Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias- A big ass review.

There is gonna be a LOT to unpack.

TL:dr- This is a great fucking book. If you like supernatural, crime and can handle some Spanish get it. Yes amazon link srry.

LONG VERSION. Some spoilers may happen.

I was given a copy of this book a bit after it came out by a dear friend who had read it and decided I HAD to read it.

Zero Saints starts with the kind of wry, first person humor during what builds to be an ass kicking that I like. The first four pages let us know that we’re in for a wild ass ride. The violence isn’t of the sort that is immediate and all the way in your face, Gabino’s style in this book is intimate, we are in Fernando’s skin (at least I am and we’ll get to that) so in the beginning of this book we know a few things. We know Fernando (not his name yet) is in trouble, big fucking trouble.

When I saw the line about Fernando praying to la Santa Muerta, y’alls….my lil woo self got all fucking excited. Following the mention came the first of much Spanish and I have enough Spanish to have gotten the gist of what was going on and this brings me to my first pointed remark. I have seen some reviews (too goddamn many) that make a point to complain about the amount of Spanish. Like…okay I don’t want to quote Junot Diaz but, the quote about folks willing to read Elvish or whatever and who will bitch about Spanish.

There is a lot of Spanish. Personally, I can read more Spanish than I can speak and I am not at all fluent. That said, when I felt like it really mattered, I looked shit up because like most of us I carry a computer in my pocket and the internet exists.

Anyway.

The action picks up very fast and things get real bloody. While the action is revving up, I really love that there is a low key grace in Gabino’s writing. It is brutal, it does go from 10 to 100 and there is beauty there. We know from jump that Fernando is no super badass, his fear is written in a very real way that gives us a glimpse of a well written and rich character.

Details like how Fernando stops being able to really think with everything happening, really grabbed me. This book is a really great example of why I love first person POV so much. Using this POV in this book gives us skin to skin contact, we get to be intimate with the story and with Fernando and that my friends, is my shit.

I don’t want to spoil stuff plotwise so let’s talk about skill and craft.

First let’s talk why I love how Fernando is written and thus love being so close to his skin. Fernando is written as a kind of mysterious type, we get glimpses of a life he’s lived before. he had problems. He has nightmares, he needs oxies to sleep on the regular but in particular during what’s going on in the book. We get this bloody meaty human which in noir circles can be sparse.

Gabino does a few sly little shifts to second person and I am here for it. What makes these so effective is that, the shift slows the eye. We are dragged into the reality of this situation almost gently and then there’s blood and teeth on the floor. Gabino does an excellent job of balancing Fernando’s horrific situation with glimpses into his tender heart.

He has a crush on a girl, this bit when we meet Yolanda is exquisite:

“How do you tell a woman you like that you’re a fucking coward?”

In the context of the things Fernando has experienced, the glimpses of his past we know he is not a coward and this line, just got me. I love a cis het dude with some self awareness and written with tenderness. Yes, this is a violent as fuck book that has a heart. Like most of the noir I love, our main character is someone I want to slap and hug and then put the fuck to bed.

It takes a firm grasp on one’s masculinity and a deft hand to write cis het men with heart. It just does. Especially in noir, especially when there is also violence. Too often, I think a lot of cis male characters wind up being all balls and no heart and that is boring. If you write cis het dudes, read this book.

Now, let’s talk about the super natural aspects of this book.

His use of diasporic spiritual practices is superb. When we meet Consuelo, that is where things get really deep to me. Again, I don’t want to be too spoilery but I do want to mention that, in researching to do this review, I noticed a lot of folks didn’t comment on the loveliness of the spirtuality and how the supernatural is handled in this book. That bugs me.

The introduction of Ogun changes the tone of the situation in this book. When I first read it, I said Oh Shit out loud. The violence and drug dealing by themselves didn’t quite give me the gravity of bringing in Ogun as part of the action. I think other readers, especially those unfamiliar with Afro/Latinx diasporic religions probably missed out on that. I am pretty sure that my familiarity, bred my excitement in this case.

In chapter 5 and the end of chapter 4, the depth of love Fernando is shown really touched me. Again I don’t wanna be spoilery but, the ritual and the egg, that’s fuckin love y’all. The novenas given to Fernando, the way in the book the prayers are set out in full touched my heart. These moments of love and hope are what balance the brutality of much of the book. I think in a lot of other reviews I read, I was missing the appreciation of as I said above, tenderness.

Ahem.

Before I go much further, let’s kind of ease to the end here because I wanna be super spoilery and I hate that.

The introduction of the Russian was another great touch to me and a perfect example of cross cultural understanding. This is transgressive because there is no push/pull in how Nando and the Russian communicate and come together. That is fucking real.

The thing I love best about this book is that without the tenderness, moments of gentle handling and sadness it would STILL be a good book.

