Filtering by Tag: books review

Deathless Press: Summer 2013 Review

Do you know what's more delicious than dipping your toes in the ocean or going parasailing? Indulging in Deathless Press's summer released chapbooks:

I've never considered myself an eloquent reviewer, but I want to make reviewing Deathless Press chapbooks a tradition. There are never, ever enough fairy tales in the world - and I've been enjoying the ones coming from this press.

Considering that my own chapbook POCKET FOREST was released in this bunch, I'm going to skip over it (of course) and focus on the other two chapbooks.

Catskin by Sylvia Linsteadt

CATSKIN is a retelling of a the same-named fairy tale, where a princess runs away from home disguised in a coat made of cat skins to avoid being married to her own father. This dark tale is a classic - but if you're not familiar with it, you may have read Donkeyskin, which is the most popular variant (at least, when it come to retellings).

Linsteadt breathes new life into her version of Catskin. The story opens with a girl named You (or Yew, as she prefers), living with her father in a lighthouse that demands time and care. When her father, heavy with drink, considers marrying his daughter, Yew runs away to escape him. Her travels take her into the woods where she meets the Mistress of Bobcats. The Mistress of Bobcats offers Yew a new identity and power, but not without payment.

The Mistress of Bobcats is a fascinating character: incredibly wise, yet untrustworthy. I enjoyed how well Linsteadt described the bobcat-who-is-also-a-woman, with shifting shadows and sharp teeth. When Yew becomes Catskin, she gains freedom from her father, and any other man who threatens her, but she also loses her humanity - which is perhaps a good thing, by the end of the tale. Maybe she becomes the best of herself. CATSKIN reminds me of "The Tiger's Bride" by Angela Carter: lush description, shifty characters, and an unforgettable ending.

Throw Down Your Hair and Then Yourself by A. A. Balaskovits

Rapunzel remains one of my top favorite fairy tales. There's something incredibly relatable to me about being trapped or limited in some way, no matter how much your "jailer" loves you. And then... there's always my favorite part, when Rapunzel's tears bring back the prince's sight (yes... I'm a sap. And proud!). However, Balaskovits's retelling, THROW DOWN YOUR HAIR AND THEN YOURSELF, is probably the most twisted and darkly shocking version I've read so far. And that's what made it so enjoyable, despite my penchant for the happier variants, haha.

Our Rapunzel narrator begins her tale telling us what her auntie has always told her: that she's a sharp thing. She's stuck in a tower, surrounded by soft things to combat her sharpness, until one day when a sweet-talking prince convinces her to leave her auntie and become a queen.

Life as a queen isn't easy, especially when her husband starts ordering the deaths of every citizen with a physical blemish. But as her auntie once said, our narrator is a sharp thing. And boy, does she ever strike back against her husband.

Even though this story started out as a Rapunzel retelling, I felt that by the end, I watched the narrator transform into the Evil Queen from Snow White. Did you ever see the movie Snow White and the Huntsman? Frankly, I dislike that movie, especially when people try to tell me that it was better than Mirror Mirror (weird, right? MM is totally better). BUT Charlize Theron played an amazing Evil Queen and her scary-wrathful beauty is quite like the narrator's transformation. Making, of course, a great ending to this chapbook.

So what are you waiting for? Go read these books! ;)

Deathless Press: Spring 2013 Review

Allow me to introduce you to a neat little press. Deathless Press is in the business of publishing fairy tale chapbooks. Now, it's already pretty cool that the focus is on fairy tales, but what I also love is that all the chapbooks are prose.

Until recently, chapbooks have been ruled by poetry. Perhaps it's because poetry is made for the chapbook format: small, bite-sized delights on every page. Prose can't possibly compete... right?


Short fiction, in its various forms, is becoming popular. There are literary journals out there dedicated to publishing nothing but flash fiction, some pieces as small as under 150 words. has writing contests that rarely go over 1k. And these short stories are collected, bound, and reaching readers near and far.

Deathless Press's first round of books share the feel of springtime; mysterious woods, flowers blooming in their cases, sweet nothings whispered between girl and frog. I ordered the bundle pack and devoured all three books. I'm happy to share my thoughts about them, so that you may also discover these stories.

The Frog Prince by Evan Perriello

When the bus running between Phoenix and LA stalls, the passengers have no choice but to deal with the suffocating heat until the technician arrives. The narrator's grandfather falls into conversation with with the man sitting next to him - a handsome old man who confesses that he has once been a frog. The initial scene works as a framing device; the handsome old man tells his story in the middle, and at the end, we're back on the stalled bus as the heat becomes unbearable.

Once the handsome old man begins his story, I couldn't put the book down. He has such a strong voice, inviting you to feel sympathetic for both him and his "princess," Emma. The dark ending, full of regret and inevitable heartache, was the perfect way to finish.

The Bouquet by Kate McIntyre 

A finicky bride-to-be seeks out a famous florist to find the perfect bouquet for her wedding. Instead of meeting a trendy, young florist, the bride-to-be is faced with a peculiar old woman with hair that "stuck out like a thistle." While the story is told in third person, the bride-to-be's perspective is so strong that you feel like you're trapped in her head - and I say trapped, because her thinking is so stilted and kind of sad, in a humorous way.

At the end of the story, the bride-to-be gets her bouquet... but you can't help but feel that she's been royally tricked by the crafty florist. It's wonderful. I only wish that this story was a lot longer - I enjoyed the McIntyre's writing style very much!

The House of Zabka by Marcus Slease 

Carrie is the daughter of a pig butcher; she loves her father, even when he throws pig's blood on her when she misbehaves. She decides to take her sausage dog with her on a trip through the woods, running into such odd characters as pigs and wolves, elves, and Dog Woman.

I was excited about reading The House of Zabka when I read Slease's blog post about it; he mentioned that he wrote this book in a style similar to Aimee Bender and Shane Jones. I love both those authors and, as you've heard many times, Jones' Light Boxes rocked by world in terms of structure. Slease's book has some delightfully weird moments, like Carrie's sausage dog (I mentally pictured Hot Dog Princess from Adventure Time) and the plastic dragon that breathes fire when you sent it a text message.

But, sadly, those awesome characters only appeared once in the whole book; they faded into the background while other characters took the spotlight. I had trouble following the plot - one minute we're with Carrie in the woods, and then we're with Marek, the pig butcher, as he goes through a strange operation. The shift was a bit jarring, especially when Carrie seemed to be the main character up until that point, and the ending leaves me wondering if any of it actually happened - though, honestly, I can't tell you what happened. I suppose this book was just too surreal for me.

You can purchase your own copies of these Deathless Press books over at the etsy shop, HERE.