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#Bookreview and #mini-interview ‘what if I got down on my knees’ by Tony Rauch. For readers who enjoy short-stories, love language and the unusual.

Hi all:

As I promised, I’m coming to the end of the reviews I had accumulated, but I had a couple I had only shared on Lit World Interviews that I wanted to share here. Today’s, not only because of the book but also because the author kindly offered me a mini-interview.

what if I got down on my knees by Tony Rauch
what if I got down on my knees by Tony Rauch

Title:   what if I got down on my knees
Author:   Tony Rauch
ISBN:  098293355X

ISBN13:  978-0982933558
ASIN:  B00YNR6HBM
Published:  Whistling Shade Press; 1 edition (May 31, 2015)
Pages:  189
Genre:  Literary Fiction/Short stories

Description:

what if i got down on my knees? presents romantic misadventures and entanglements of absurd, whimsical, existential longing, featuring discovery, secrets, identity, escape, strange happenings, endurance, regret, and hope. The stories are little postcards from the lonely regions of the human heart.

These tales of wonder are about people trying to find meaning and a place in an indifferent world, and their discoveries, revelations, secrets, failures, struggles, connections, and odd encounters along the way—

—two unemployed men steal dogs and run them through buildings around town.
—a man goes on what turns into the worst date in recorded history.
—you are asked to baby-sit for a neighbor, only to find a giant baby waiting for you.
—a man comes home to find his entire yard and home paved over by a long lost rival.
—a clerk at a used record store finds a man has passed away on one of the couches.
—some young adults go into the basement to get sad, in order to impress girls.
—a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus.

With themes of longing, fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, regret, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, discovery, ennui, loneliness, irresponsible behavior, confusion, change, identity, and absurd situations, Tony Rauch is a worthy successor to the artistry and absurdism of Donald Barthelme and Steve Martin.

 Body of review:

I received a copy of this novel from the author and I voluntarily review it for Lit World Interviews.

Short stories are an acquired taste. We might think a short read is perfect because we are always rushing and don’t have a lot of time, but sometimes we might feel disappointed when the story ends and we’ve invested time and, in the best of cases, emotions only to have to get to know some new characters after a few pages. Of course, not all short stories are born equal. And this collection of short stories by Tony Rauch proves the point.

Some of the short stories in this collection are whimsical (surreal) and might leave you scratching your head (or looking up to the sky searching for… No spoilers) , some are vignettes illustrating the lives of people who might appear content with their lives at a superficial level, but whose thoughts and worries run deeper than it seems, many are about lonely people wondering about others and trying to connect (in some occasions with hilarious consequences), some are about pretending to be something or somebody else, about growing up, about growing old, about moving on or remembering the past…

The quality of the writing is superb, and the first person narratives cleverly capture the speech and rhythms of the characters, who sometimes are talking to others, sometimes conducting an internal monologue with themselves, or even writing a story. From young kids trying to impress their friends to old men dying, from people contemplating a new relationship to others letting go, these few pages run the whole gamut of experiences and emotions.

To give you some examples:

His skin appeared two sizes too tight for his body, stiff and washed out, like he’d gotten it secondhand, or found it in an alley late at night.

His suit is mythical—straight, lean, long, pure, giving, musical, thoughtful, caring, dynamic, cosmopolitan, unselfish, strong, industrious, and nostalgic for his mother, her peanut butter cookies, and snowy Christmas mornings.

“And what would someone do with a dream of mine? Where would you keep it?”

“I’d stretch it out to create a sail, and then use it to float off to who knows where,” I advise.

 Some of the stories are nostalgic and melancholy, but there are great comedic moments, ranging from slapstick to joyful turns of phrase (and oh, a so very satisfying revenge story).  Another example I highlighted:

Eventually, he turned up in over 3000 cans of a popular brand of tuna. A horrible fate to be sure, and amplified by the fact that the guy was notoriously reputed to detest tuna.

I won’t tell you which stories I liked the most as I’d find it difficult. I checked the reviews, and on reading the comments when the reviewers mentioned a story or another I’d agree with them. So… Just go and read them and enjoy their variety.

 What the book is about: Many things: growing up, life, dreams, realities, loneliness, relationships, friendship, revenge, writing…

 Book Highlights: The quality of the writing and the very distinct characters and voices. The whimsical sense of humour.

 Challenges of the book: Sometimes with the electronic version I wasn’t clear when I had moved from one story to another. The titles of the individual stories and the different parts weren’t always easy to tell apart.

Although the book is not long, I think it is best taken slowly and savouring the quality of the writing, rather than rushing to get to the end of the story. It is not a book to be read in a hurry.

 What do you get from it: Beautiful writing, stories that make you think and a few laughs.

 What I would have changed if anything: As I mentioned perhaps change the size of the titles or the formatting (in the digital version) to make the divisions clearer.

 Who Would I recommend this book to?: To readers who enjoy language and a mood more than heavily plotted stories (although there are some great ones too). And to writers who are considering writing short stories, or just keen on exploring the many ways characterization works.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Readability: 4/5
Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
 

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $12 

Kindle: $3.22 

Author Tony Rauch
Author Tony Rauch

And now, I asked a few questions to the author:

People have less and less time these days and short forms of writing are becoming more and more popular. From flash-fiction to microfiction and even stories told in Tweets, it’s all about brevity. Of course, the short story has a long tradition, but what is for you a short story? And what makes it (so far) your preferred choice when writing? –

For me a short story is anything that conveys a feeling, or an event, or that sets up an event that may then spring forward. It does not have to have a beginning or an ending. I like story starters, that is a written piece that poses a situation or premise, and then you have to imagine various outcomes. But the premise is so interesting it creates that zing in your brain and gets you thinking. That to me is a good story: anything that kick-starts that zing in your imagination and gets you thinking on a different track or about various possibilities.

I prefer the short form because I don’t need a lot of useless background info that longer work sometimes gets bogged down in. I don’t have a lot of free time, so the short form is good for getting ideas down. I have a lot of different ideas, so the short form works well in sorting them into more organized paradigms.

Tony Rauch in action
Tony Rauch in action

Who are your favourite writers, in general, and writers of short stories (if they aren’t the same ones)? Why? What have you learned from them? –

Favorite authors, influences: Anyone interesting, imaginative, and concise. Anyone who makes you think.

Mostly I like short stories as they get to the point quickly. The books that really inspired me are mostly imaginative story collections because they were exciting and new and you never knew what was going to happen next in them. Also, they were brief, which made them memorable and easily digestible.

I like strange or absurd adventures that are well crafted and have a meaning to them, and sci fi as it offers ideas. Reading these types of writers is like taking mini adventures that I could not experience otherwise in the limitations of my actual life –

Older writers:

Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Charles Bukowski, Leonard Michaels (murderers), Mark Twain, James Thurber, Antoine de Saint Exupery (the little prince), Dr. Seuss (cool illustrations), Roald Dahl, Steve Martin (cruel shoes), W.P. Kinsella (the alligator report), Jim Heynen (the man who kept cigars in his cap), Don Delillo.

Contemporary writers:

Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Adrienne Clasky (from the floodlands), Lydia Davis (Samuel Johnson is indignant), Etgar Keret, Stacey Richter, George Singleton, James Tate (Return to the city of white donkeys), Thom Jones, Italo Calvino, Stephen-Paul Martin, Will Self, Denis Johnson (Jesus’ son), David Gilbert (I shot the hairdresser), David Sedaris, Paul Di Filippo, D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty.

Science fiction from the 40s, 50s, and 60s:

Rod Serling, L. Sprague De Camp, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Aurthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ursula K. Le Guin, Douglas Adams (an 80’s writer), etc.

