Thursday, October 27, 2016

Page 69: After the Texans (Blog Tour)

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

Hey everyone! Today, we're taking part in the blog tour to help spread the word about Declan Milling's novel After the Texans.  We thought it would be cool to throw the book up against the Page 69 Test. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see where the tour's been and which stops are still left to come.....

OK, Declan, set up page 69 for us:

Emil, the main character, finishes a conversation with Australian lawyers he was summoned to Hong Kong to meet. The reason for him being called there is in case the lawyers lost a big arbitration case, and has just transpired. Emil thinks he knows why, but they don’t. It’s a disaster for the Australian government, but could be even worse for the global carbon market and Emil’s organisation. 

The scene jumps to the Hong Kong Police HQ where Senior Inspector Tang is informed of a missing person matter that he doesn’t want to, but must, get involved in. 

Things are about to start deteriorating even further for Emil.    

What is After the Texans about?

After the Texans is about Emil Pfeffer, who works for the UN’s carbon market organisation, trying to maintain a semblance of doing his job – which he knows is important – while trying to find leads on where his girlfriend, Johanna, is. She’s been kidnapped as insurance that he stops investigating the funding of corrupt carbon projects in Papua New Guinea that he exposed. He blames himself for getting her involved in his work, as a result of which she’s been taken. 

Emil’s work takes him to Hong Kong, where a chance sighting sets him in pursuit of the kidnappers, then on to Australia, where threads begin to come together, drawn in by the political machinations of Australia’s richest man and the energy policy advisers he’s arranged to advise the government there.  

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what After the Texans is about? Does it align itself with the books overall theme?

Page 69 gives a snapshot from the plot – an important one, as the sequence of events flowing from this sets the scene for much of the plot that follows. So yes, it does give a sense of what After the Texans is about – Emil’s rollercoaster ride as he searches for Johanna.


panel member appointed by the investors was in their favour And the chairman, well, he came down in favour of the inves- tors, obviously ” 

Emil looked at Loftus and the others “Yes,” he said, knowingly “Obviously ” 


Not far from the Exchange Centre, at Police Headquarters in Arsenal Road, Wan Chai, Senior Inspector Tang was sitting at his desk, reviewing reports of recent arrests and incidents that his o cers had investigated His unit was generally ahead of the curve when it came to case clear-up statistics, which was just as well if he was going to stay on the promotion fast-track However, recently it had been slipping a bit, a fact noted to him that morning by the Assistant Deputy Commissioner: a none-too-subtle reminder of the expectations that were being placed on him Trouble was, the ADC had told him, he was too accommodating, too willing to accept the jobs his peers would say they had no time for But, as Tang had told the ADC, if someone wasn’t willing to do these tasks – like chasing up Red Notice reports from visiting round-eyes – they would slip through the cracks and eventually come back to bite someone, perhaps even someone more senior than Tang himself As he sat there, skimming through the pile from his in-tray, re ecting on the conversation, he wondered whether the ADC would think he was being a bit too cheeky by saying that, or would he accept that Tang was just genuinely concerned His phone rang It was a colleague in Operations “We have just received a report, a missing person report I am sending it over to you ” 

“Why are you doing that? What has it got to do with me?” he snapped “ e ADC told me only this morning to stop accepting these matters from other units ” 

“You are shown acting as the liaison for a round-eye who reported sighting an Interpol Red Notice o ender?” 


Declan Milling has over thirty years experience as an environmental lawyer. Born in Australia, he holds bachelor degrees in science and law and a masters degree in environmental law. Currently based in the United Kingdom, Milling divides his time between London and Edinburgh. His first novel, Carbon Black, was released in 2014. After the Texans by Declan Milling (published by Clink Street Publishing RRP £8.99 paperback, RRP £2.99 ebook) is available from 1st November, 2016 online at retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information please visit


Wanna follow the rest of the tour? 
Here's where it's been and where it's heading: 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Drew Reviews: Neon Green

Neon Green by Margaret Wappler
3 Stars - Recommended by Drew
Pages: 246
Publisher: Unnamed Press
Released: July 2016

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: It's the same 1994 you remember, except in this one there are spaceships. They don't do much - just land in the backyard and sit there for 9 months. But when the Allen Family wins a visit from a ship around the same time that Cynthia (the mother) is diagnosed with cancer, so begins a fracturing of their world that wouldn't look too out of place in our 1994.