Gabino Iglesias is a bad mother fucker.

WITH the tenderness, love, and tears this is a great book. Like most books I love, this little gorgeous thing is meaty. It is bloody not just in the violent sense but in the sense of it having a pulse, this work has a heart that as you are pulled into Nando’s fucked up life, you feel it in your hands.

And okay y’all, I don’t say this often but this book ended perfectly. Just, y’all it fucked me up in the best way. And like books I love, I want more.

What is greater is that I’m more familiar with Gabino’s work and hustle and I am here for it. This book is on my list of recommendations for actually transgressive work that lives outside of the Great White Western Ideals and does so in shining, haunting, bloody fashion.

Go read it. Read Gabino’s tweeter.

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Updates, Books and readings.

First up let’s talk about the books I’ve been reading. Yes Evil Empire affiliate links ahead.

BOOKS Y’ALLS!

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi. AHEM. Y’all. I will do a full dorktastic review after a reread but um. OKAY> AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHSHIT SON. If I’m gonna be fancy, this is the Diasporic Dream of Baby Potato me. If I’d had this book at a crucial point in my youth, I probably wouldn’t have given up all magical type literature for more than a decade. A complaint I’ve seen around is that it isn’t a complex plot etc and I think that is misguided. This is a book intended for teen readers so, adult epic fantasy lovers probably won’t like it. That said, I love this book. The magical systems, the world building, the evolution of the characters AND I HAPPEN TO KNOW THE NEXT ONE IS ON DECK. A really wonderful read, if you’re Black and know smol Black humans who like magic, get on this.

Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias. I’m on my reread of this book so I can do a review and y’all. I think someone gave me a copy of this book and said, read this you’ll like it. I do like it. Gabino has a gift for coming out swinging and the pace is not fast but it feels relentless. It is dark and violent and there is grace in his characters. If you like it dark and violent and pretty, read it. Bigger review soonish. ALSO check out his work in a fave magazine of mine, Shotgun Honey.

Other book news I’m hype about. Y’all know I love me some Joe Clifford and I happen to know that his book Junkie Love has a fancy new print coming up in Sept with a whole new forward by another of my beloved writers Jerry Stahl WHO also blurbed Gabino’s book. I’m really hype for that.

What’s good lit world?

I’ve been reading some great stuff. I’ve made a habit of checking tweeter in the morning and y’alls I know so many fucking great writers.

Go read this by Kristin Chang in the Offing. It is so beautiful and just…I made a velociraptor noise while reading because WOW.

My friend Chiwan Choi wrote this and holy fuck it is beautiful. If you meet him, go to one of his events or just see him on the street you should buy him some cookies immediately.

Podcaster and all round bad ass homie Nia Levy King is running a fundraiser and please check it out. Donate, share it. These books are so important. This is vital work.

Y’all know that one of the few places I feel good about freelancing at is Wear Your Voice Magazine. My last piece there is one of the best I’ve written and they need help. Indie media is so important so again, check out their Patreon and if you can’t support, please for real y’all share the links.

Let me take a break here to say again.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t contribute financially. SHARE THE GODDAMN LINKS. It is free. It takes two seconds and if you knoiw 2k more people, or different people than I know, that is more eyes, more eyes means more opportunities for support so get on it.

What have I been doing?

WELL I have been a busy wee beast. I poeted at an event last night and it was really nice. I read at an event called Margin Shift and Y’ALLS! A thing happened for the first time. TWO PEOPLE there had seen me read previously. And said so. Also I talked to other writers/people about my work and stuff and didn’t pee myself or faint.

I sold some books, folks enjoyed the reading a lot. Overall it was on the way better end of reading in Seattle. I’ll write more about that later.

I had this wee witch poem published over at Yes, Poetry.

I’ve been using Medium as a bit of a clearing house of sorts for stuff I have in drafts, stuff living on my phone. Funnily enough. Now that I’m not doing any paid content, both engagement and readership has gone up. In March/April when I wasn’t really posting I had about 400 reads. Posting a few times a month, my reads are in the thousands.

So it holds up my point that a LOT OF PEOPLE including those who already pay for Medium don’t give a fuck about tossing me a few coins.

Sooo new stuff over there. Including a lil screed on how yes the fuck I will unfriend people over politics and I ain’t ashamed.

OH also earlier in the week I posted up a little essayish thing and free bite of the Daiyuverse. Go visit Bayou Cane, meet the St. Pierre family and get you some free shit to read today.

Last thing, as a way to encourage myself to do more digital arts, I opened a red bubble shop with a few prints. More are coming.

OH ONE MORE THING. Come sign up for my loveletter. It was a newsletter but mostly I talk about being a creative person, struggles, fun shit, tell you how much I love you. No spams. All ham. Loveletter link was busted and is all fixed up.

