Outlandish Lit

10 Books To Look For This July

Friday, July 7, 2017

10 Books To Look For This July :: Outlandish Lit
Honestly, we could just call this post "10 Books To Look For This July 11" because I guess that's the only suitable day for book publishing this month. Insightful and biting commentary aside, I'm super hyped about all of these books coming out this month and YOU SHOULD BE TOO (if you want to be, it is truly your choice). What have we got on the docket this July? Cults! Arson! Mysterious tapes! Sad stuff! Alien stuff! All the stuff you could ever need!!

In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult by Rebecca Stott (July 4)

Rebecca Stott was born a fourth-generation Brethren and she grew up in England, in the Brighton branch of the Exclusive Brethren cult in the early 1960s. Her family dated back to the group's origins in the first half of the nineteenth century, and her father was a high-ranking minister. However, as an intelligent, inquiring child, Stott was always asking dangerous questions and so, it turns out, was her father, who was also full of doubt. When a sex scandal tore the Exclusive Brethren apart in 1970, her father pulled the family out of the cult. But its impact on their lives shaped everything before and all that was to come.

Found Audio by N.J. Campbell (July 11)

Amrapali Anna Singh is an historian and analyst capable of discerning the most cryptic and trivial details from audio recordings. One day, a mysterious man appears at her office in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, having traveled a great distance to bring her three Type IV audio cassettes that bear the stamp of a library in Buenos Aires that may or may not exist.

On the cassettes is the deposition of an adventure journalist and his obsessive pursuit of an amorphous, legendary, and puzzling "City of Dreams." Spanning decades, his quest leads him from a snake-hunter in the Louisiana bayou to the walled city of Kowloon on the eve of its destruction, from the Singing Dunes of Mongolia to a chess tournament in Istanbul. The deposition also begs the question: Who is making the recording, and why?

Here—for the first time—is the complete archival manuscript of the mysterious recordings accompanied by Singh's analysis.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (July 11)

The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage...

The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie’s confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder. He wasn’t lighting fires alone; his crimes were galvanized by a surprising love story. Over a year of investigating, Hesse uncovered the motives of Charlie and his accomplice, girlfriend Tonya Bundick, a woman of steel-like strength and an inscrutable past. Theirs was a love built on impossibly tight budgets and simple pleasures. They were each other’s inspiration and escape…until they weren’t.

...A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. - Reading this right now and it is SO GOOD.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (July 11)

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss.

The Rift by Nina Allan (July 11)

Selena and Julie are sisters. As children they were close, but as they grow older, a rift develops between them. There are greater rifts, however. Julie goes missing aged seventeen. It will be twenty years before Selena sees her again. When Julie reappears, she tells Selena an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. Does Selena dismiss her sister as a the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity?

Goodbye, Vitamon by Rachel Khong (July 11)

A young woman returns home to care for her failing father in this fine, funny, and inescapably touching debut, from an affecting and wonderfully original new literary voice.

A few days after Christmas in a small suburb outside of L.A., pairs of a man's pants hang from the trees. The pants belong to Howard Young, a prominent history professor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Howard's wife, Annie, summons their daughter, Ruth. Freshly disengaged from her fiance and still broken up about it, feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job and arrives home to find her parents' situation worse than she'd realized. Her father is erratically lucid and her mother, a devoted and creative cook, sees the sources of memory loss in every pot and pan. But as Howard's condition intensifies, the comedy in Ruth's situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief. She throws herself into caretaking: cooking dementia-fighting meals (a feast of jellyfish!), researching supplements, anything to reignite her father's once-notable memory. And when the university finally lets Howard go, Ruth and one of her father's handsome former students take their efforts to help Howard one step too far.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (July 11)

1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven't seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she's got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter's been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.

Dichronauts by Greg Egan (July 11)

Seth is a surveyor, along with his friend Theo, a leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right. Theo, in turn, relies on Seth for mobility, and for ordinary vision looking forwards and backwards. Like everyone else in their world, they are symbionts, depending on each other to survive.

In the universe containing Seth's world, light cannot travel in all directions: there is a “dark cone” to the north and south. Seth can only face to the east (or the west, if he tips his head backwards). If he starts to turn to the north or south, his body stretches out across the landscape, and to rotate as far as north-north-east is every bit as impossible as accelerating to the speed of light.

Every living thing in Seth’s world is in a state of perpetual migration as they follow the sun’s shifting orbit and the narrow habitable zone it creates. Cities are being constantly disassembled at one edge and rebuilt at the other, with surveyors mapping safe routes ahead.

But when Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they discover a terrifying threat: a fissure in the surface of the world, so deep and wide that no one can perceive its limits. As the habitable zone continues to move, the migration will soon be blocked by this unbridgeable void, and the expedition has only one option to save its city from annihilation: descend into the unknown.

Tomorrow's Kin by Nancy Kress (July 11)

Tomorrow's Kin is the first volume in and all new hard SF trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday's Kin.

The aliens have arrived... they've landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth's most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster, and not everyone is willing to wait. - Nancy Kress is an amazing writer and if you like literary sci-fi, you should definitely check her out.

The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt (July 18)

In these marvelously inventive stories, Samantha Hunt imagines numerous ways in which lives might be altered by the otherworldly. An FBI agent falls in love with a robot built for a suicide mission. A young woman unintentionally cheats on her husband when she is transformed, nightly, into a deer. Two strangers become lovers and find themselves somehow responsible for the resurrection of a dog. A woman tries to start her life anew after the loss of a child but cannot help riddling that new life with lies. Thirteen pregnant teenagers develop a strange relationship with the Founding Fathers of American history. A lonely woman’s fertility treatments become the stuff of science fiction.

Magic intrudes. Technology betrays and disappoints. Infidelities lead us beyond the usual conflict. Our bodies change, reproduce, decay, and surprise. With her characteristic unguarded gaze and offbeat humor, Hunt has conjured stories that urge an understanding of youth and mortality, magnification and loss, and hold out the hope that we can know one another more deeply or at least stand side by side to observe the mystery of the world.  - Author of Mr. Splitfoot! Yes!

What books are you looking forward to this July?

11 Books To Look For This June

Monday, June 5, 2017

11 Books To Look For This June :: Outlandish Lit
Oh hey, reading friends. Long time, no see. I'm here to bring you a list of books that you should try to get your hands on this June! It's finally summertime and I can finally be a happy person again. I recently got back from WisCon, a feminist sci-fi convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and it got me super hyped about book things. Inspired by panels I attended there, I made a point of including some speculative fiction in translation on this reading list (definitely a subcategory of book I've always enjoyed). Enjoy, and happy summer!!

The Answers by Catherine Lacey (June 6)

In Catherine Lacey’s ambitious second novel we are introduced to Mary, a young woman living in New York City and struggling to cope with a body that has betrayed her. All but paralyzed with pain, Mary seeks relief from a New Agey treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, PAKing for short. And, remarkably, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive and Mary is dead broke. So she scours Craigslist for fast-cash jobs and finds herself applying for the “Girlfriend Experiment,” the brainchild of an eccentric actor, Kurt Sky, who is determined to find the perfect relationship—even if that means paying different women to fulfill distinctive roles. Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection.

ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino (June 6)

This novel centers on the “It’s me” telephone scam—often targeting the elderly—that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, “Hey, it’s me,” and goes on to claim in great distress that he’s been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.

ME’s narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi’s tray at McDonald’s. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki’s mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.

Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki’s mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a “me” living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash (June 6)

“In Stephen Florida, Gabe Habash has created a coming-of-age story with its own, often explosive, rhythm and velocity. Habash has a canny sense of how young men speak and behave, and in Stephen, he’s created a singular character: funny, ambitious, affecting, but also deeply troubled, vulnerable, and compellingly strange. This is a shape-shifter of a book, both a dark ode to the mysteries and landscapes of the American West and a complex and convincing character study.” —Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life

Foxcatcher meets The Art of Fielding, Stephen Florida follows a college wrestler in his senior season, when every practice, every match, is a step closer to greatness and a step further from sanity. Profane, manic, and tipping into the uncanny, it's a story of loneliness, obsession, and the drive to leave a mark.

American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron (June 6)

In the scorching summer of 1878, with the Gilded Age in its infancy, three tenacious and brilliant scientists raced to Wyoming and Colorado to observe a rare total solar eclipse. One sought to discover a new planet. Another—an adventuresome female astronomer—fought to prove that science was not anathema to femininity. And a young, megalomaniacal inventor, with the tabloid press fast on his heels, sought to test his scientific bona fides and light the world through his revelations. David Baron brings to three-dimensional life these three competitors—James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison—and thrillingly re-creates the fierce jockeying of nineteenth-century American astronomy. With spellbinding accounts of train robberies and Indian skirmishes, the mythologized age of the last days of the Wild West comes alive as never before. A magnificent portrayal of America’s dawn as a scientific superpower, American Eclipse depicts a young nation that looked to the skies to reveal its towering ambition and expose its latent genius.

The Sacred Era by Aramaki Yoshio (June 13)

The magnum opus of a Japanese master of speculative fiction, and a book that established Yoshio Aramaki as a leading representative of the genre, The Sacred Era is part post-apocalyptic world, part faux-religious tract, and part dream narrative. In a distant future ruled by a new Papal Court serving the Holy Empire of Igitur, a young student known only as K arrives at the capital to take The Sacred Examination, a text that will qualify him for metaphysical research service with the court. His performance earns him an assignment in the secret Planet Bosch Research Department; this in turn puts him on the trail of a heretic executed many years earlier, whose headless ghost is still said to haunt the Papal Court, which carries him on an interplanetary pilgrimage across the Space Taklamakan Desert to the Planet Loulan, where time stands still, and finally to the mysterious, supposedly mythical Planet Bosch, a giant, floating plant-world that once orbited Earth but has somehow wandered 1,000 light years away.

