Athos in America

Written and drawn by Jason

Peel: A graphic novel composed of six short stories.

This was a lovely collection. The stories all had different characters, but had similar tones and ideas, which made for a cohesive collection. This collection was on the angrier side of things. As usual, Jason did an amazing job at conveying lots of emotion through simple anthropomorphic drawings.

I found all of the stories, except the title story, to be very strong and rather intense. One story has amusing scene of Jason doing a reading, quoting passages from one of his excellent mostly silent books- Hey, Wait…. Another story, Athos in America, didn’t come off as very strong to me, however it was supposed to be a prequel to another of his books “The Last Musketeer”, which I have yet to read. As a note this is one of Jason’s wordier pieces, which may not be to some fans’ taste.

I would recommend this to anyone who has really enjoyed Jason’s previous work or wants an introduction to graphic novels.

Nibble: “Go out and get me a body! Someone young this time…not some old wreck!”

My Rating: 9 out of 10 flat flavorful apples

Jason’s Blog

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Five Minute Erotica

Edited by Carol Queen

Peel: A collection of thirty-five steamy stories by various authors, aimed at heterosexual women.

Each story is, on average, three pages. Thus, there’s not so much to be done beforehand in terms of character development or description. Not all of the stories include explicit sex, but somehow incorporate sex into it- like an email from a lover, or thoughts about one’s partner. The stories are written for heterosexual women, though the situations change gender narrations they stay heterosexual for the most part. Besides who the stories are written for, the stories themselves are on the diverse side. For example, there are stories with power play, alien abduction, spanking, and dressing up as a kitten.

All in all the stories were a mixed bag for how sexy they were, and they tended to be on the tame side of acceptable kinkiness. Some stories were on the predictable side, especially the more vanilla ones. There are a few more editing mistakes then one would expect, however they don’t significantly detract from the reading experience.

Nibble: “She doesn’t think about his eyes, like she likes to tell herself; or about his lips, like she’d tell her friends if they knew about him […] She thinks about his hands.”

I would recommend this for heterosexual people who want a gentle introduction to erotica.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 little shiny red apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library; click here to read the extended version.

Carol Queen’s Site

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Ten Kinds of Trouble

Written by Ian Ashe

Peel: A collection of ten thriller stories. 

This collection was a mixed bag with individual story ratings ranging from three to nine out of ten. Many of the stories had gun violence, which began to feel formulaic after a few stories. Other types of violence are in fact represented, but the amount of guns pulled out was a heavy majority. All of the stories were highly suspenseful, and quickly pushed you through them. The stories were rather quick to read at around twelve pages. My favorite story was “After Everything Else”, mainly because of its open ending.

On the other hand, most of the stories were just gore with minimal plot and characters which resulted in the stories not being as effective or shocking when read together.

Nibble: “Killing people was his specialty, the thing he was known for, the reason he got out of bed every morning.”

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read some gory thriller stories.

My Rating: 5 out of 10 shot and sliced apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Ian Ashe’s Site

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Three Ways of the Saw

Written by Matt Mullins

Peel: This is a collection of twenty-five short stories and flash fiction, organized into three parts.

The stories were very gritty, and examined the darker sides of human nature. Alienation and pain are covered often, and the prose slowly drags the reader along. There were very few likable characters, but every character was rather interesting.

With the exception of three stories, the rest are all about a [probably white] heterosexual male narrator or protagonist, with a similar voice. The first section was all about the same character so it wasn’t as grating. There was one story, Getting Beaten, which I found extremely unsettling. The protagonist is very disagreeable in action and thought, and furthermore the story is written in second person. All in all, the stories are very provocative and well written. Mullins also quotes some lovely poems before each section to set the tone. I found this to be quite a mixed bag in terms of how much I liked the stories, ranging from four to nine out of ten ratings. My favorite story was either Shots or The Dog in Me.

Nibble from Shots: “Eventually, he noticed the sky begin to pale, and he stood up on uneasy legs, gnawed by the vague regret that there was something worth remembering he’d forgotten.”

I would recommend this to anyone who wants a disturbing and evoking read.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 jagged red apples

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers, Atticus Books,via NetGalley.

Matt Mullins’s Site

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River Daughter and Other Stories

Written by Annie Bellet

Peel: This is a fantasy short story collection, with a bonus of the first five chapters of A Heart in Sun and Shadow.

All of the stories are packed with lovely imagery and imagination. Bellet’s language was playful throughout and fun to read. A few of the stories were on the darker side, especially River Daughter, which balanced out all the whimsical fantasy. My favorite story of the collection was “The Scent of Sunlight”. All together the collection was a little under a hundred pages, and a quick read.

Though the characters were interesting, there wasn’t quite enough space to really deepen them. For that reason, some of the endings didn’t really feel satisfying. I would be interested in checking out this author’s longer works, a novel and a couple novellas, to see if everything comes together. From what I read of A Heart in Sun and Shadow, that looks promising.

Nibble: “She was always hungry these days, her little Truc consuming everything as soon as it entered her body and then kicking for more.”

I would recommend this to anyone who wants a few darker fairy tales.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 slippery golden apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Annie Bellet’s Site

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The Inhabitants of Magnolia Park

Written by Tracy James Jones

Peel: The collection is a novella and a short story, there was also a bonus short story.

The narration of all three pieces was very distinct. It felt like reading extended postsecrets; the language was starkly honest. The stories also came off as much more telling than showing because of this. Each story explored the human condition through a diverse cast of characters. Jones does a lovely job of creating realistic characters. All in all, it was an enjoyably thoughtful and quick read, and my favorite story of the three was “Paper Images”.

