Pub Day Repost: Nightwolf by Willie Davis: A beautifully written book about some horrible people

NightwolfNightwolf

by Willie Davis
Kindle Edition, 286 pg.
7.13 Books, 2018
Read: July 12 – 16, 2018

The police thought they collared Nightwolf. The newspapers kept cagey about it, saying the cops book a person of interest in a “prolonged vandalism case.” Prolonged vandalism–like the tagger had writers block and agonized for weeks, and then returned to the scene of the crime to erase a comma.

In the first three paragraphs, our narrator, Milo Byers sets the stage and the tone for what is to follow — a killer introductory section that is irreverent (at best, cynical, jaded, and — simultaneously — honestly optimistic.

We are then thrown into a giant mess surrounding the culture of runaways and poor teens in Lexington, KY. Dropouts, petty criminals, not-so-petty criminals with aspirations of greater crimes, drug dealers, addicts, users, the mentally ill, the ignored, the abused, and their friends create an interesting cultural web for Milo and his associates to move in. At this time, I’m not sure Milo actually has any friends (at least not to his knowledge), but he is constantly surrounded by people.

Milo’s not technically a runaway — he goes home to his mother frequently, but his mother’s dealing with dementia and other problems, so Milo’s practically orphaned. He had (has?) an older brother who left home a few years before, and no one’s heard from him since. Theoretically, that’s why Milo spends time with some of the criminal class — they knew his brother, and he’s sure that he’ll get a clue if he just hangs around enough.

Also running around the city is Nightwolf. He’s a graffiti artist who dabbles in vigilantism (and not wholly successfully) — a folk hero of sorts. For reasons I’ll let Milo explain, he’s got a theory that Nightwolf is his brother. Now he just needs to meet him to unmask him, hopefully finding his brother — and everything will make sense for him. Despite the book’s title, Nightwolf is a relatively minor character — but his presence (or lack thereof) hovers over just about everything we see Milo do.

Now, all this time — I don’t like Milo. He’s not got a lot going for him as a character, he’s a weasel, he lies to himself and everyone else in his life constantly (and frequently without reason) — it’s not that he’s a criminal, there’s at least something defining the character then. I just didn’t care about him, or about what happened to him. Honestly, he’s the best of the bunch — among this cast of characters he’s the most sympathetic, the most reliable, and the most tolerable. Frankly, I spent a lot of time wondering just what the point of this book was — I didn’t dislike the book, just everyone in it and just about everything they did.

(Small spoiler) Now, at 60% there’s a pretty big time jump. I was totally unprepared for that — and enjoyed someone saying, “Time moves too fast” two chapters later. I was initially annoyed because in many ways this jump ended things before I was ready for them to be ended. But it didn’t take me too long to figure out that pretty much everything before was setting the stage for Part Two. Yes, you could argue that sixty percent of a novel is too long to spend on the introduction — and typically you’d be right. But Davis makes it work. The characters have matured enough, have enough distance from the acts of the first part, and have seen what’s happened since then to those involved, etc. The last forty percent of the novel worked for me in ways that the first didn’t, but it wouldn’t have been able to without the foundation laid.

Whenever I’d brush up against “Southern” fiction in my lit classes in college — those stories/novels became my favorite in the course, and I’ve often intended on taking a year or so to do some sort of deep dive into that tradition — but I haven’t gotten around to it. I should see if there’s an iTunesU (or equivalent) covering that. Anyway, I’ve gotten distracted here. My point is that I can see a direct line from Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor to Willie Davis — particularly the latter. She’d be disappointed in Davis’ attitude toward religion, I think, but she’d note a kindred spirit, I think. That should give you a spirit of the flavor of the novel — agnostic, 21st century O’Connor-ish.

Better yet? Davis has the talent to pull that off. Even when I didn’t like the characters (and I mean “actively disliked” not “didn’t appreciate yet”) and wasn’t sure I wanted to know more about what was happening to them — I could not stop reading the writing. When I didn’t mind the characters and felt a certain apathy toward the plot, I couldn’t stop reading the writing. When I sorta kinda maybe liked one or two of the characters and was curious where things were going — I could not stop reading Davis’ writing. I think you get what I’m saying here. Davis’ writing is worth the hassle. I’m not going to try to explain it really — I don’t think I could. Just go with me on this. At the 9% mark, my notes read “horribly ugly world — beautiful prose.”

The book is funny (not really because of events, it’s largely in the narration), sad, thoughtful, mournful, provocative, visceral, offensive and strange (in the most positive sense of the word). It’s not one for a quick casual read, but will reward the effort. For most of the book — and maybe even now (I’m unconvinced) — I didn’t care what happened, ultimately, I just wanted to see what Davis would do with ideas and language (not that I wasn’t ultimately pulling for a few things to happen plot-wise). I’m not wholly satisfied with the novel — not that I can fully articulate why (beyond really not liking anyone or what they were doing for most of the book) but I have a nagging suspicion that the problems are within me, not the text. I will be keeping an eye out for Davis in the future, and suggest you do the same — but read Nightwolf first.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion and this post.

—–

4 Stars

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Between the Shade and the Shadow by Coleman Alexander: A disappointing fantasy

Between the Shade and the ShadowBetween the Shade and the Shadow

by Coleman Alexander

Kindle Edition, 487 pg.
The Realmless, LLC, 2017
Read: July 24 – 26, 2018
There is some really fine writing, and some decent storytelling in this novel — maybe some of the emotions are overwrought, and there’s some poorly written scenes and whatnot. But on the whole this is an impressive work. The problem is, the only way I know that is because I forced myself to finish the book because I told Alexander I would. If this were a library book, I’d have been done with it by the 10% mark — if I’d bought it? I probably would’ve made myself go on to 20%. But I literally had to force myself to finish this — which was a pain until the last 20% or so, but that’s just because momentum had kicked in and my Kindle was telling me there wasn’t a lot of time remaining to finish.

That might have been mean of me to say, but what else am I supposed to say? I really didn’t like this book — I guess I can see where some would — I was reassured on Goodreads what patience would pay off. And you could argue it did — but I shouldn’t have to be that patient.

Here’s the thing: a reader needs a way in. We shouldn’t have to take notes and flip back and forth to see how an author it using this term or that — especially when some terms are spelled so similarly that it’s difficult to differentiate between them at the beginning. This is truer when you’re using terms that in our world or in similar fantasy worlds can be used to mean something else. I don’t mean you have to hold our hands and spell everything out in the first few chapters, because that can be really dull. But you need to bring us into this world and give us enough tools to figure out what we’re talking about — it shouldn’t be the case where I’m a few hundred pages into something before I figure out that half of my problem is that these characters are mispronouncing things — like elf!

It’s not that I’m stupid. It’s not that I’m lazy. I’ve read plenty of fantasy novels that are stranger, more arcane, less like our world or traditional fantasy than this — the difference is, those authors were able to bring the reader into the world so that I could get oriented enough to follow the story and not have to wonder if what you think you’re reading is anywhere near the story. Maybe if I’d read the description of the book on Alexander’s website, or Goodreads (or the form he filled out on my blog) just before starting the book I’d have been better equipped — but it should be in the book, not on the back-of-the book (metaphorically speaking) where I get grounded in the world.

I’m not saying that people can’t enjoy this, or shouldn’t, either. But it absolutely didn’t work for me in every conceivable way.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author, it clearly didn’t bias me in his favor.

—–

2 Stars

Nightwolf by Willie Davis: A beautifully written book about some horrible people

NightwolfNightwolf

by Willie Davis

Kindle Edition, 286 pg.
7.13 Books, 2018
Read: July 12 – 16, 2018

The police thought they collared Nightwolf. The newspapers kept cagey about it, saying the cops book a person of interest in a “prolonged vandalism case.” Prolonged vandalism–like the tagger had writers block and agonized for weeks, and then returned to the scene of the crime to erase a comma.

In the first three paragraphs, our narrator, Milo Byers sets the stage and the tone for what is to follow — a killer introductory section that is irreverent (at best, cynical, jaded, and — simultaneously — honestly optimistic.

