The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Category: Review (page 2 of 4)

Book Review: Heads of the Colored People, by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Review by Tess Tabak

 

In Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires weaves a tapestry of loosely connected stories about African-American people. She explores the complex relationships African-Americans have towards their racial identity in 21st century America.

 

The characters in Heads often feel like outsiders in their own world. In the first story, a simple misunderstanding sparks into a fight when one black man, dressed in anime garb, his hair dyed blonde and wearing purple contacts, inadvertently ignores another black man on the street.

 

Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always sharp, these stories bring us into a world of diverse voices. In a meta, meta move, a character in the first story is working on a piece called Heads of the Colored People, a collection of sketches that will reflect the lives of black people, a modern update on a project of the same name by Dr. James McCune Smith in 1854. She compares her own sketch to the police-drawn chalk outline of a man killed by police brutality. “I couldn’t draw the bodies while the heads talked over me, and the mosaic formed in blood, and what is a sketch but a chalk outline done in pencil or words?” Continue reading

Book Review (spoiler-free): Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Review by E. Kirshe

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is already on a bunch of lists of books to watch out for and there’s a good reason for that.

 

Set in Reconstruction-era America, history has taken a turn thanks to the undead plague that arises during the Civil War. The North and South agree to stop fighting each other in order to put down zombies (called shamblers here). The story is told through the first-person narration of Jane Mckeene. Jane is finishing her training to become an Attendant, a person trained in both weaponry and etiquette in order to protect wealthy white women. Thanks to the Negro and Native Reeducation Act this career path is not a choice. Even being the daughter of a very wealthy white woman does not prevent Jane from being required to train at Miss Preston’s school of combat in Baltimore.

 

Ireland creates a richly drawn brave new America- the worldbuilding in this book is extensive and expertly sprinkled across the pages. Even with the first person narration it never feels like an info-dump. Lots of true history is blended into Ireland’s version- history buffs will recognize some key phrases and inspiration. Continue reading

Book Review: Mr. Neutron, a novel by Joe Ponepinto

Review by Tess Tabak
In a troubled election, Gray Davenport must prove that Reason is dead.

Reason Wilder, the new mayoral candidate in Grand River, is a crowd pleaser. He has a certain energy about him that people love. There’s just one tiny problem: Reason seems to be a Frankenstein’s monster, and Gray Davenport is the only one who’s noticed.

Mr. Neutron, Joe Ponepinto’s debut novel, is a biting satire about the craziness and politics that go into elections. Gray Davenport, the beleaguered, unpaid campaign manager for Bob Boren, the underdog in the race, wants to talk about real issues, but everyone is swept up by Reason’s charisma.

Gray must figure out how best to expose Reason for what he truly is. Gray has a stake in the game: he won’t get paid for managing Bob’s campaign unless Bob wins. What’s more, his wife, L’aura, is campaigning for Reason. This is about more than just politics for Gray. He has to win Bob the election to earn his own self respect, and possibly win back his stone-cold wife’s affections.

Gray Davenport, a self-described “sofa of a man,” has trouble sticking up for himself. He calls himself a neutron, “taking up an area of space so insignificant that it was no surprise to be regularly ignored.” Continue reading

Book Review: Glamshack, by Paul Cohen

Glamshack by Paul Cohen

Review by Tess Tabak

 

Paul Cohen’s debut novel, Glamshack, is a gritty, sensual journey through a man’s obsession with a woman, and her fiance.

 

The object of Henry’s obsession, a woman referred to only as Her and She, is almost pure male fantasy: dripping with sex, full of manic energy and childlike imaginativeness. She feeds Henry raw tuna out of a can with her hands and playfully poses as other people in public, adopting a Southern accent to get served at a closed restaurant.

 

Slow to unfold, but fairly fast-moving once you get past the first few chapters, Glamshack dives into Henry’s psyche. Narrated in the second person, Henry attempts to explain how he became the way he is, how his obsessive desire began, weaving his tale into beautifully constructed sentences. Cohen’s language throughout is gorgeous. He captures the essence of pure, raw, unfiltered desire in ways reminiscent of Nabokov’s playful-but-dark Humbert Humbert in Lolita.

Continue reading

Book review: Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

Review by Tess Tabak

There are no tidy endings in Bizarre Romance, the new short fiction collection by Audrey Niffenegger, with Bizarre Romance Audrey Niffenegger Eddie Campbellillustrations by Eddie Campbell.

Niffenegger’s stories are, as advertised, bizarre. In one, a woman inherits a house from a kindly elderly woman, and demolishes the house when she discovers something disturbing in the basement No resolution, no lessons learned.

