Review: Stay Crazy by Erica Satifka

I received an advanced copy of Stay Crazy from the author for review.  Official release date is August 16, 2016. StayCrazy

To start off, I am not usually a sci-fi reader but when the genre crosses over with something that I can relate to, I am intrigued. When I saw that my friend and fellow zine writer, Erica Satifka, was coming out with her debut novel, I knew that I would be interested as her main character is a woman with mental illness.

Stay Crazy is the story of Emmeline Kalberg (Em), who has recently been released from a month in inpatient treatment for her schizophrenia and depression. In trying to adjust from being away at college, to the hospital and now back home with her single mother and younger sister, Em gets a job at the local small town western Pennsylvania box store, Savertown USA. Not long after being assigned as a stocker in the frozen foods department, Em hears a box of frozen chicken nuggets speaking to her. Turns out it is an interdimensional being called Escodex who is trying to save the folks at Savertown from evil creatures on his plane of existence. A plague of suicides comes over the store, and Em must decide how or even if to help Escodex save the world, while not letting people think this is her mental illness manifesting.

What I like about Em is that she is kind of a jerk. I like to have to try hard to find the redeeming qualities in characters. I have all the sympathy for Em’s illnesses but at the same time she’s overly sarcastic and dismissive to her coworkers, family, doctors… everyone. However, she’s whip smart and creative and even with Escodex bribing her, I think she really does want to save humanity despite feeling foolish speaking to RFID tags in Savertown USA products.

You can order Stay Crazy through Apex Publications or at that big box store of Internet-town USA.

Erica wrote a great guest blog post over at The Bathroom Monologues if you are interested in learning a bit more about her and why she wrote a hero with a psychotic disorder.

*GASP!* Flawed Women!

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With some time to kill before my appointment to have my car inspected, I popped into my local used book shop where I regularly hold store credit and cycle my books through over and again. I had no intentions of making a purchase, but quickly ended up browsing with copies of The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart in my hand. As I made my way through the tall stacks, I started to tune in to the conversation happening at the register.

The woman working at the shop had struck up a conversation with a customer. The customer appeared to be a woman in her late 60s and the employee maybe in her 50s. They were talking about female characters in contemporary fiction and how lately they have been so disappointed in them. “These are supposed to be our heroines!” the customer exclaimed. They then lamented about the recent wave of unreliable, female main characters who do drugs and are simply *pearl clutch* unlikable.

Of course, I was too far away to jump in the conversation and I’m not really good at doing that with strangers anyway, especially as the dissenting opinion. Now don’t get me wrong, if you want all of your female main characters to be someone to 100% look up to that’s fine. There are a bazillionty books already that have those nearly no-flawed women who against all odds overcome some obstacle that causes all of the inspiration. In reality, that’s not what life is for most of us. We may not also have as crappy of a life as some of the characters we read so, I’m not calling for total reality either in my reading. However, society has already told us that the perfect, seemingly superwomen are the ones of more worth. I’d rather not strive for an impossible ideal. I want the grit that comes along with an alcoholic or mentally ill woman who makes terrible life choices and has to figure out how to claw her way out.

Something in me wonders if the women having this conversation don’t understand that there are those of us navigating the world with these types of issues. I’m not investigating a murder or trying to fake my own death at the same time as I work on my anxiety and depression but, I find having that extra depth to the character pulls me in. Not every book has to have a likeable “heroine.” Every once and awhile I do want my Miss Marple, but I want my Bernadette Fox too. So, make your choices, but don’t get down on those of us who relate better to the deeply flawed. If unreliable women weren’t wanted in contemporary literature, we wouldn’t have 500 books with “girl” in the title on the bestseller list.

Five books to read while waiting for Stranger Things season 2.

I have an upside down shaped hole in my heart now that I have binge watched the eight episodes of the new Netflix throwback Sci-Fi/Horror series, Stranger Things.  If you are already missing Eleven and the world of Hawkins, Indiana maybe some of the following books will help feed your brain along with your Eggo addiction.