The Review: There's something pleasant about reading a novel set in our recent past, even when things don't go well for its characters. Perhaps it is because the world, for all its modern conveniences, has become a little darker and a little more difficult to compass - or at least it seems that way - and so we turn back to a past we all know and can at least somewhat remember, allowing ourselves a rose-tinted look at the calmer way we think things used to be. 

So Margaret Wappler's twist on the mid-90s is a great one: the idea that at some point we had contact with aliens from Jupiter and as part of an... educational exchange, I guess, they have been sending spaceships to chill in people's back yards for 9 months or so. They flash lights, whirr a bit, dump some non-toxic goo, and are otherwise unseen and (for a freaking spaceship) unobtrusive. But it makes this time period that we all know so well just a little more unfamiliar, a little stranger. 

This cuts both ways, though. The aliens are, whether they were meant to be or not, the most interesting part of the novel. The Allen Family - a family of environmentalists, newly hosting a flying saucer - are compelling, to be sure, but our interest in their ordinary 90s lives is unfortunately reduced by the fact that at some point we made contact with aliens from Jupiter. Adding to this, their focus is almost entirely on the saucer, even to the expense of their health and well-being - and so of course our focus is going to go there too. I found myself thinking, often, of the scene in Signs where they catch the alien signal on the baby monitor and there's a moment where the family is all arranged on the hood of the car as they marvel at the wonder of the universe. But where that movie focused much more on the aliens, Wappler's novel is really just a combusting-family story with a little bit of a speculative tweak.

Because it turns out that this is a cancer novel. Not only that, it's an environmental danger / cancer novel. When Cynthia Allen is diagnosed with aggressive cancer and we realize, from very early on in the book, that she will not make it to the end of the novel (that's not a spoiler by the way; it's expressed well within the first hundred pages), it feels obvious that environmental hero Ernest would seek a cause in their surrounding environment. The ultimate reveal - one that ties the health of the spaceship to the health of the town - is not so much surprising as it is the sort of resolution you'd expect out of a film made in the 90s that was trying to get people to understand climate change or why we should take better care of the environment. It's so on the nose, in a way, that it almost dilutes its point. 

The characters in the novel are also frustratingly underdeveloped, almost to a one. Ernest, the patriarch, has an arc to be sure but it's the kind of arc that feels ripped from a Franzen novel: he can't handle his wife's illness, he's obsessed by the flying saucer, and he starts entertaining the idea of an affair - and once he goes through all of it, he comes back out the other side as a Better Man. Cynthia is given little to do at all, really, and the children remain rather two-dimensionally 90s teenagers, only achieving a little bit of growth in the form of a closing arc in the final 50 pages. I closed the book wondering why I cared about these characters, really - but within a few days, I wasn't even wondering that because I'd just totally stopped thinking about them.

The thing that this novel really has going for it is Wappler's sense of humor and delightfully quirky sense of pacing. The absolute best parts of this novel are the entries from the saucer-watching log, where the family is meant to keep tabs on everything the saucer does but where they just as often snipe at each other or refer to things utterly unrelated. There is a comic bounce to those moments that reminded me of the absurdity of The Family Fang or Pushing Daisies, the kinds of stories that tell an ordinary tale with a demented bent. Wappler seemed to be aiming for that - the seductive and brassy reporter, the odd radio broadcasts Gabe picks up, even just the fact of the saucers - and she does keep a generally bouncy pace throughout the novel. But she never does it better than in those family journals, which are alone worth the price of admission.
Rating: 3 out of 5. Ultimately a pretty ordinary story of a family ripped apart, despite the appearances of stranger things (i.e. spaceships). Wappler has a charming voice and an eye for silliness, but she doesn't let the fun take over and instead delivers something pretty mundane. The characters don't truly develop, instead just meandering forward - which might've been the point, but which doesn't necessarily make for compelling reading. It's not a bad book by any stretch - just a fine one. Your mileage will vary depending on whether you come in expecting that or expecting something more.

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Where Writers Write: Lamar Herrin

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 Lamar Herrin.

He is the author of seven novels, including The Lies Boys Tell, House of the Deaf, and Fractures; a memoir, Romancing Spain; and numerous short stories, which have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review and Epoch, and elsewhere. He has won a NEA fellowship, an AWP Award for the Novel, and the Paris Review’s Aga Kahn award for fiction. He is a professor emeritus from Cornell University and with his wife, Amparo Ferri, divides his time between Ithaca, New York and Valencia, Spain.

FATHER FIGURE (Fomite, Oct. 25th), his new novel, is the story of a man whose father was once a small town sports hero--beloved and admired by all--who returns from WWII and the Battle of the Bulge a one-legged and deeply embittered man. In this moving novel, the son takes it on himself to figure the father out, to account for him and make him into a father whose cause he can defend. 

Where Lamar Herrin Writes

Because I fantasized out loud too many times about writing in one the cupolas, or “widows’ walks,” that sit atop many of the Italianate houses in Ithaca, New York, when our architect son, Rafael Herrin-Ferri, designed a house for my wife and me one of the first things he thought of was my writing cupola, which became, given his taste for American vernacular references, a tower of sorts that resembled from the outside a grain elevator.  So I sit atop a grain elevator looking out over one of a series of valleys that became, just north of us, the Finger Lakes, writing these words.  

The views are extraordinary, and I frequently have hawks and turkey buzzards planing past my windows.  Twice I’ve been visited by bald eagles.  I walk up to this tower in the morning, and I truly do have the sense of rising into the sky and leaving behind the clutter of daily life.  My mind seems to sharpen and rise free.  Mental and verbal baggage get left down below.  I can make myself believe that I write a cleaner sentence.  But I also remember there are people who prefer to write in closets (I once wrote a novel, American Baroque, in a walk-in closet), where there is no distraction and nothing to compete with the richness and abundance of their own words.  Wasn’t Dylan Thomas, with all that verbal exuberance of his, one of them?  No competition, no distractions, but that could be tantamount to having your nose rubbed in your own prose, and, on balance, I think I prefer having this space and these rolling valley ridges to gaze out on. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Page 69: If I Live to Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

we put Paul Mobley and Allison Milionis'

The words of the photographer, taken from the Afterword, on the inspiration for this project:

 This project started as an extension of my previous book, American Farmer. As I traveled around the country meeting farmers, I was surprised to find that quite a few of them were centenarians. I had always thought if someone lived to age 100, it would be bittersweet—yes, they would hit a milestone that most people would never hit, but I pictured those late years as full of sickness and hardship…….. I was completely fascinated by these elders; I found myself wanting to learn all the details of their lives, to find out what inspired them to keep going. At that point, I knew I had found my next project. I would travel to all fifty states and photograph at least one centenarian in each.

In the words of the author, Allison Milionis:

I received a call from the publisher in October 2014, asking if I’d be interested in working on a book project that featured people 100 years and older. The job required interviewing persons photographed by Paul Mobley, and/or their family members, and writing an essay about each  one. The idea was that these would not be essays that simply outlined a person’s life in stiff chronological order, but instead, a glimpse of who they are, how they lived their lives, and what wisdom they can share.

After perusing Paul’s website and the book proposal he’d sent to Rizzoli, I accepted. I was taken with Paul’s portraits in his previous book American Farmer. They were so honest, and bold.

And how could I pass up an opportunity to speak with people who are 100 years old?  What wisdom would I personally glean from them?

At the beginning of the project, I imagined that Paul’s portraits would reflect the spirit of his subjects, while my essays were meant to be a snapshot of their character. 