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (June 13)

"It is fitting that I'm beginning a new notebook up here. New surroundings and new ideas, a new beginning. Fresh air."

These are the opening lines of the journal kept by the narrator of Daniel Kehlmann's spellbinding new novel: the record of the seven days that he, his wife, and his four-year-old daughter spend in a house they have rented in the mountains of Germany—a house that thwarts the expectations of his recollection and seems to defy the very laws of physics. The narrator is eager to finish a screenplay, entitled Marriage, for a sequel to the movie that launched his career, but something he cannot explain is undermining his convictions and confidence, a process he is recording in this account of the uncanny events that unfold as he tries to understand what, exactly, is happening around him—and in himself. - This book is SO TINY, both in length and height.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (June 13)

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . . An emerging AI uprising . . . And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about. - WHAT.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle (June 13)

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air. Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.

Aberrant by Marek Šindelka (June 15)

A multifaceted work that defies easy classification, a variety of genres and styles are mixed and mashed together to thwart the reader's expectations. The result is a heady concoction of crime story, horror story (inspired by the Japanese tradition of kaidan), ecological revenge fantasy, and Siberian shamanism where nothing is what it seems. What appears to be human is nothing more than a shell occupied by an alien spirit, or demon. What appears to be a built-up district of Prague reveals itself to be a flood plain once the waters of the Vltava rise to inundate it. And what appears to be an unassuming plant is an aggressive parasite that harbors a poisonous substance within or manifests itself as an assassin, a phantom that has no real substance. The blind see and the seeing are blind. Through these devices Šindelka weaves a tale of three childhood friends, the errant paths their lives take, and the world of rare plant smuggling – and the consequences of taking the wrong plant – to show the rickety foundation of illusions on which our relationship to the environment, and to one another, rests. It is a world of aberrations, anomalies, and mistakes.

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones (June 20)

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you'd rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost. - A Native American author to check out if you haven't read him yet!!

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck (June 27)

Vanja, a government worker, leaves her home city of Essre for the austere, wintry colony of Amatka on a research assignment. It takes some adjusting: people act differently in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja finds herself falling in love with her housemate, Nina, and decides to stick around. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony and a cover-up by its administration, she begins an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.

In Karin Tidbeck's dystopic imagining, language has the power to shape reality. Unless objects, buildings, and the surrounding landscape are repeatedly named, and named properly, everything will fall apart. Trapped in the repressive colony, Vanja dreams of using language to break free, but her individualism may well threaten the very fabric of reality. - Ok, Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck is one of my favorite short story collections OF ALL TIME. I'm so excited to read her linguistics-heavy, queer debut novel. Seriously, her writing is so so beautiful & original.

What books are you looking forward to this June??

A Readathon Mini-Challenge: #CoverFromMemory

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Happy Readathon, everybody! I'm happy to be here with a ridiculous mini-challenge for you. I don't know about you all, but even before I was a bookseller, I prided myself on how I would remember the covers of books. I'm not completely helpless when a customer comes up to me and says that they don't know the name of the book, but it's blue. But how good would I actually be at reproducing these book covers? It's time to find out.

What I want you to do is think of a book. Now, with no googling or shelf-searching, you need to draw it. You don't need to be an artist! Let's be real, the uglier it is, the funnier it is. Imaginary bonus points if you use MS Paint. Here's my example where I drew Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter.


Accuracy won't get you the win; just participation! Either post your creation in the comments or share it on social media with the hashtags #Readathon and #CoverFromMemory. The winner will be randomly chosen and will get to choose a prize from the prize page. Good luck!

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon :: April 2017

Hello, bookfrnds! This is my fifth time participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and I'm as excited as ever. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out that link to sign up. It's exactly what it sounds like - you try to read for 24 hours. And there are prizes!

I work for approximately 4 hours today, but it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I'm co-hosting the readathon for a second time now, so be sure to say hi on the Readathon Twitter between 5 pm and 7 pm central time. Also look out for my posts on the Readathon blog! Oh! And I'm hosting a mini-challenge here on the blog at 9 am central time. Get in on it, it'll be fun, I promise!!
I'll keep my list of books finished here:
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Most of my real-time, v exciting updates will be posted on twitter, instagram, and you can now find me on Litsy as OutlandishLit! But I'll be using this post every few hours to update as well. Let me know if you're participating!


Hour 0

1 // What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2 // Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer!!! Also tbh some nonfiction books about gardening, because I have SO MUCH to learn.