Dassit for now.

 

True Story time! Gender, Queer AND OMG BOOKS.

Hello friendos.

I haven’t posted for a while because my life is still pure chaos and I am not moved and yeah…shit is a lot.

Recently a wee Babby Queer asked me how on earth I found information about Queerness and Gender before the Internet.

Oh Boo.

Okay.

Some of these will be evil empire affiliate links because your host is a bitch that gotta eat.

Let’s talk about what had happened.

As a baby potato, I realize looking back I did not buy the concept of there only being Boys and Girls. The extent of my understanding was this. Way back in the 80s I remember seeing a man in half man/half woman drag on TV and I thought he was the most perfect human to ever exist. Man? Woman? Both? I thought both and perfect.

That was it. I didn’t feel the need to think about my own gender multiplicity, it just was how I was and it was fine.

What started me questioning the fluctuating nature of my gender was my taste in books. To be real about it, when I was in high school I started reading a lot of very dirty books. If it was even Queer Baity, I was into it. At one point when I was 19 or so, I realized that as a reader, I identified with varying gendered people in those stories. In my fantasies (wank file) sometimes I was the virginal girl, I was the rent boy, I was the big dirty daddy and it felt the most natural to me.

I read a lot of real filthy gay smut. I emulated those writers and I read gay fiction and I remember in particular finding Kate Bornstein’s book Gender Outlaws- y’all. Shit fucked me up. Until the day I found that book in a Gay owned bookstore where I’d been introduced to Dennis Cooper and Carol Queen and Patrick Califa and the amazing porn magazine On Our Backs and sex work and all of these things exploded my understanding of how I perceived not only my own gender but that of others.

My mind was blown.

There were OTHERS.

Gender as I experienced it wasn’t some weird delusion or fetish. It took me a long time to understand that but, the list of books linked below is absolutely a big part of that. Remember I’m old y’all. I had no google, no tumblr or twitter. I had books. Books I skipped eating to buy. Books that were so precious to me I couldn’t share them with others.

Like most things in my life, it started with books. With me realizing that while yeah there’s some weird shit happening in my head, I wasn’t/am not alone.

Now this is why I am so strident about representation. Because I was a lonely baby potato and even through the sheer Whiteness of the stuff I was reading, I saw I wasn’t alone. Those early books gave me the courage to find those people in meatspace. I gravitated towards other queers, transfolks, genderqueer folks who also didn’t know the term genderqueer.

Learning that beyond the canon of the Western everything, there were and are genders beyond a prescribed binary blessed me.

Now how about some things?

I wrote some stuff about gender.

Find my amazon list (I will add more) of stuff I was reading/have read since.

Dwelling in Darkness

Before I get to the darkness, some light. My first fiction publication of the year has gone live at the new magazine Rigorous. Read my cowboy/mermaid myth here. I’ll nerd about it later because I worked on it for months and the original inspiration might make y’all giggle.

I’ll nerd about the origin story for that piece later this week.

Per usual, when things are pretty much non-stop bullshit, I turn to the darker end of lit for comfort. Let’s talk about what I’ve been reading/listening to.

House of Horrors: The Shocking True Story of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Strangler. (Amazon affiliate links ahoy y’all.)This book is pretty dingdang good. I actually followed this case with a lot of interest because really we don’t get to see/read about a lot of non-white serial killers. This book was missing the racial analysis I was craving, something more in depth than poverty and shit. BUT, that said a lot of the early history and behaviors of this killer cut across racial lines to intersect with other serial killers. Pretty good read.

I also reread Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Y’all if you’ve never read this book please read it. This one is a hard one for me to read. Every time I read it, the sameness of many of the struggles I have as a Black person are devastating. On the other hand, I also am soothed by the rhythm of this book and the familiarity. Read the thing.

I have a habit of dipping back into the darkness as y’all know.

May I also suggest some of my fave noir?

I really loved this piece in Out of the Gutter, The Flash Fiction Offensive. Initiation by Brendan Bakala.

For some other noir reading, may I suggest back issues of Thuglit. Like issue #5 (I’m in this one) I also suggest reading stuff by the publisher of Thuglit Todd Robinson. He’s good people and his writing is fucking tight. Read The Hard Bounce. I really fell in love with his characters Boo and Junior. His work is vivid and has a beating heart. Get into it.

Lamentation by my homie Joe Clifford, another one that I love. Y’all, like get on that. It is a series and it’s good.

Want something lighter?

Battle Hill Bolero (Bone Street Rumba) by my dude Daniel Jose Older. If I’m not mistaken, this is the last in the Bone Street Rumba series (noooooooooooooooo) and it is so fucking good. It’s just, god damn it. I love this world so much I never want it to end for purely selfish reasons. Just…start at the beginning and read them all.