I think the book accomplishes this, though the process wasn’t easy. Still, I found a way through perseverance, I suppose, which also happened to be a common trait in the individuals I interviewed – and the one that most inspired me.  In fact, if I had to name one thing I took away from the experience of working on this book, it would be that perseverance is essential for survival, to thrive in life, and to get books done. 

If I Live to Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians

Alvin Sexten
Washington Court House, Ohio
Born July 3, 1908

Alvin Sexten was a third generation farmer in Fayette County, Ohio. His family grew a number of crops and raised beef cattle, but also kept chickens and dairy cows. As a young man, he’d farmed with a team of horses. By the end of his farming days, he owned self-driving tractors. Alvin rolled with the changes of the times; he embraced new technology or anything that improved his efficiency.

Hard work was Alvin’s modus operandi and he attributed it to his long life. He was still hauling grain to the elevator at ninety-eight. “Never stop to think about dying,” Alvin liked to say. “There’s no time for that.”


Paul Mobley is an American photographer who captures the true essence of the nature of a person's soul. From remote Alaskan villages to the majestic palaces of Croatia, Mobley travels around the world to find the face of a thousand words. He lives in New York and Arizona with his wife Suzanne and their two wonderful daughters, Camden and Paige. 

Allison Milionis is a journalist who writes about wild and domestic animals and the people who advocate on their behalf. Her articles have appeared in The Oregonian, The Sentinel, and Los Angeles Citybeat, among others. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: Swallowing a Donkey's Eye

Read 10/13/16 - 10/16/16
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended: it'll blow you off your ass like a donkey bomb, yo!
Pages: 276
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Released: 2012

This book knocked my fucking socks off. I found the subversive and satirical nature of the novel intriguing as all hell and chewed through the thing like ET on a trail of Reese's pieces.

In it, we find ourselves in the hands of an unnamed narrator who's signed himself over to Farm for six years in an effort to help relieve his mom of some of her financial burdens. Farm, as its name would imply, supplies City with food and relies on people like our narrator to break their backs for slave-wages. There are apples to pick, animals to tend to, and strange guided tours where City residents are escorted by people dressed in Chicken and Duck costumes on trams, where they can watch Farm's indentured servants hard at work. Our narrator, like all Farm members, smiles and waves (smile and wave boys, smile and wave) all the while counting down the years he has left before he can finally walk away from it all. That is, until one deranged Duck passes along the message that his mom is in danger of losing her home. After our guy checks in with his barn manager, he discovers his checks haven't been cashed and his mother's account has been terminated and begins to plot his escape to find her. Of course, he doesn't have to wait long, because Duck and her fellow furries revolt against Farm and our narrator makes a break for City under the cover of all the chaos.

City is, well, the city, and like any city, is crowded and crappy and full of assholes. City is where our narrator grew up. Through some incredibly well placed chapters, we learn all about our narrator's fucked up relationship with his mother, whose name is Mary, and about how they were abandoned by his father Joseph (because Joseph wanted to focus on becoming a priest and hello, loving the names and the religious themes that are buried within this story right now you guys). And now, too, it's starting to make sense, why our narrator would leave the relative (I use this word loosely) comfort of City for the controlling and demanding servitude of Farm. And wouldn't you know it, as our narrator enters City and breaks into his mother's home, which true to Duck's word appears to be empty, he stumbles into his father the Father, who has a proposal for him. His father the Father needs him to run for Mayor, and in doing so, father the Father promises that City will not prosecute (AKA terminate) him for running away from Farm. Welp. Looks like our main guy has little choice in the matter, then. So run for Mayor he does. And because he is a wanted man, during his campaign father the Father forces our dude into hiding under City.

You should know that City is built on Pier, which is like any ole pier, made of wood and suspended over the ocean, except this particular Pier is where City dumps its waste, both garbage and human - it's where the homeless and sickly citizens are sent to keep City clean. Father the Father has been working under Pier for years, caring for the terminally ill in a section called Home, where the dying are comforted and then cremated and released into the ocean. Our narrator is put to work in Home against his wishes, and spends time wandering Pier, looking for sick people to bring back Home with them. During these searches, he continues asking about his mother and will not stop until he discovers where they - City, Pier, or Farm - have sent her.