3 // Which snack are you most looking forward to?

God, I never do enough snack prep. I have like 5 stroopwaffels left, but that's kind of all. I have some banana chips too.

4 // Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a spooky gal who likes to read weird books. I'm a bookseller and I'm now training to be a used book buyer at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis. I like forests, intersectional feminism, horror movies, reality tv, propagating succulents, crafting pretty things, studying Japanese, and traveling.

5 // If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I really would like to challenge myself to read 1,000 pages. I'm normally super low key and don't like putting any pressure on myself. But like... 1,000 would be cool haha. I know that's nothing for a lot of readathoners, but I'm bad at focusing. I'd ALSO like if some of my friends stopped by my place for ~communal reading~ but I haven't officially organized anything sooooo.

Hour 8

Well, because I had work in the morning I've only been reading for two hours now. But that's better than nothing!!

I've been spending most of my time listening to an audiobook: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. It was very necessary as I was getting ready for work in the morning then sorting out my life when I got home from work. I started reading Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel, the sequel to Sleeping Giants, because I felt like I wanted to stop listening to things and hold a book. I got 30 pages in and am having fun reading it so far, but my eyes are already tired from work and waking up so early. Back to the audio book now and closing my eyes for a bit.

Hour 12

1. What are you reading right now?
Still listening to The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

2. How many books have you read so far?
0! haha

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'd like to check out The Goddesses

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Wooooork and other things. I kind of just had to do those things.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How I'm so amazing at not focusing!!

Hour 18

I finished my first book during hour 17!! It was the audiobook of The Fishermen. I really liked the narration, but, I don't know, I just didn't love this book. Everybody else was obsessed with it when it came out and I thought it was fine. I'm just not sure what I missed.

I'm halfway through Waking Gods right now and I think I can finish it before I head to bed (I must, because I work tomorrow morning). It is just a breeze to read. Did I want to read more than this? Yes. Did work actually take 5 hours and was I super tired after? Also yes. So no hard feelings, me. I'm settling in with my chai tea now and I hope everyone has a great late evening/early morning of reading!

Hour 24

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? 
Hour 9 or 10, because I was asleep af.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?
The Themis Files trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel is perfect for readathon. Most of it is written in interview format, so it's super fast to read. And it's ACTION PACKED.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?
72 hour readathon
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? 
The youtube video I found with noises of being on a train haha
5. How many books did you read? 
2! And they were both like 300 pages, proud of me.
6. What were the names of the books you read? 
The Fishermen, Waking Gods
7. Which book did you enjoy most? 
Waking Gods!! It was just a lot of fun. V good for what it was.
8. Which did you enjoy least? 
The Fishermen. I'm not sure why there was SO MUCH crazy hype. It was good, but I wasn't blown away.
9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? 
~forever co-host~


Outlandish Lit 2017 Fiction Preview :: Part Two

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Outlandish Lit 2017 Fiction Preview :: Part Two

Welcome to the second part of the first ever Outlandish Lit (mostly) full year fiction preview! The list of 50-ish fiction books to look for continues from April on. Much of what's coming out in the fall is still an exciting mystery. Once again, I tried to leave out the big ones you probably already know about (new Murakami, Gay, Ward, Oates, etc. etc.) and also books that are in a series, but are not the first of it. If you love N.K. Jemisin or Sylvain Neuvel, you probably already know you're getting new installations this year.


Borne - Jeff VanderMeer
Mother fucking Jeff VanderMeer!!!! Author of the Southern Reach Trilogy AND MORE, the king of weird and of my heart is back with a stand-alone novel (as far as I know). I really don't want to know too much about it before I go in, but I know it's post apocalyptic, and there is a talking bear (I think). And there's also a creature named Borne. I don't know what it is, but it seems weird. It's going to be great and no doubt have amazing environmental themes.

Proof of Concept - Gwyneth Jones
This sounds like a pick for my WestWorld loving friends. It's a novel about a cyborg (sort of). We're set in an overcrowded Earth that's taken some serious hits from climate change. The government is trying to keep everybody chill and potentially get them to a habitable exoplanet. The main character is a human who hosts  an AI, Altair, in her brain. So they are two characters. "But Altair knows something he can’t tell. Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling?"

American War - Omar El Akkad
In 2074, a second civil war breaks out in America. TOPICAL! This book sounds like a bummer with its government drones, global warming, and despair. The main character goes to a place called "Camp Patience" which sounds like an internment camp to me despite its super fun name. I guess we'll have to read and find out just how badly America will ruin itself.