We are then thrown into a giant mess surrounding the culture of runaways and poor teens in Lexington, KY. Dropouts, petty criminals, not-so-petty criminals with aspirations of greater crimes, drug dealers, addicts, users, the mentally ill, the ignored, the abused, and their friends create an interesting cultural web for Milo and his associates to move in. At this time, I’m not sure Milo actually has any friends (at least not to his knowledge), but he is constantly surrounded by people.

Milo’s not technically a runaway — he goes home to his mother frequently, but his mother’s dealing with dementia and other problems, so Milo’s practically orphaned. He had (has?) an older brother who left home a few years before, and no one’s heard from him since. Theoretically, that’s why Milo spends time with some of the criminal class — they knew his brother, and he’s sure that he’ll get a clue if he just hangs around enough.

Also running around the city is Nightwolf. He’s a graffiti artist who dabbles in vigilantism (and not wholly successfully) — a folk hero of sorts. For reasons I’ll let Milo explain, he’s got a theory that Nightwolf is his brother. Now he just needs to meet him to unmask him, hopefully finding his brother — and everything will make sense for him. Despite the book’s title, Nightwolf is a relatively minor character — but his presence (or lack thereof) hovers over just about everything we see Milo do.

Now, all this time — I don’t like Milo. He’s not got a lot going for him as a character, he’s a weasel, he lies to himself and everyone else in his life constantly (and frequently without reason) — it’s not that he’s a criminal, there’s at least something defining the character then. I just didn’t care about him, or about what happened to him. Honestly, he’s the best of the bunch — among this cast of characters he’s the most sympathetic, the most reliable, and the most tolerable. Frankly, I spent a lot of time wondering just what the point of this book was — I didn’t dislike the book, just everyone in it and just about everything they did.

(Small spoiler) Now, at 60% there’s a pretty big time jump. I was totally unprepared for that — and enjoyed someone saying, “Time moves too fast” two chapters later. I was initially annoyed because in many ways this jump ended things before I was ready for them to be ended. But it didn’t take me too long to figure out that pretty much everything before was setting the stage for Part Two. Yes, you could argue that sixty percent of a novel is too long to spend on the introduction — and typically you’d be right. But Davis makes it work. The characters have matured enough, have enough distance from the acts of the first part, and have seen what’s happened since then to those involved, etc. The last forty percent of the novel worked for me in ways that the first didn’t, but it wouldn’t have been able to without the foundation laid.

Whenever I’d brush up against “Southern” fiction in my lit classes in college — those stories/novels became my favorite in the course, and I’ve often intended on taking a year or so to do some sort of deep dive into that tradition — but I haven’t gotten around to it. I should see if there’s an iTunesU (or equivalent) covering that. Anyway, I’ve gotten distracted here. My point is that I can see a direct line from Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor to Willie Davis — particularly the latter. She’d be disappointed in Davis’ attitude toward religion, I think, but she’d note a kindred spirit, I think. That should give you a spirit of the flavor of the novel — agnostic, 21st century O’Connor-ish.

Better yet? Davis has the talent to pull that off. Even when I didn’t like the characters (and I mean “actively disliked” not “didn’t appreciate yet”) and wasn’t sure I wanted to know more about what was happening to them — I could not stop reading the writing. When I didn’t mind the characters and felt a certain apathy toward the plot, I couldn’t stop reading the writing. When I sorta kinda maybe liked one or two of the characters and was curious where things were going — I could not stop reading Davis’ writing. I think you get what I’m saying here. Davis’ writing is worth the hassle. I’m not going to try to explain it really — I don’t think I could. Just go with me on this. At the 9% mark, my notes read “horribly ugly world — beautiful prose.”

The book is funny (not really because of events, it’s largely in the narration), sad, thoughtful, mournful, provocative, visceral, offensive and strange (in the most positive sense of the word). It’s not one for a quick casual read, but will reward the effort. For most of the book — and maybe even now (I’m unconvinced) — I didn’t care what happened, ultimately, I just wanted to see what Davis would do with ideas and language (not that I wasn’t ultimately pulling for a few things to happen plot-wise). I’m not wholly satisfied with the novel — not that I can fully articulate why (beyond really not liking anyone or what they were doing for most of the book) but I have a nagging suspicion that the problems are within me, not the text. I will be keeping an eye out for Davis in the future, and suggest you do the same — but read Nightwolf first.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion and this post.