Farm were my favorite, and far and away the strongest, chapters of the book. In them, Paul Tremblay did a fantastic job setting the stage for this dystopian, futuristic world and imbued his characters with such fascinating and sometimes downright ridiculous senses of humor. He perfectly balanced the bleak 1984 feel of the novel with things like a monthly mating dance for the Farm residents (I kid you not, they even issued them condoms!). And the deeper into the book we go, through City and ultimately Pier, the further we are buried beneath the horrorshow that is our narrator's mayoral campaign. Yet through all of the bureaucracy and the dehumanization, Tramblay continuously pulls us out from under it all and gives us a poke in the ribs - an exploding donkey's ass, a golden-shower (I swear!), and some good-humored banter between father and son - to lighten the mood and give us a bit of a breather. 

A great addition to the always growing sub-genre of dystopian, big-brother fiction. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Eat like An Author - Matt Wallace

When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. And not too long ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 

Today, Matt Wallace - author of the Sin du Jour series - dishes on his relationship with food. 


I will embrace blog post as the new confession cubicle and release this sin: I have done horrible things with and to food.

I’ve come to accept I’m a deeply emotional eater, despite the fact I never felt particularly emotional when I’d buy six Lunchables and consume them all in a single sitting (the meat wasn’t so important as making sure they had that good processed American cheese, not the cheddar. And you have to have the discipline to save the dessert from each one for last, like accumulating pudding cards in Sushi Go!). I insisted to myself I only hid cans of bacon-cheddar spray cheese around the house so no one else would eat them (the folly of this line of thinking being two-fold: 1) No rational person wants to ingest spray cheese, and 2) “Eating” implies it’s food when the opposite is very clearly true). I mainlined multiple candy bars or an entire package of Chips Ahoy Reese’s-filled cookies strictly for the sugar rush that helped me write all night. 

Of course, the truth is I was attempting confectionary solutions to emotional problems, and I did this for much of my writing life. I loved crap. It was easy, cheap, chemically rewarding, and possessed all the comfort of warm childhood memories. It soothed and rewarded me in my broke bachelor writerdom.

I won’t even get into the fast food here.
Fortunately, meeting my fiancée helped cure me of my crap binges (although we cultivate a similar problem with high-end food and restaurants, and I won’t deny I’ve fallen off the wagon a time or two). Not having been raised on processed foods, the mere idea of eating pressed lunchmeat or sugary cereals makes her retch. She has been a godsend in that and many other ways.

These days I eat much cleaner and better and revel in cooking more. I like to wake up, shotgun a bottle of water in place of coffee to actually wake myself up (I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I’ve always received my caffeine from soda, which became a huge problem unto itself I’ve also managed to cut way down), and accomplish at least an hour of work before I reward myself with breakfast that is also sometimes lunch. I keep it simple and delicious. Lean ham and eggs, tuna salad with low fat mayonnaise and sweet pickles, and a sandwich (read: singular. One sandwich. Not eating everything in multiples, i.e. simple portion control, has been a big zen pursuit for me) composed of fresh meats and cheeses from the actual deli counter are all standards these days.

I’ve also learned to keep a big Costco bag of trail mix at my desk to both enable guilt-free snacking and prevent me from leaving my desk and impinging my productivity when I feel snackish. Which is often.

As I work at home and my fiancée deals with a hellish daily commute, the task of cooking dinner falls to me. In our continuing effort to battle emotion-based eating in the face of constant work and life stress, and not enable each other to that effect, we’ve been restricting ourselves to basic proteins and doubling up on green vegetables (roasted potatoes are a hard give-up, for both of us). I’ve learned turkey is versatile, healthy meat, and a big salad every night only gets boring if you don’t step up your homemade dressings game. Also new to my life: Roasted Brussels sprouts as a potato substitute.