The Boy in the Earth - Fuminori Nakamura
I don't know anything more about this book than the description, so I may as well just show you: "An unnamed taxi driver in Tokyo ... cannot stop daydreaming of suicide, envisioning himself returning to the earth in what soon become terrifying blackout episodes. His live-in girlfriend, Sayuko, is in a similarly bad phase, surrendering to alcoholism to escape the memory of her miscarriage. He meets with the director of the orphanage where he once lived, and must confront awful memories of his past and an abusive family before determining what to do next." I LOVE FUN BOOKS.

Tender: Stories - Sofia Samatar
Sofia Samatar, author of Stranger in Olondria (a book I haven't read yet but really want to) is releasing her debut collection of short stories. Samatar is a sci-fi fantasy powerhouse, and they will all be amazing I'm sure.

Tell Me How This Ends Well - David Samuel Levinson
Here's another topical one for you. It's 2022, and due to a flood of Israeli refugees entering America, there is anti-Semitism abound. In this tense environment, a Jewish family is planning a reunion, but they are also plotting the murder of one of the family members. This book seems very dark and funny, and I am excited to check out this Jewish author.

Hekla's Children - James Brogden
The cover of this book is what drew me in. "A decade ago, teacher Nathan Brookes saw four of his students walk up a hill and vanish. Only one returned – Olivia – starved, terrified, and with no memory of where she’d been. After a body is found in the same woodland where they disappeared, it is first believed to be one of the missing children, but is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior, nothing more than an archaeological curiosity." Then some shit goes down. WHAT.

Beneath - Kristi Demeester
Wow, there is next to no information about this book out at the moment, but from the author's mouth herself: "It’s what I like to call my apocalyptic, snake-handling novel. It’s about a journalist sent to write a story on a snake-handling church in Appalachia. She uncovers what initially looks to be some kind of possession or mental illness, but is something much, much older and darker." Yes, please.

Marlena - Julie Buntin
I love love love intense stories about female friendships. Marlena and Cat meet in a rural Michigan town in their teens. Marlena is quirky, beautiful, and over medicated. Cat is innocent and plain and so willing to do whatever it takes to be Marlena's friend. They form a bond incredibly quickly and in less than a year Marlena has died. As an adult, Marlena looks back on how this friendship shaped her life, which was darker than it often seemed. I'm ready to cry.


Fen - Daisy Johnson
What some of these strange short stories are about: "Amid the marshy paths of the fens, a teenager might starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl and grow jealous of her friend. A boy might return from the dead in the guise of a fox." Love it.

Black Mad Wheel - Josh Malerman
Malerman's first horror novel was Bird Box, a book heavily focused on hearing instead of seeing. Continuing the hearing theme, we've got Black Mad Wheel. A band is approached by an army agent who asks them to go to an African desert to find the source of "a mysterious and malevolent sound." Creepy weird sounds, desert, conspiracy?? Say no more.

Broken River - J. Robert Lennon
This book sounds like a haunted house story to me, but it also seems far to literary to refer to itself as that. But maybe I'm projecting. There is for sure a "spectral presence" watching an old house. After being empty for a few years after some sort of incident, a new family moves in. Some of the family members become obsessed with murders that occurred in that very house. It seems dark and it also promises to be "comic." I love just about anything like this, tbh.

Little Sister - Barbara Gowdy
This novel has a Helen Phillips blurb (author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat)!! Main character Rose has intense dreams about being in another woman's body. Is it just a dream or is it real?? Her mother has dementia, her sister died when she was young, and now Rose is intent on helping a woman she hasn't met. According to Phillips "Brilliantly, devastatingly, Barbara Gowdy unveils the alternate possibilities hidden within the everyday."


The Answers - Catherine Lacey
In an effort to cover costs of a New Age treatment that actually helps Mary who is "all but paralyzed with pain," Mary finds a job on Craigslist. But this isn't just any job. It's called the "Girlfriend Experiment." Each woman involved in this experiment created by an eccentric actor is meant to fill a different role. "Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection." Bonkers. I want to read.

Kintu - Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Makumbi promises with this novel to give us a truly Ugandan experience, and I am so hyped. "In 1750, Kintu Kidda unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. In this ambitious tale of a clan and of a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future." Reviewers say that everyone should read it, and we fall into that category.

Mapping the Interior - Stephen Graham Jones
Oops, do we have another haunted house book already? Ok, I don't know if this one is necessarily haunted. It sounds more like a House of Leaves situation. A 15-year-old boy discovers that the house is bigger than he originally knew it to be, so he sets out to map it out. But at what cost??? Stephen Graham Jones is a big player in literary horror, and the family in this novel is explicitly Native American, which is awesome.

Stephen Florida - Gabe Habash
If a book has a cover this good AND a blurb by Hanya Yanagihara, there is literally no reason not to read it. This is a character study set in the American West about a college wrestler named, you guessed it, Stephen Florida. The more he wrestles and improves during his final season, the more unstable he gets. Yanagihara says, "in Stephen, he’s created a singular character: funny, ambitious, affecting, but also deeply troubled, vulnerable, and compellingly strange."

