typicalreview – Modern Times: Urban Realities by Daniel Lissett

Written in part after the death of the author’s mother, “Modern Times: Urban Realities” is a smart and short collection of poetry by Daniel Lisset. This is his first collection, though he had been writing poetry for a number of years before publishing with Balboa Press.

From cockroaches to coffee, city park settings and gridlock traffic, the city scenes are distinctly his own experience yet can be readily transplanted anywhere. Any time spent in the city will unearth one of these situations and a lot of them are taken lighthearted as can be; certainly when it comes to pests and annoyances. Exasperation rarely enters the equation, and in it’s stead we read of more fascination with city life.

Even some of the darker side of city stress is explored in clubbing and drinking with “Know What I Want” and “Insomnia” though not so gritty to deal with what many associate with city problems like drug abuse, failing business and homelessness giving the impression those dark alleys are ones not traversed by Lissett and avoided. Even “He’s In A Gang” is more about the perceived heart and soul of a fledgling gang member posturing and fronting and not a portrait of the violence one may expect.

Written largely after the passing of the author’s mother, there are entries formed in relation to that for certain. Some of the most beautiful lines are found in these explorations of mourning. Reflections on the deathbed vigil, spreading ashes, and the life once lived lay alongside the more lighthearted work quite comfortably.

“The Sailor” is a biography of the author’s father; a study of those war-time stories, growing to manhood, and the end of his life. In the introduction we learn this particular sailor passed away over a decade ago, so blending the remembrance of losing a parent previously coupled with the recent loss of the author’s mother makes for one of the most powerful poems on life and loss within the volume. While many poems speak of christian faith, in this piece those allusions are notably absent. A story of the point of view from a hospital bed, it is somewhat refreshing to not have faith enter the dialogue.

While none of the poems are fixed with a date they were written, there is a progression here and it is impossible to tell if these are arranged by theme or chronologically. There is a downfall in not being able to discern the overall theme as it progresses and a reworking of the order, or an indication of date if they are arranged as they were written would have helped. Instead of swivelling from one observation or emotion to another it would be comforting to be led down these paths more gently. That said, such is life, being tugged to and fro with no real compass or how the next corner you turn will look – there may be no one to lead you and there may be no path.

There is a disclaimer in the copyright information which absolves the author of responsibility should readers forgo their wellbeing and follow what they may perceive as advice in his writing as a replacement for the advice of a physician. It’s a much better written clause than relayed here, and after reading the collection that note may seem heavy handed – there are far more potentially destructive forms of entertainment or self-help out there – but in a few instances and for a small number of people yes, the note could serve a purpose considering the subject matter of some poems like “Way Out (No Way Out): The Anti-Suicide Poem”.

It is tough with poetry to gauge word usage. In prose, there are many rules that determine what word fits where, and in poetry as much as we’d think all bets are off the limitations are imposed by the form and story being told more than rules of grammar. In some cases, there could have been a little more forging of phrases as it seems some words have been hammered into place and come out misshapen. Most of the lines that may read clumsily lend themselves to being read aloud however, so are worth a second glance. Perhaps dialect plays a role as well. While these poems could take place anywhere, Daniel Lissett is Australian and the city mentioned often is Sydney so a North American tongue may roll a few of these words around in slightly different directions..

On the other hand, some rhymes used are delightful which is a lot of the fun of modern poetry. Where some of Lissett’s poems follow an easy metre and others are more freeform and conversational so often it comes as a delight when an interesting rhyme is used. There are easily three-and-half stars here as I enjoyed all of the darker and mournful poems, and some of the cityscape, I felt many of them were daringly short. Had they been arranged by theme I’d have been able to loose myself better in one feeling or another so may have heard the poet’s voice more strongly. All in all, a short and smart collection on an array of topics so it was easy to remain engaged and enjoy the one that stuck the most immensely.

 

I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

Dead Air Ep 109 – Tales From The Hood

Gather under the sluice grate, for the latest Dead Air podcast episode has been mucked off the slab ~ http://ift.tt/2xHMdTR

Welcome to Hell! Motherfuckers! It’s episode 109 of the Dead Air Podcast, where we head back to the 90’s to talk all about the fan-requested film Tales from the Hood!