The struggle is real, but so is fresh-caught, never frozen ahi tuna.

 We abide.


MATT WALLACE is the author of the Sin du Jour series, The Next Fix, The Failed Cities, and the novella series, Slingers. He's also penned over one hundred short stories, some of which have won awards and been nominated for others, in addition to writing for film and television. In his youth he traveled the world as a professional wrestler and unarmed combat and self-defense instructor before retiring to write full-time. He now resides in Los Angeles with the love of his life and inspiration for Sin du Jour's resident pastry chef.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Buried in Books - My New Precioussssess

Because I can't possibly read every single book that finds its way into my home IMMEDIATELY, though I fully intend to die trying, allow me to show off our most recently acquired precioussssess...

For Review

Leo X Robertson
Psychedelic Horror Press
October 2016

In Bonespin Slipspace, all is not what it seems. Rudy and Tammy may have made the biggest mistake of their lives by accepting an invitation to Blackburn's manor to party with the depraved Manorites. Head-games, ghoulish hallucinations, and disturbing memories lurk around every corner of the psychic and physical labyrinth that is The Manor Experience. Rudy and Tammy may never get out alive, but, in Blackburn's world, even death may no longer offer the familiar escape. Give Rimbaud an x-ray machine. Tie up and gag Baudelaire. Introduce Poe to bondage. Do you dare enter the realm of Bonespin Slipspace?

*From author for review

Katie Kitamura
Riverhead Books
February 2017

A mesmerizing, psychologically taut novel about a marriage's end and the secrets we all carry. A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it's time for them to separate. For the moment it's a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she's not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about the man she used to love.

A story of intimacy and infidelity, "A Separation" is about the gulf that divides us from the lives of others and the narratives we create for ourselves. As the narrator reflects upon her love for a man who may never have been what he appeared, Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on the brink of catastrophe. "A Separation" is a riveting stylistic masterpiece of absence and presence that will leave the reader astonished, and transfixed."

*from goodreads power user summit

Ron Rash
September 2016

Ron Rash demonstrates his superb narrative skills in this suspenseful and evocative tale of two brothers whose lives are altered irrevocably by the events of one long-ago summer — and one bewitching young woman—and the secrets that could destroy their lives.

While swimming in a secluded creek on a hot Sunday in 1969, sixteen-year-old Eugene and his older brother, Bill, meet the entrancing Ligeia. A sexy, free-spirited redhead from Daytona Beach banished to their small North Carolina town until the fall, Ligeia will not only bewitch the two brothers, but lure them into a struggle that reveals the hidden differences in their natures. Drawn in by her raw sensuality and rebellious attitude, Eugene falls deeper under her spell. Ligeia introduces him to the thrills and pleasures of the counterculture movement, then in its headiest moment. But just as the movement’s youthful optimism turns dark elsewhere in the country that summer, so does Eugene and Ligeia’s brief romance. Eugene moves farther and farther away from his brother, the cautious and dutiful Bill, and when Ligeia vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, the growing rift between the two brothers becomes immutable.

Decades later, their relationship is still turbulent, and the once close brothers now lead completely different lives. Bill is a gifted and successful surgeon, a paragon of the community, while Eugene, the town reprobate, is a failed writer and determined alcoholic. When a shocking reminder of the past unexpectedly surfaces, Eugene is plunged back into that fateful summer, and the girl he cannot forget. The deeper he delves into his memories, the closer he comes to finding the truth. But can Eugene’s recollections be trusted? And will the truth set him free and offer salvation . . . or destroy his damaged life and everyone he loves?

*from goodreads power user summit

Jason Rekulak
Simon & Schuster
February 2017

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it. The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.

*from goodreads power user summit

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lindsey Reviews: i be, but i ain't

Pages: 80
Publisher: YesYes Books
Released: 2016

Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson 

In a sidestep from my usual reviews, this time around I am featuring a full length collection of poetry instead of a chapbook. Now, you may think that reviewing either length would be the same, but that would be a sad misunderstanding of each form. In a chapbook most poets explore a single theme, or style, or image, using their roughly 25 pages to put a spotlight on one thing. A full book, much like a novel compared to a short story, can dip its toes in many forms, emotions, and images. For me personally I find chapbooks to be a more intellectual experience while a full length collection to be an emotional one. But that, again, is just me.