On the other hand, I didn’t like that the short stories and novella had quick descriptions right before you read them. It took some of the surprise and curiosity out of reading the beginnings of the stories. I also would have liked a few more stories in this collection to make it a cohesive character study collection. As a warning there is mention of violence and rape.

Nibble: “When she was drunk, she had a mouth on her according to his brother and local folklore, she could be meaner than a wet snake in the hot Texas sun.”

I would recommend this to someone who enjoys delving into the mind of characters.

My rating: 6 out of 10 billie bound apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Tracy James Jones’s Site

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Kurt Vonnegut: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Edited by Tom McCartan

Peel: Six interviews with Vonnegut, in chronological order. The last interview is rather quick, at around three pages. The interviews touch on his views of other writers, education, war, politics, religion, and his take on humanity.

The interviews were full of Vonnegut’s wit, and very amusing to read. Generally I find author interviews disappointing as their works tend to greatly outshine some random Q&A sessions. Happily, this was not the case here, and instead the interviews read more like little raw bits of Vonnegut. My favorite interview was a Playboy one also with Joseph Heller, in which their conversation covers many topics and drops many names. With a bit of time between the rereadings, I’d say the interviews are indeed rereadable. I found that the interviews deepened my appreciation for Vonnegut, and I’ll have to go read some now.

As lovely as the interviews were, they tended to be rather repetitive in content and questioning. Questioning on most of his work, besides Slaughterhouse Five, would have been nice.

Nibble: “I propose that every person out of work be required to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare check.” -Vonnegut

If you enjoy Vonnegut, you’ll enjoy his interviews.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 beautiful, painless, apples

I received an electronic copy from the publisher, Melville House, via NetGalley.

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The New Death and others

Written by James Hutchings

Peel: Forty-four stories and nineteen poems are in this collection.

The content of this collection ranges from satire to horror to the fantastic, and many of the stories end with little twists. The author is unapologetically opinionated in matters of politics, religion, and morals but I didn’t find that off-putting. The first story that opens up the collection is one of all the gods picking dominions, but no one wants to be the God of the Poor. Throughout the collection, the author’s uniqueness and creativity becomes pretty apparent. There’s quite a bit of lovely dark whimsical poetry that tended to read like a song. The stories read rather honestly regardless of however fantastic they were. This collection could also be reread, and if in print, I’d say it’d make a lovely little coffee table book.

The collection wasn’t organized in any way which makes it easy to start reading at random, but not so great for reading larger chunks. Such jumps, like from an amusing little poem to heavy political matter, could have been avoided with sectioning. I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite from the collection, but I preferred the shorter clever pieces of flash fiction and poetry best. The longer stories were good, but they lacked the snappy humor that characterized the others.

Nibble: “It was strange, Fame thought, that Death was not more popular. She was so cheerful, and so fond of children.”

I would heavily recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys witty twisted works.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 dark Bramley apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

James Hutchings’s Site

Get the collection for 99 cents on Amazon

Aesop Revisited- Book 1

Written by Ethan Russell Erway

Peel: Six of Aesop’s fables are juxtaposed with Erway’s revisions of them. Erway adds two original fables, and pens an foreword and afterword by ‘Aesop’.

The introduction was rather amusing, full of tongue in cheek humor and self-deprication. The retellings of the fables were rather silly, some political, and all modern. The first tale, about an ant being taxed to feed the animals who don’t work and a lazy union worker grasshopper, was the strongest. Part of the appeal of the fable retellings were how ridiculously heavy handed they were. The entire collection is fourteen fables, and a swift read.

On a stylistic note, some of the fables declared the moral at the end and others did not, a little uniformity would have been nice. Also some tales clearly had the same moral as the original fable and others had the faintest connection, uniformity on this too would have made for a more cohesive collection. Amusing as the collection was, I doubt it would stand to multiple reads but that may be more tied to its satirical nature.

Nibble: “Why do bald-headed men never use keys? Because they’ve lost their locks. Ha, ha.”

I would recommend this to anyone who would enjoy silly caricatures of fables.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 parody pears

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Ethan Erway’s Site

Get the Kindle version for 99 cents on Amazon

Three the Hard Way

Written by Matthew Iden

Peel: Three short stories each with their own twist. The Wrong Job has a couple in danger of the bank foreclosing their home, while two men are preparing to rob said bank. Dead Letter looks at the written aftermath of a heist with one member of the team in jail. Appalachian Love Story follows a woman’s train of thoughts when she realizes her husband is going to kill her.

At the end of all the stories Iden includes story notes, so one can see where he got his inspiration to write these stories. Especially after reading these, I thought he could have pushed the stories further. Appalachian Love Story for example could have built up its suspense much more, and deepened the reader’s understanding of and sympathy for the wife believing her husband’s going to kill her. Perhaps I would just prefer longer novellas or novels from this author, and apparently his debut novel is coming out soon. Anyways, Iden does leave loose ends in his stories, which make them fun to think about what may have happened next. Each of the stories were pretty quick, and all together they were around thirty pages.

Nibble: “When Buddy came to Ayla that day, crying and telling her how much he loved her, hands shaking so much it made the smoke from his Marlboro jiggle away uncertainly, she knew then that her husband was planning to kill her.”

I would recommend these to someone wanting an entertaining quick read.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 lucky twist apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Matthew Iden’s Site

Get the Kindle Version for 99 cents on Amazon