My personal favorite in the collection is “Digging Up the Cat,” a bittersweet story about loss. A character digs up her old dead cat because her parents are moving and her mother insists that “it would be too weird to leave a box full of dead cat in the garden.” She describes in loving detail the act of removing her most recently dead cat from the freezer and adding it to the old cat’s box. Continue reading

Book Review (spoiler-free): Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz, An Orphan X Novel

Review by E. Kirshe

 

The newest book in the bestelling Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz offers page turning thrills- it’s a fun quick read for old and new fans alike.

 

Taken from an orphanage as a 12 year old Evan Smoak was raised and trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. Evan eventually goes rogue, and reinvents himself as the Nowhere Man, using his skills to help the truly desperate.

 

All of this information is covered within the first few pages of Hellbent making this book very easy to pick up for any thriller fans looking for a new read.  

Continue reading

Book Review (spoiler-free): Warcross by Marie Lu

Review by E. Kirshe

 

Warcross by Marie Lu is a sci-fi thriller from an author that has already written two other trilogies- Lu is someone who’s had practice and it shows. Warcross will satisfy YA fans of any age. Protagonist Emika Chen is smart, capable, and well drawn out. The world she inhabits is immersive, bright, and is believable enough to seem like it could be the not too distant future.

 

  • The title comes from the game that everyone in the book is playing- Warcross. Within the span of a few years, Warcross, a fully immersive virtual reality game, has become a worldwide phenomenon where almost everyone is at least a casual player. Readers with at least a passing interest in gamer culture (which is everyone, thank you apps) will be able to recognize how similar our world is to Lu’s. Lu mixes so much of her own vision of a future based around this game with very real tech/gamer culture. She creates a bustling and bright future Tokyo backdrop where for the majority of the novel takes place to take place in. Reading her seamless integration of imagined and kind of real tech is half the fun of Warcross.

 

There’s a whole economy based around Warcross, just like the one surrounding our real world’s popular games. There are pro leagues as well as illegal betting which is where our protagonist comes in. Continue reading

Book Review: Like a Champion by Vincent Chu

Review by Tess Tabak

Characters find triumph in small moments in Vincent Chu’s new short fiction collection, Like a Champion. These quietly hopeful stories are a breath of fresh air.

Chu hands us a diversity of characters, all underdogs to varying degrees. For the most part, the stories follow a pattern: someone is having a rough day (or month, or year, or life), but then the universe sends them a small token of hope, or they find just enough courage to do something virtuous, and for one shining moment, they feel like a champion. Even protagonists who are downright unlikeable, like Hal in “Star of the World,” who thinks that the “Orientals” made up global warming to keep people buying Japanese, and sends his daughter a birthday card begging her to send him money and fix his computer, among other things, have redeemable moments.

Continue reading

Book Review: Where Night Stops, by Douglas Light

Review by Tess Tabak

 

Where Night Stops, a new novel by Douglas Light, is a gripping thriller written in deliciously literary prose. The protagonist ends up over his head in a money laundering scheme when a homeless man named Ray-Ray hands him a message in a bar of soap. That message leads him to the local library, which sets him off on a series of jobs that seem easy enough, and pay well. There’s just one problem: he has no idea what he’s doing, no idea why someone is paying him $300 to pick up checks from pre-arranged points and deposit them in library books. He calls these mysterious jobs “Kam Manning,” and inches in further and further, convincing himself that he’s not doing anything wrong.

The novel unravels slowly. It starts with our narrator in a bar with a woman who complains of being ugly. She sits next to our protagonist, trading a few lines of witty banter. She says that “My heart is a divided Vienna,” referencing Orson Welles’s The Third Man. Continue reading

Book Review: Searching for Someday by Jennifer Probst

Review by Tess Tabak

Searching for Someday is like a lollipop. You unwrap it, excited. I shouldn’t be reading this, you think. It has no real sustenance. But then you do read it, and you think, ugh, this is too sweet. And the prose is horrible. Did I ever use to like these? But it goes down quick before you really have a chance to think about it.

As a bodice-ripper, this book sort of succeeds. I’m saying “sort of” because it was page-turning and somewhat engrossing, which is really the only thing one asks for in books like this. I finished it in about three days. But the cringe factor is very high. I’ll leave aside the ridiculous nature of the premise – Kate runs a matchmaking agency called Kinnections, where she uses a combination of her supernatural ability to detect compatibility and real world dating advice to create lasting connections for her clients. She is also cursed to find one true soul mate in life. No one else will do it for her. OK, that part is fine.

Where the book starts to fall apart is when Slade enters the picture. A no-nonsense, super hot divorce lawyer, he becomes Kate’s client as a way of keeping tabs on his sister, who’s recently signed up for Kinnections. No. No no no no. Kate and her friends frequently cite Slade’s “protectiveness about his family” as a plus, but really? His behavior toward his sister is controlling, obsessive, unhealthy. Continue reading

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