—–

4 Stars

The Meifod Claw by JW Bowe

The Meifod ClawThe Meifod Claw

by JW Bowe

Kindle Edition, 384 pg.
Serious Biscuits, 2017

Read: February 14 – 16, 2018


I’m going to keep the synopsis-y part of this vague because the blurbs for this book are pretty vague, and to a great extent, so is the book. This takes place in Wales, it involves a former sailor now confined to a wheelchair and a mostly abandoned farm-house (it fills up after a chapter or so), his niece, his nephew (who pretty much owns the house and funds everything in the book) and his nephew’s friend — who dropped out of a master’s level physics program to take part in the hi-jinks that occur. Oh, at some point a dog is introduced — he doesn’t seem to add much to anything, only serves to derail the progress of the plot for a bit, but he seems like a cool dog, and I’m a sucker for cool dogs.

The guys have assembled at this abandoned farm to work on a project and the niece/sister drops in every now and then to “tsk” at them and examine the books. When they’re not working on the project — and frequently as an aid to working on the project — the uncle, nephew and friend get high, drunk, stoned, and wasted, at the same time. There are probably a few other nearly synonymous terms I could throw in there, too.

I’m honestly not sure if the project is supernatural in nature (there’s a salt circle involved, but it doesn’t seem to do anything, and I’m not sure anyone believes it ought to), based in some sort of physics/”fringe” science (there’s a lot of talk that indicated that), or some sort of combination thereof. Frankly, I’m not convinced that the novel is all that certain of the nature of the project. I know a whole lot more of the drinking and drug habits of the characters than of the reason they’re together. The nephew is the Visionary, the friend is the brains behind things (although there’s very little time that I can tell you that he’s doing anything), and the uncle is the guy who lives in the house.

I do know that one of the side effects of this project is that it is some sort of miracle-grow product for plants — which means that the marijuana they use and sell to finance this project is larger, higher quality, etc. than one should expect. There is some contact with supernatural/spiritual entities, some with alien life (or they’re all three), a government agency and someone who’d done the same kind of work as these three earlier (and hints that they’re not alone).

I got frustrated with this novel quickly, but stuck with it hoping it’d change my mind (or that I’d at least figure it out), but the way that the story was told got in my way. Every time someone makes a decision, or gets a new piece of information, relaying that information/acting on the decision is put off for a day and a half (at least) for alcohol and recreation pharmaceutical use. During that day and a half any number of things can be said/happen that delays the relaying/acting. It is so infuriating. Maybe it’d have been better if the results of the binge-drinking, acid use, cocaine snorting, etc. were amusing or interesting, but I doubt it.

There was every reason in the world for me to get into this book, and I just couldn’t. Maybe it was my mood (I don’t think so, I wanted a book just like this at the time), maybe it was something else outside the book, so that I should recommend this to you all. But I’m pretty sure it was the book this time — if you’ve read this and disagree with me? I’d love to hear why. I wouldn’t mind changing my mind.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

—–

2 Stars

2018 Reading Challenge: Indie-Fever!

One more 2018 Reading Challenge: Indie-Fever!


(text stolen from the sign-up page)

‘Read & Review as many Indie Books as you can!’

Points to Know:
1. Read and Review as many Indie (Self Published) Books as possible during this year.
2. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. However, you have to post a review on some site in order to participate. It can be on Goodreads and/or Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble and/or Smashwords.
3. If you are a blogger link up your permalink to the review posts. If you aren’t a blogger, then link up the permalink to your reviews from whichever site you have chosen to post the review on.
4. The books can overlap with other reading challenges.
5. Books read may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
6. Post your links to your reviews each month to share with other participants.
7. The challenge runs from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Its never too late to Join In!

Sign Up Here. I’m at least going for the Amateur level, maybe the Lover.

I’ll be tracking my reads here or you can see the posts about the books here.