What I’m reading lately, Vol. 1:1

When I recently ended the late, lamented (by me, anyway) Shelf Monkey blog, I also shut down my habit of publicly reviewing whatever works struck my fancy. This has actually allowed me to increase my reading; amazing how much you get through when you don’t take notes.

But I’ve read some great pieces of late, so I thought I’d share a few selections, quick book reviews or “quikborevs” with you. Call it a public service. You’re welcome.

Barbie Marries the Jolly Fat Baker and More Twisted Notions: Collected Stories 1996 – 2011, by Nick DiChario

  • I’m a huge fan of Nick’s work; his novel A Small and Remarkable Life is still one of the best I’ve read in this century. Nick recently released many of his short stories in eBook format, and I couldn’t help but pick them up. Barbie Marries the Jolly Fat Baker is a terrific collection with some amazing examples of fantastic fiction.

Citrus CountryCitrus County, by John Brandon

  • Are you a fan of Wes Anderson? You should be. If you are, you’ll love Citrus County, a bizarre adolescent kidnapping tale that plays like Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom mixed with the darker edge of J.D. Salinger. Brandon’s dialogue is of the type I always aspire to yet never can, realistic yet somehow deeply impossible. An amazing work, with characters that brim with life; Toby has echoes of Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman. McSweeney’s is a publisher that likes to take chances, and it pays off handsomely here.

Greetings from the Vodka Sea, by Chris Gudgeon

  • Another short story collection, this one lovingly saturated with sex. Gudgeon’s imagination knows few limits, and his gritty, oft-ribald pieces make warm my heart-cockles. The author’s novel Song of Kosovo on a must-read, and this collection is equally vivid, nasty, wondrous, and sexy. The title story is just plain wonderful.

The TwelveThe Twelve, by Justin Cronin

  • Cronin’s The Passage was a big epic vampire novel, the kind we just don’t see much of anymore, mainly because of its quality. No sparkly vamps here, just monsters who quickly send the world back a hundred years. I thought it a trifle confusing, and the sequel The Twelve doesn’t actually clear up as many questions as I’d like: I’m still not entirely sure how Amy came to be singled out in The Passage, and the huge cast of characters is overwhelming. But it’s still a heckuva fun story, full of grit and grime and monsters and characters who die at a moments notice. I’ll be interested to read how Cronin ends this series, but I’m more intrigued as to where he’ll go after.

Gun MachineGun Machine, by Warren Ellis

  • This has been getting a lot of buzz, and while I admire its verve, I can’t say as I’m as blown away as some. I’m a huge fan of Ellis’ first novel Crooked Little Vein, a nasty little satire that hit all the right spots. Gun Machine, a crime thriller about possible the greatest serial killer in history, is more concerned with quirk than crime, and while I’m a great fan of quirk, it never falls completely together for me. It’s a good ride, don’t get me wrong, and worth reading, but I wanted something just a bit meatier.