Aziza Barnes has demonstrated many forms, ranging from blocky prose poems like “the mutt debates what it might come down to:” to the slim and streamlined left justified pieces, such as “descendants.” I’d go out on a limb and say the the signature style is the breathless free verse that is peppered throughout to great effect. On this train of thought the poem “a good deed is done for no good reason” is a wonderful example of the form and the key substance of the collection as a whole. There are many shades of the political within, be it the government pushing in, or society horning in, but in the end the reader needs to remember that “industry of human hands/you are just/ yourself & no one has made you.”

The personal and sexual sides of politics, how the world as a whole and the individuals specifically, are incessantly pressing their ideals and expectations onto us, trying to shape us, is so key to this collection. Another key theme, one that shapes almost all discussion, is race. No poem better encapsulates racial politics better than “brown noise;” the pieces travels over stereotypes and realities so deftly, and with such a restrained hand, making it all the more effective and devastating. There are also visual moments that support the content, with the poem “down like a shot” coming to mind. The physical structure of the poem matches the content, with the lines quickly diminishing like a shot. The lines also mimic that wordless slip into passion and the abrupt stop out of it with the second to the longest line “don’t start something you can’t finish is maybe the worst advice” coming after the shortest. It is all these careful content and style choices, this blurring between the art and the reality, that allows many of the poems to transcend the words on the page.

Dog Eared Pages:

14, 15, 18, 19, 25, 27, 29, 30, 33, 34, 36, 39, 40, 43, 44, 49, 50, 61, 62, 64, 65, 70

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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Page 69: Blitz

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

we put David Trueba's Blitz to the test. 

Please set up Page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

It is a fundamental moment in the novel. Beto, the protagonist, wakes up in Helga's house. What happened last night? He is a young Spaniard completely alone and abandoned in Munich. He is trying to continue living.

What is Blitz about?

It is a novel about solitude and the necessity of company, an arm to put around you. It is the story of a sentimental survival.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what Blitz is all about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

 Blitz is a very condensed novel, and my purpose was that every line of the book signals the heart of the book, a sense of the novel.


again. I thought about breaking into a run and escaping
from the apartment, but I wasn’t sure I could find
the door, and I thought it would be terrible to make
Helga chase me down the hall and around the furniture
in the living room. I’d scream, like a coward in a
castle full of ghosts.

Naked, I stuck my head out the bedroom door and
called her. Helga? But nobody answered. I opened
the door all the way and walked down the short hall
toward the other bedroom without turning around.
She was probably asleep. Silence reigned in the apartment,
except for the song of a canary I eventually discovered
in a birdcage in the kitchen. I went naked
into the living room, looked for my overcoat, found
it, pulled out my brand- new cell phone, connected
to the Internet, and left the phone on an arm of the
sofa. There was a note on the kitchen table. Call me
if you need anything, I have work to do. Helga had
written down the number of her own cell phone and
ended with a quick signature, indecipherable except
for the enormous H, like scaffolding in front of a collapsed
edifi ce of letters. Then she’d added the word
Kaffee, with an arrow pointing to the coffeemaker
and the clean cup she’d set out for me, and the word
Plätzchen, with another arrow aimed at a little plate
of cookies.

I went back to my room, stepped into the shower,
and let the water run over my face. Although the
scent of the shower gel was too intense for my liking, I


David Trueba was born in Madrid in 1969 and has been successful both as a novelist and as a scriptwriter. “La Buena Vida” was his widely acclaimed debut as a film director and was followed by “Obra Maestra” (2001), “Soldados de Salamina” (2003), “Bienvenido a Casa” (2006), and “La silla de Fernando” (2007). He is also the author of two previous novels Four Friends and Learning to Lose.
(photo credit to Aldolfo Crespo)