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Illustration by Justin Chase Black

The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R. Carey – A young girl who is held at gun point and strapped to a chair in order go go about her daily business which is just to go to class. Perhaps a kindred spirit of Eleven?

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer – A mysterious plot of land only known as Area X is explored time and again by scientific expeditions, only to have the members never return or return with severe mental health issues. Now in its 12th expedition, The Biologist (as she is only known) details her experience in collecting specimen and mapping this very strange region. Annihilation is the first in the trilogy.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips – Josephine goes into work every day, entering an endless string of numbers into a database (or The Database). She does not question this task as the money is very good. However, the office walls seem to come alive, her husband mysteriously disappears and she keeps having very odd encounters with a co-worker called Trishiffany. What is this business anyway?

Wytches, Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder  – This trade collects the first six books of the Wytches comic. A chilling story about a family who moves to a new town for a do-over, only to find their past haunting them. Creepy trees? Check!

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older –  Maybe you would like a touch of NYC with your paranormal? Brooklyn is being overtaken by the evil-doings of a bad anthropologist. High school student Sierra Santiago must quickly learn about the magic of her Puerto Rican heritage in order to save her neighborhood and possibly the rest of the world. She’s a Shadowshaper who can contact the spirit world through art.

Honorable Mentions: Go read all of the early 90s Christopher Pike books and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series. Also, check out Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane as I have a feeling Lettie Hempstock and Eleven would be BFFs for sure. I think it goes without saying Stephen King’s The Body, Firestarter and Carrie also embody the feeling of Stranger Things.

If you would like a print of this amazing illustration of Eleven please visit Throwing Chicken on Etsy. While you are at it, give them a like on Facebook as well!

 

Interview with Kendra of Reads and Treats

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The Book Blogger Blind Date series was created by Jill at Rant and Rave About Books. Her idea was to pair bloggers together to have them get to know and interview each other. Being new to book blogging I thought that this was a great opportunity to meet other bloggers in the bookternet community.

I was paired with the wonderful Kendra at Reads and Treats. Kendra and I were paired by Jill because we both share a love for contemporary fiction. Below are five questions I asked Kendra about her thoughts on books and reading habits…

If you would like to see the questions I answered for Kendra check it out here: http://readsandtreats.com/2016/07/27/book-blogger-blind-date

1. What is the biggest challenge you face when reading? (Time? Procrastination? Indecisiveness?) 

The biggest challenges I face are mostly time and procrastination. My heavy TBR doesn’t leave too much room for indecisiveness (most of the time). Time is a major challenge because in a household of 7 (counting animals), I am always busy. I’m also a college student, so I am always ready a lengthy amount of pages for school. I find it hard to read a textbook (sometimes 300 pages a week), and turn around to read a book for review, or fun. Sometimes, I just want to shut off my brain! Other times, it’s procrastination! Right now, I’m in the middle of a book (about 30% done), and it’s good, but I just don’t feel like reading it. There’s nothing I’m reading in place of this one, so I just keep putting it off. Also, I tend to read the most during the night time. However, that can lead to procrastination by means of sleep.😉

2. If you could give your younger self a book you read as an adult, what would it be? Why?

Ah, this is a tough question. Mostly everything I have read as an adult (with exceptions, of course), were not available when I was younger. However, I would have to say Tampa by Alissa Nutting. It’s a horribly twisted novel about a female teacher who sexually assaults the boys in her class. It’s a weird thing to relate to myself because I was not sexually assaulted by a teacher. But I was by someone close to me. Because of this, I was able to identify with the victims. I had been in their shoes, and the novel said it was never the students’ fault. For years, I always thought it was my fault. After I read this book, even though I was completely disgusted by what this teacher did, it helped me realize that I had no control over what happened. It was never my fault. If I would have learned this much sooner, my transition into adulthood would have been so much better.

3. What would your ideal reading nook look like? 

My ideal reading nook would be in a corner of the room with most of the wall covered in books. But there would be a window that peers out into a landscape of grass, trees, and flowers. My big ol’ comfy chair would be facing toward the window, and when it rains, that is the only place you would ever find me.

4. Do you like to pair your books with anything (music, drinks, foods, etc)?

I actually don’t. I am terrible with this. I have done a few book tags with this premise, and I always find it is so difficult to find books! Now, I have done it, but after the post went live, I always look at it and think ‘what the hell was I thinking? That book doesn’t match that food, drink, etc’. But of course, I’d never take it down. So I just leave it there, hoping it’s not as bad as I think it is/

5. What book genre would best describe your personality?

Definitely contemporary romance. I am a huge hopeless romantic. If it gives you any idea, my three favorite movies are: Definitely, Maybe; The Notebook; and A Walk to Remember. I have many favorites, but those all scream romance! It’s funny because contemporary romance is basically all I read. I do read other genres, but this one is my go to!

Don’t forget to go visit Kendra at Reads and Treats!

Tunesday: All the Bright Places

AlltheBrightToday’s song an book pairing is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven with Antiseptic by Discount. I think that Antiseptic is a good song to represent the friendship based on shared mental illness between Finch and Violet. They go through the novel leaning on each other to work through the world dealing with depression.

Discount has been one of my most favorite bands since I first heard them back in 1996. You might recognize the voice as belonging to Alison Mosshart now of the rock band, The Kills. I preferred her poppunk days, but she continues to amaze me with her chaotic mind.

Review: Psychopomp and Cirumstance by Adrean Messmer

Thank you to Sage’s Blog Tours for providing an eBook copy of Psychopomp and Circumstance by Adrean Messmer so I could participate in this blog tour with the following review.
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I cannot begin this review without first addressing this amazing cover art. It took me back to a time when I was thoroughly unsettled by the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark artwork, yet could not look away. It pairs very well with the story found inside.

It starts off with a mysterious Facebook post by Nell. She can’t recall writing it, nor does she even understand the reference to something called the Sewercide Man. She is quickly able to do some damage control before her friends see it and question her sanity. Nell proceeds to do what most of the newly graduated kids in the town of Bandon do, go party at Zack’s house. It seems that Nell and her group of friends (frienemies?) are the ones who have no clear plan on what path to take now that they no longer have high school to wake up for.

The Sewercide Man begins to make his presence known first to Nell through visions of his creepy crooked face and disheveled umbrella. As he makes his appearances more frequently, a virus-like wave of violent behavior takes over the town. We find out that the Sewercide Man is a deceased serial killer who terrorized Bandon many years before. His moniker made up by Nell’s friend, Kelly, as a child which she has uttered to no one. As you make your way through the novel, you get a point of view from several of the group and their run-ins with this sickness of murder, and what now seem to be somewhat cognizant zombie versions of their friends and other folks around town. We are left with our head spinning over who is really dead, who is going to make it, who is a disease induced hallucination?

The book was a quick read and I really did not want to put it down. However, it did come with a couple of faults. There may have been a touch too many POVs, thus making it a little hard to keep up with who was dating who or why someone was seeking another’s home in refuge. I would also like to see more care with the transgender character. I think the trope of finding out someone is trans by surprise through a sex scene needs to be retired out of respect for the trans community.

We have a lot of work to do in supporting women in publishing, but especially when that genre is horror. I am excited to see what Adrean Messmer puts on the page next.

Tunesday – The Rest of Us Just Live Here

TheRestOfUs.jpgAs graduation approaches Mike and his friends just want to make it through all of the mundane end of the year rigamarole so they can continue on with their lives. Unfortunately there are a group of kids in his town lovingly referred to as the “indie kids” who seem to be all of the chosen ones.

In The Rest of Us Just Live Here Patrick Ness brings us the story of the kids in the background. Basically this is the Perceys and the Larrys of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Ness gives a few nods to BtVS throughout the novel which brought me joy. This book was great and had one of the most diverse character spreads I have seen in young adult fiction. None of which felt forced or tokenized. The fact that all of these kids are just trying to have fun with their friends and do their thing in order to graduate I present a lovely poppunk song about dealing with high school and getting out alive, Doing Time by MxPx.