Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why I Review Books

ThumbnailI’ve been reviewing a lot of books on this blog lately. The question comes up about why I review these books. Do I get paid or what? Well, let me tell you how it started.

I started this blog a little while ago just to have a place that I could write in long form, have a bit of a soapbox, and to publicly talk about what I was working on or what was going on. I’m still working on my writing. Actually, lately, I’m picking up the pace, although the novel I have been working on has taken a bit of a back-burner right now while I try to develop my skills a little more. It’s a project that’s really important to me and I want to be sure that I can do it justice. Being able to publicly talk about it creates a feeling of accountability. Admittedly, it does help with marketing if you know how to leverage it, which is something I’m working on. So, it’s not entirely for art’s sake.

I started reviewing books on this blog mostly because I needed content. It was very early in my blog’s life and I need to add content. At the time, things had kind of come to standstill with…well, everything. So I started putting my name on lists for review copies of books in several locations and began receiving some. The caveat with getting these is that they want you to provide them with a review, which is only fair. They give you a free book, you pay them with an honest review. I started putting these reviews on this blog and there you have it. It just became a thing.

I enjoy doing it because, aside from writing, I also enjoy reading. By reviewing these books, not only do I get to share my opinions and potentially help some authors, particularly new authors, but I get to reflect on what I just read and chew it over a little more, making sure I really understood it and got the most out of it. Do I get paid for it or do I want to get paid? Well, I don’t really get paid (with the Bizarro Brigade, I earn points toward receiving a free book, but that’s it). As for whether would I like to be paid, sure. Everyone would like to be paid for just about everything they do. I’d like to get paid for breathing, but that’s probably not going to happen. But if I were to ever get hired by a website or other publication to write reviews, I wouldn’t object. And I’m hoping that when I do start publishing my work (soon, I hope, once I get what I’m working on to a state I’m happy with), that they might return the favor of reading and providing an honest review. I can take criticism, and really I prefer honesty over anything else.

I did get myself into a situation a little while ago where I wound up receiving so many review copies that I couldn’t keep up. I’m still catching up, but I’m making a lot of headway. So if you’re a writer, editor, or publisher who needs a review and you want to send me a review copy, you’re welcome to contact me at the link above, but remember that I’m still catching up, and I’ll get to your book as soon as I can.

Book Review: Help! A Bear is Eating Me!

Help! a Bear Is Eating Me!Help! a Bear Is Eating Me! by Mykle Hansen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Help! A bear is eating Marv Pushkin!

And, uh, that’s pretty much it. That was the easiest review I’ve ever written.

Well, okay, maybe that’s not all of it.

What happens when you have a complete narcissist stuck in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness (insert Sarah Palin joke here) underneath his SUV getting eaten by a bear? You have Help! A Bear is Eating Me! by Mykle Hansen.

It’s been said that there are three basic plots: Man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. himself. While this book at first seems like it would be man vs. nature just by the title alone, it quickly becomes apparent that this plot is actually man vs. himself. This book is a character study in its purest form. It’s told in a complete stream-of-consciousness style where you read Marv’s entire thought process during the days he is trapped under his SUV being slowly eaten by a bear and waiting for rescue. He flashes back to his version of events throughout his life and how it led up to him being in this predicament. There’s nothing left out of this stream, so you’ll read everything he’s thinking, hallucinations and all.

Marv Pushkin is probably on the most unlikable characters you will ever read about, which tests the literary hypothesis that the protagonist, while flawed, always needs to be likable, or at least redeemable, to the reader. Marv has no redeeming values. He’s an ad executive, a bully, a philanderer, and completely self-centered. He thinks of himself as a gift to the universe and that through the power of positive thinking, the universe is there to serve him. As the book progresses, though, you discover that everything is not peachy-keen with Marv. He’s got some serious demons and has a history of mental illness. At times, you’re not entirely sure if what he’s describing is what’s actually happening or if it’s just happening in his head. So, while he doesn’t have a redeeming value, he does have a certain sympathetic value, and the reader come to feel sorry for him. Whether the reader roots for him to get out of the situation is up to each individual reader and how sympathetic they actually are.

The stream-of-consciousness style of writing is often something that puts off a lot of people. I’m actually drawn to it. It’s fascinating to actually get into another person head and read every thought that goes through their mind, rather than the selected thoughts that many authors choose to show for the sake of plot. Marv, however, is the plot. In a sense, he’s correct in that he is the universe, at least as it pertains to this book.

The stream-of-consciousness does get a bit choppy at times, but for the most part it flows well with a few bumps here and there. I’m not entirely sold on the ending either (which is probably not what you’re expecting), but in its own way it worked, especially given what we learn about Marv during the course of the novel.

While this book is technically classified as bizarro fiction, the most bizarre thing about it is that it’s published by Eraserhead Press. There’s really nothing that bizarre about it. So if you’re expecting a genuine bizarro book, or what you may think of when you think about bizarre fiction, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you’re looking for a genuine character study of a severely broken man who doesn’t know he’s broken, then you’ll definitely want to read this.

Help! A Bear is Eating Me! by Mykle Hansen earns a solid 4 bear cubs out of 5.