Three Gang members in search of drugs head over to Simm’s funeral home, where they meet the strange proprietor and would-be drug dealer. Before the final sale can happen though he will lead them through a macabre tour of the recently deceased. Each bizarre death brings with it an even stranger story. A powerful anthology film about race, child-abuse, revenge, murder and ironic justice. A truly underrated classic that in these trying times, feels more relevant than ever.

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typicalbook – Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner – Review

Catrin is a princess, soul traveler and mystic. A sorceress cum shapeshifter and the daughter of King Amren of the Cantiaci. The historical fiction of Linnea Tanner, “Apollo’s Raven”, begins with Catrin along with her sisters Vala and Mor, who are trapped in the clash of kingdoms between the tattooed Cantuvellauni people of her Celtic homeland, and the advancing Roman armies. While their combat instructor, Belinus, is distracted by the middle daughter, Mor, and eldest sister Val is betrothed to a Roman for political reasons, Catrin is overwrought with painful memories of her exiled and disfigured brother Marrock. Marrock has returned to her in a vision that can only mean bloodshed and death to all she holds dear.

Catrin’s visions are much more than waking dreams. Her faithful familiar is a black raven that allows her to travel through the skies and into the past or future by taking her vision and allowing her to see what it can see, for better or worse. There is a curse upon the land and her family. Just like the future, this curse can be rewritten so it is up to Catrin and her Roman ally Marcellus alongside her mother, Queen Rhiannon, to outwit Marrock and the advancing Roman army he has maliciously manipulated for his own revenge.

The introduction to Catrin and her powers is quite breathtaking. All at once the reader is taken into the fold of how magic and sorcery is viewed in this world crafted by Tanner, and all at once mystified and humbled. The young princess is new to this power she keeps a secret from others, and we are witness to its bold and reckless enchantment as we see the weakness that transferring your waking mind to another body can hold. With the threats that surround this young warrior maiden, the author weaves a tantalizing push and pull between the free life Catrin could have and the path she treads–for destiny and magic clear the way. Unlike many epic fantasies, the style is quite casual and could be disarming for those seeking a more literary approach to the sword and sorcery of Europe in the dawn of the common era. A smattering of historical figures blend into the background of this landscape which is rich with trappings of the time and while there could be some exclamations or jargon out of place it would take research to verify one way or another. It all blends in, however, as so much of the world inhabited by our hero and her sisters is true to our own. With only a few twists of imagination, a world where we can see through the eyes of another creature comes to life.

Thankfully there are few scenes of romance. The story could surely be billed as a romance story entirely, but I found it much more like a dark fantasy that only edges on a love story. With very few scenes of eroticism, the focus is certainly on peril, bloodshed, mystery, magic and deception. For those who come to ‘Apollo’s Raven” looking for love, they will find maggots, skulls, torture and entrails in all the right places. Much to my delight, this book contains quite a few gory scenes throughout. While each character is entirely their own and distinctly drawn, it seems all characters are quick to temper and are all quite sadistic. Even the most gentle seeming creatures here are proven exceedingly cruel at least once if not chapter by chapter. The raven is a character of its own too, and not without its shining moments of barbarism. Owners of large birds, specifically corvids, will know the author not only researched the time and place in which the story has taken place but the nature of these strange little creatures. Whether playing the jester, faithful guardian or spirit animal, the raven–which has no name–shares the quirks a pet crow would truly display. Something that only one at home with these cold coal creatures would really bring to life.

More time exploring the character of Agrona, the King’s witch who plays a large part in the story and has the bloodiest and most interesting introduction would have done well. The story does well as it is, though she offered something entirely different later in the story in contrast to who she is when first met, the direction she starts off in is fascinating and embodies more of the magic qualities of this world that everyone fears and is warned off but rarely gets to see. Of five stars, this is closer to a four than three-and-a-half. While lyrical and paced well, some of the slang and colloquialisms cause a snag when they don’t ring true. Some dialogue injects mirth where not ought to be had and when the scenario is not meant to be funny. Some of the gravity is sucked out by the misstep of a word or two but the story does recover every time, and instantly. For lovers of animal familiars mixed in with dark magic, this could fly quite high and is worth looking into the next book in the series.

 

I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection.