other stories make up for it, but I just did not see the point to it at all, and that may just be me.  This story is just a recounting of happenstance this man had when he was younger.  On his way to a friend’s house he sees a gypsy woman at the end of his drive.  The mystery of the gypsy woman is not explained.  There is no conflict and no resolution just a sense of mystery unsolved.  It is barely introduced and there was definitely no time to really resolve it.  Utterly pointless and a waste of space in the book.

All in all the stories were definitely on the creepy side, but what else is to be expected from Neil Gaiman.  Creepy children, creepy ghosts, creepy villains and even creepy protagonists.  They keep you on your toes.  I would recommend reading the book for the sheer intrigue and the way the book makes you think about the ideas imposed and the misfortunes that fall to certain characters and how they react to them.  All in all a worthy read and an interesting collection by an imaginative writer.

ehhh.  At least its a review right?