Favorite New Fiction
from Small and Micro Publishers

Book Reviews

Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu

Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu

Motherly praise and motherly criticism. For many women, these can be among the most gratifying and most wounding things in the world, and they have the power to shape the recipients’ lives—for good or ill—far into the future.

In Not a Self-Help Book, a novel that is both harrowing and incredibly funny, Yi Shun Lai explores the effects of an especially harsh and judgmental mother on the long-suffering heroine, Marty Wu.

Read More

Sister Maple Syrup Eyes

Sister Maple Syrup Eyes

“There is more than one victim for every rape,” Ian Brennan writes in the Preface to his novella Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, which explores, in language as searing as it is poetic, the effects of sexual assault not only on the immediate victim but also on her partner.

The book is rooted in Brennan’s personal experience. When he was twenty-one, his first love was beaten and raped by a family friend, an incident that “destabilized the entire trajectory of my young life, reshaping everything since and, retroactively, all which came before.”

Sister Maple Syrup Eyes follows much the same painful trajectory from the point of view of a young man, Kristian. The novella begins when Kristian’s girlfriend, Dawn, reaches him by phone while he is on a business trip and tells him that she’s been raped. Recalling that moment, Kristian thinks, “[I]t took minutes to react, the first in a long chain of small reactions that would unfold slowly over time. It would be many years before I could fully comprehend what she’d said.”

Read More

The Mesmerist’s Daughter

The Mesmerist’s Daughter

The Mesmerist’s Daughter, a dark, poetic novella by Heidi James, was my perfect companion one recent gloomy afternoon, transfixing me from its first lines:

My mother was a wolf. That was the first secret I kept for her. At night she would jimmy open my door with her muzzle and swagger into my bedroom, her blunt claws clicking like tarts’ heels on the floor, her panting rigid and dependable. Her thick, wiry pelt was heavy and smothering as coal gas.

Read More

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist

Daniel Taylor’s forthcoming novel, Death Comes to the Deconstructionist, is an engrossing and satisfying whodunit. But the central character and sleuth, Jon Mote, finds himself uncovering and confronting secrets every bit as dark as the murder case he’s been asked to help solve, and the stories of those confrontations are just as captivating.

The novel opens after the murder of Richard Pratt, chair of a local university’s English Department and a bright, though dimming, star in the academic universe. Years before, Pratt was also Jon’s doctoral advisor, and his criticism of his protégé’s dissertation-in-progress (“theoretically naïve” is just one of Pratt’s disparaging descriptions of the work) helped nudge Jon toward an early exit from graduate school.

Read More

The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women

The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women

As a supporter of any initiative that aims to get more works by women writers published and reviewed, I was delighted when Shade Mountain Press came onto the literary scene in 2014.

To quote from its website, “Shade Mountain is committed to publishing literature by women, especially women of color, women with disabilities, women from working-class backgrounds, and lesbian/bisexual/queer women. We publish work that’s politically engaged, challenges the status quo, tells the stories that usually go unheard.”

With this post, I want to highly recommend the press’s latest publication, The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women. This page-turner of a story collection artfully blends the light and the dark, the bitter and the sweet, with a delightful infusion of the strange and surreal.

Read More

Hawaiian Tales

Hawaiian Tales

Too often, recreational travel, even to the most interesting and exotic places, has the feeling of skimming across surfaces. As we move from notable site to notable site, we are sometimes dazzled. More often, though, we are dazzle-proofed by preformed expectations (think Walker Percy’s “The Loss of the Creature”).

Our outsiderdom also keeps us at a distance. As we observe the locals and even other tourists, we may get the sense that intriguing stories are being played out all around us, but with rare exceptions, we are never immersed in them.

The great gift of Lee A. Jacobus’s new story collection, Hawaiian Tales: The Girl with Heavenly Eyes, is how deeply and richly it immerses us in the predicaments of its characters, from Hawaiian natives to tourists, and in the psychological and physical landscapes of their lives. Reading it, I truly felt transported.

Read More

Facebook

Twitter

Subscribe by email