For an intense but not totally heart breaking read, start up the Broken Earth books by N.K. Jemisin. Start with The Fifth Season. If you like your fantasy with some literary bent and really detailed and showcasing some major, major researching skills, get it. These books are gorgeous.

If you need to get really sucked in deep into a whole other world, read The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I liked this book, it wasn’t totally what I needed but it is very very good and goes deep into world building and the language is beautiful. 

Thing is, right now we all need some fucking space that isn’t littered with the actual fire that is burning up America right now and fixing to light up the rest of the world.

Don’t feel bad if you need to get away because we all need some of that lately.

What have I been doing?

Well I’ve been writing poems and SCLAB and a few stories. Trying to hang on to my sanity.

Before I go, how about a look at a bite of a hood noir story I started. Another one with a brother and sister duo, I’ve got a thing for that.

“You-‘

Tyrell heard his sister yelling from the front hall all the way into his office and cringed.

“Rusty ass. No account ass. Trifling ass. Shitty ass mother fucker.”

He heard her stomp past his door, steady talking shit.

“One more fuckin’ time I gotta do some nasty shit like that, you gonna take a dick for the team. Chicken ass, scary ass, useless looking bullshitting ass, but you’re better at this Tye Tye, lying ass-“

Her voice muted as the bathroom door slammed. Tyrell heaved a sigh and made a gesture at the other man in his office.

OH one more thing.

My birthday is in March and per request here is my wishlist.

Midnight Taxi Tango- The Big Ole Review

Midnight-Taxi-Tango-Hi-Res-635x1024
Yes this is a big ass image. But LOOK AT THIS FUCKING COVER.

This is my review of Daniel Jose Older’s Midnight Taxi Tango. First, I recommend going back here and reading my review of the first novel in this series Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel

Ahem.

The short version goes like this. I devoured about half the novel when it came in the mail, threw it on the floor and just sat muttering, “this motherfucker right here…” it is an excellent follow up to Half-Resurrection Blues. If grown folks urban fantasy and magic is what you like, this shit right here is what you want.

Okay, so I’m going to put a read more cause thar b spoilers and it’s about to get nerdy as hell up in here.

No, seriously, I’m about to dork out on a whole other level and if you want to not witness my nerd meltdown.

Y’all been warned.

Continue reading “Midnight Taxi Tango- The Big Ole Review”

The Grace of Kings- Review and Musings

I just finished Ken Liu’s epic, The Grace of Kings. I have some thoughts and we’re gonna get kinda nerdy.

I will put a read more in where spoilers start.

The short version. This is a silkpunk gigantic beautiful creation. There is an excerpt here and I highly recommend checking it out.

What I enjoy about this novel is the scope. I have the deepest admiration for writers in whatever genre who can create these huge worlds and do it with a fine enough eye to not lose the reader but still maintain the beauty of a new world.

I love the prose. Love it. The ease of the language that is unfamiliar is really well done. One of the things I am a huge fan of is when an author an take language that is all their own creation and make it seamless within the narrative. This from the glossary is one of my favorite things:

-tika: suffix expressing endearment among family members.

This is not an easy book. There are a lot of things to keep track of and people who aren’t fans of lots of background and detail won’t be fans. There are histories, poems, social information. It is a lot.

Personally, I love that sort of thing so it is right up my alley.

Overall, it is an intense and a lovely read. Totally immersive, almost to the point of distraction for me, but still very enjoyable. I did take a few issues, but there are spoilers, so read further at your own peril.

Continue reading “The Grace of Kings- Review and Musings”

My Book is about to be born.

Do you hear that noise?

The rumbling in the distance is the sound of my guts churning because my book is almost born.

Now you may be wondering, “but Shannon I’m a fucking adult what more do I need to know?”

Well, in Self Care Like A Boss we talk about a lot of stuff. For instance, we talk about disability and thinking about it when we’re able bodied. I give some able bodied to able bodied folks some advice. As in, if someone doesn’t ask you, don’t mess with their wheelchairs or other things.

We talk about what to do when you’re sick and nobody is there to take care of you, dealing with gender and pronouns, pooping, beauty for everyone of whatever gender.

This is not just adulting, we’re talking about thriving and basic survival in a society where a lot of us get the not so subtle message that it doesn’t matter how we live.

We talk about bodies and moving.

SO darlings.

My homies.

Now here is where I’m looking for your help.

If you are willing, here’s how you can help:

  1. Help me get the word out. Tweet, fb, share on various social media the link to my book.
  2. Have a blog? Feel free to snag the image and/or link to put up.
  3. Have a book coming out too? Drop me a link and I’ll post it up.
  4. Have questions? Ask away in the comments.

Now here is the cover:

SELFCARECOVER

Here is the link.

Link to my newsletter.