You Should Have Left - Daniel Kehlmann
Getting some The Shining vibes from this book, tbh, but I'm not sure if it's creepy or just weird. The main character is a writer who brings his family to stay in a house in the mountains of Germany for seven days. And it may or may not defy the laws of physics. Was I wrong about The Shining?? At only 128 pages, I imagine this will be an intense read.


Attic - Katherine Dunn
Yes, you read that right. KATHERINE DUNN. Author of Geek Love, my favorite book, who died in 2016. She didn't write much fiction at all, but her debut that I had never heard of is being reissued this year! It sounds like it's a very short fictional journal of a insane woman basically. People either think it's a masterpiece or they hate it entirely. If you are somebody who needs a book to have a plot, beware.

The Dark Dark: Stories - Samantha Hunt
Mr. Splitfoot absolutely blew me away last year, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Hunt's short stories. They're going to be weird af. For example: "An FBI agent falls in love with a robot built for a suicide mission. A young woman unintentionally cheats on her husband when she is transformed, nightly, into a deer. Two strangers become lovers and find themselves somehow responsible for the resurrection of a dog...Thirteen pregnant teenagers develop a strange relationship with the Founding Fathers of American history." Her writing is beautiful and she has a knack for weird plots that come together in mind blowing ways.

Found Audio - N.J. Campbell
Now this is my kind of plot. A mysterious man brings Amrapali Anna Singh, historian and expert audio recording analyst, three cassettes "that bear the stamp of a library in Buenos Aires that may or may not exist." They contain the deposition of an adventurer who was obsessed with finding the "City of Dreams." There are so many questions about where this came from and who made it, that Singh sends it to a friend. Then she disappears. Just like the man who gave the cassettes to her. This book is the transcription of the recordings. BRING IT ON. Also, this book has a blurb by Christian Kiefer, an author who I stalk for book recs.

Goodbye, Vitamin - Rachel Khong
God, do I ever shut up about blurbs? This book has one written by Miranda July. OK, THAT'S ALL I'LL SAY.  A thirty-year-old woman, Ruth, whose engagement recently fell apart quits her job to move in with her parents, because her father as diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Life didn't seem to be going the way Ruth planned and her father is only getting worse. Helping her father regain his memory is something new for Ruth to focus on and learn from. This book sounds funny and sad and sweet and I'll probably cry the whole time, who knows, I'm always crying.

Dichronauts - Greg Egan
If you are looking for a sci-fi book that is nearly impossible to explain to friends or strangers or anyone at all, boy, do I have the book for you. Seth has a friend named Theo, who happens to be a "leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right." Seth can only see in certain directions. If he turns certain directions, his body begins to stretch. Everybody is always moving, searching for a safe place to live, because the habitable zones change. Cities are moved and rebuilt constantly to stay in habitable zones. What am I even talking about anymore?? If this wasn't bad enough, there's a fissure in the surface of the world. GREAT. I hope everything works out for Seth and his leech skull friend.

The Goddesses - Swan Huntley
Hawaii, baby!! See, I don't know if this is a book I would love or hate, but I'm too intrigued not to mention it. Sidenote: Swan Huntley sounds like the name of a goddess. Unfair. Anyway, a family moves to Hawaii for a fresh start after Nancy's husband cheated on her and her twins have been obnoxious. Life is getting better, but Nancy forms a very strong relationship with a yoga teacher named Ana. Nancy starts leaving the twins on their own to hang out with Ana and doing anything Ana asks her to do. But it's just because she's happy, there's definitely nothing menacing about this relationship at all!!  God, I really want to know what happens in this "mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation." Also, I like Hawaii.


The Grip of It - Jac Jemc
One last haunted house book. I swear this is the last one. A young couples moves in and tries to be cool despite some slight personal problems but, OF COURSE, "The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink." Ew. They've clearly got some stuff to figure out about who lived there before, and probably a little bit to figure out about themselves, if I'm being honest.


Her Body & Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado is an author I know nothing about, but this collection of short stories sounds veeeery interesting. She mixes sci-fi, horror, realism, and fabulism - MY FAVORITE THINGS. And here is the glorious list of highlighted topics in her stories: "A woman lists her sexual encounters as a plague spreads across the world. A resident at a writers’ colony is haunted by the memory of a long-ago night at Girl Scout camp. A young wife refuses to remove the green ribbon from her neck, despite her husband’s pleading. And the centerpiece is the virtuosic novella “Especially Heinous,” in which Machado recaps every single episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, dropping Benson and Stabler into a phantasmagoria of doppelgängers and girls-with-bells-for-eyes."

If you missed it, part one is here.
May your 2017 reading be the weirdest yet.

Outlandish Lit 2017 Fiction Preview :: Part One

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Outlandish Lit 2017 Fiction Preview

Welcome to the first ever Outlandish Lit (mostly) full year fiction preview! I hope you love long book lists with personal commentary as much as I do, because I may have gone overboard trying to preview you with 2017 fiction. I tried to leave out the big ones you probably already know about (new Murakami, Gay, Ward, Oates, etc. etc.) and also books that are in a series, but not the first of it. If you love N.K. Jemisin or Sylvain Neuvel, you probably already know you're getting new installations this year. It was difficult, but I narrowed it down to the 50-ish most interesting looking books for this 2017 preview. I'm sure there are so many deserving books that were missed or books that I will hear about later in the year and need immediately. Don't hesitate to leave what books you're looking forward to in the comments!


Homesick for Another World - Ottessa Moshfegh
Ottesha Moshfegh has a book of short stories out!!! Eileen was pretty weird and funny, sort of. I'm excited to see what her stories have in store for us. Apparently, "the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion." Dope.

Fever Dream - Samanta Schweblin
I'm pretty sure this book has been mentioned on the last twenty episodes of Book Riots All the Books podcast. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but Liberty Hardy likes it a lot, and is confused by it. "Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale."

Perfect Little World - Kevin Wilson
I haven't read Kevin Wilson before, but I hear he's clever. This novel about a Utopian experiment in which nine couples all raise their children as one family sounds kind of dark, especially considering the main character is a recent high school graduate who is pregnant with her art teacher's baby. YIKES. This sounds like it's going to go really well.

Under a Watchful Eye - Adam Nevill
Adam Nevill's The Ritual is one of the scariest books I've ever read. At least the first half of it was. In this new horror novel, a man believes he is being stalked: "To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for." SPOOKY.

Human Acts - Han Kang
A new book from the author of The Vegitarian, which won awards, even though it wasn't my favorite book ever. I'm still intrigued by Han Kang. This new, equally slim book is about a young boy who is killed during a violent student uprising in South Korea. The novel features the perspectives of different people affected by this act of violence. Sounds good.

Little Heaven - Nick Cutter
GIVE ME MORE CULTS!! Nick Cutter writes horror novels. Some of them are good. Some of them aren't as good. But this premise sounds too amazing to be missed. Three people are hired to find a woman's nephew, who was maybe taken against his will to a settlement called Little Heaven. Some shit goes down, presumably, and said shit may be more supernatural than one might expect. But I don't actually know, I haven't read it.

The Butcher's Hook - Janet Ellis
Not normally a historical fiction gal, but this one was described as dark AND quirky. It's 1763 in London, and Anne is not digging her life. She has a husband lined up by her parents, but she wants the butcher's apprentice who is named Fub, because of course. "In the matter of pursuing her own happiness, she shows no fear or hesitation. Even if it means getting a little blood on her hands."


Agents of Dreamland - Caitlín R. Kiernan
Alright, I might be most excited about this book. Don't tell the other ones I said that. There is a cult (thank god) and also aliens, maybe! There's a special agent doing some stuff, the Children of the Next Level are preparing for the future, and "something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact." Is this the perfect book for me? I think yes.

Swimming Lessons - Claire Fuller
Claire Fuller!!! She wrote Our Endless Numbered Days, which was the most killer debut ever. I know that she can write about anything and I will love reading it. In Swimming Lessons, Ingrid writes letters to her husband about her relationship, but hides them in his books over the years instead of giving them to him. Then she disappears. Twelve years later, her husband Gil thinks that he sees her and his daughter comes back to figure out what happened to her mom. Will they find the letters??

Universal Harvester - John Darnielle
John Darnielle of the Mountain Goast is at it again with the book writing. This time it seems pretty scary. A guy who works at a video store has people coming in with movies they rented that have something strange on them. The movies are interrupted with black and white scenes of a barn overlaid with the sound of breathing. The barn looks very similar to one outside of town. AAHHH. Also, the ARC came in a VHS case, which is delightful.

The Good People - Hannah Kent
Hannah Kent finally has a new book!! I loved Burial Rites so much, despite not generally reading historical fiction. Her new book is set in Ireland in 1825. Nóra lost her daughter and husband and is now taking care of her grandson who can't walk or speak. People are very judgmental about him. Then she starts hanging out with a 14-year-old servant girl, Mary. Together they seek out an old distrusted woman who "consorts" with the Good People in the hopes of helping her grandson. Apparently "only she can return those whom they have taken..." I don't know what that means, but it sounds creepy to me.

Things We Lost in the Fire - Mariana Enríquez
I love some disturbing short stories. These cover all of my favorite topics: "From women who set themselves on fire in protest of domestic violence to angst-ridden teenage girls, friends until death do they part, to street kids and social workers, young women bored of their husbands or boyfriends, to a nine-year-old serial killer of babies and a girl who pulls out her nails and eyelids in the classroom, to hikikomori, abandoned houses, black magic, northern Argentinean superstition, disappearances, crushes, heartbreak, regret and compassion."

Twenty Days of Turin - Georgio De Maria
I have no idea what to say about this book. It sounds so bizarre. Is it fantasy? Is it horror? I don't know or remember what the website said. In the city of Turin, there is a "twenty-day phenomenon of collective psychosis" that results in a bloody mess every night that nobody can explain. Apparently there is also a library where people read each others' diaries? Those get dark too. The phrase "city's occult netherworld" is used in the description, and that's all I need to hear.

Shadowbahn - Steve Erickson
The twin towers appear in the Badlands (one of my favorite places), WHAT. This rightly freaks people out. People begin to congregate there and everybody claims to hear a different song coming from the towers. Then some people think they can see somebody in the high windows of one of the towers. And it only gets weirder from there, I assume.

Encircling - Carl Frode Tiller
The first in an interesting trilogy, Encircling is about a man who loses his memory. He puts out an ad in the newspaper asking for people to share their memories of him. The book is three different accounts given by different people who knew him. Each person potentially has a troubling motivation for writing to him, and the stories of him sometimes contradict. What is the truth??? I love books about memory and also the nature of truth, so I'm very interested in where this goes.


Sonora - Hannah Lillith Assadi
This book has a blurb from Alexandra Kleeman!!! At first I wasn't sure about this book, because it seemed to saucy for me, but even just seeing Kleeman's name on the book sold me. "Ahlam, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and his Israeli wife, grows up in the arid lands of desert suburbia outside of Phoenix. She battles chronic fever dreams and isolation. When she meets her tempestuous counterpart Laura, the two fall into infatuated partnership, experimenting with drugs and sex, and watching helplessly as a series of mysterious deaths claim high school classmates. "

The Impossible Fairy Tale - Han Yujoo
Creepy Korean book, yes!!! The kids in this novel sound brutal af. One of them is so uncool she's just referred to as "the Child." The students in this school are consumed with rage and they craft their own horrible dark hierarchies within themselves. "Then, one day, the Child sneaks into the classroom after hours and adds ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks. This sinister but initially inconsequential act unlocks a series of events that end in horrible violence." I am here for this.

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace - Patty Yumi Cottrell
Described as "a bleakly comic tour de force" this is a book about suicide. Main character, Helen, learns that her adoptive brother killed himself. So she goes back home to figure out why he did it. "There, as she searches her childhood home and attempts to uncover why someone would choose to die, she will face her estranged family, her brother’s few friends, and the overzealous grief counselor, Chad Lambo; she may also discover what it truly means to be alive." Sounds dark, I'm into it.

The Barrowfields - Phillip Lewis
The Barrowfields does not immediately feel like a book for me, but every review of it is amazing. It's about father-son relationships and stuff, barf. A writer moves his family to his small Appalachian hometown. His son, Henry, is heavily influenced by his brilliant father, but when some sort of tragedy goes down, Henry doesn't like his dad so much. I guess in this book we'll figure out what happens between them. I'll trust that the Internet is right when it says that it's good.

The Night Ocean - Paul La Farge
"Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer's life: In the summer of 1934, the "old gent" lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow's family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends--or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he's solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears. The police say it's suicide. Marina is a psychiatrist, and she doesn't believe them." Sounds interesting enough.

Frontier - Can Xue
I might mostly like the idea of this book, because there's a place called Pebble Town in it. Apart from that, it's pretty surreal. "Wolves roam the streets and certain enlightened individuals can see and enter a paradisiacal garden." Sounds normal. "Can Xue's latest novel attempts to unify the grand opposites of life--barbarism and civilization, the spiritual and the material, the mundane and the sublime, beauty and death, Eastern and Western cultures."

The Fall of Lisa Bellow - Susan Perabo
A blogger I trust (hi, Sarah) really likes this author, so I want to as well. It's about what happens to the girl left behind when there's the abduction of a child. Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in eighth grade, was in a shop with Meredith, the main character, when she was held at gun point and kidnapped. The rest of the book is about how Meredith copes and how her mother struggles to help her.

Seeing People Off - Jana Beňová
"Beňová's short, fast novels are a revolution against normality." Sign me up. This Slovakian novel is about a young couple dealing with the loneliness of relationships, and probably other stuff. I'm very intrigued by her writing style, which has been compared to Renata Adler and Rosalyn Drexler. Also, what a glorious cover.

Camanchaca - Diego Zúñiga
If you want a book to make you really, really sad, this is probably the choice for you. It is conveniently also really, really short. "Camanchaca is a low fog pushing in from the sea, its moisture sustaining a near-barren landscape. Camanchaca is the discretion that makes a lifelong grief possible. Sometimes, the silences are what bind us." I'm already devastated just reading that.


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