Author Tony Rauch trying to grab the intangible
Author Tony Rauch trying to grab the intangible

Many writers read this blog. I subscribe to the advice that one should read in order to improve one’s writing. I know it will be a difficult choice, but any stories in particular that have had an impact on you or have increased your understanding of the form? 

Yes, many – see the list of authors above. One thing I look for is that buzz or zing when they convey a feeling or present something I hadn’t ever seen before. For example, I like that F. Scott Fitzgerald story “Winter dreams” because in it the character changes, or his feelings for someone changes. I like that arc, that sense of change the character goes through in a story. That story presents a loss, and the character’s feelings about that change and loss.

Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?

Yes, it is:  https://trauch.wordpress.com/

You can find book information and story samples on that bad boy of rock and roll.

If you know of any good publishers looking for arty story collections, please let them know about me. I’m always looking for good publishers. A lot of places don’t publish single author story collections.

Thank you for your time.

Thanks very much to Tony Rauch for his book and for answering my questions, thanks to you  for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

 

 

Categories
book promo Book review Interviews

#Bookreview and interview THE CHRISTMAS TOWN by Donna VanLiere (@donnavanliere) A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home

Hi all:

I know I’ve been resisting talking about Christmas related subjects, but the truth is that I’d been hiding an ace up my sleeve. A few weeks ago (it was in October) I read a book with a Christmas theme, from an author, Donna VanLiere, who writes a lot of Christmas stories. And yes, I must admit I loved it. When I got an e-mail from Justine Shaw, her publicist, reminding me of the launch of the book and offering an interview with the author, I thought I’d reserve it for an appropriate time. As the author has also been very busy touring with the book I only just got the questions back, so, right in time, here I bring you…

Review and interview The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere
The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere  A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home

Donna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

Just in time for this year’s holiday season, Donna VanLiere is back with a moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places, in THE CHRISTMAS TOWN (St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 18, 2016, $16.99)

My review:

My review is based on a free advance copy from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion or the review content.

OK, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. There, I’ve said it. The fuss, the mad rush to buy presents, the obligation to be happy… But there are certain things about Christmas I don’t mind, like the crafts fairs that pop up everywhere, some of the songs (although not when played continuously 24/7) or the books (and movies, but, especially the movies, I prefer them around the right time of the year. Watching a Christmas movie in August is a no-no).

Despite that, I could not resist requesting this book when I read the description, as I do like stories where a community gets together and people find a true home. And I’m happy I decided to read it.

The Christmas Town is fairly short, full of surprises (well, some not so surprising, but pleasant nonetheless), and it has a big heart. You have memorable characters (some very recognisable, like the woman who insists on using British expressions nobody understands, or the tall, dark and handsome romantic hero), some unique, like Ben, the young man who works at a grocery store and wins everybody’s heart by offering them personalised messages with their shopping. You have a great setting, and a suitably seasonal story, with auctions, personal objects, songs, and social media confusing things.

The story is told from several characters’ points of view (in the third person), although the main character is Lauren Gabriel, a young woman with a difficult childhood but full of dreams and hopes, despite her disappointments. She ends up in Grandon, a charming small-town, and although there are heartaches on the way… Well, this is a Christmas story, but I won’t spoil it for you.

There is humour, characters you’d love to know in real life, complications, chance, music, miracles and family. And a great sense of community. The story also touches on some sad issues (Lauren’s difficult childhood and her relationship with her estranged parents, children’s illnesses and disabilities, financial worries) but all dealt with a light touch.

If you want a light and heart-warming read with endearing characters and a place you’d love to call home, and you don’t mind Christmas (or even if you do) I recommend it. Ah, and don’t miss Ben’s messages. Priceless!

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Town-Donna-VanLiere-ebook/dp/B01DJ0XZ72/

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Town-Donna-VanLiere-ebook/dp/B01DJ0XZ72/

Here a bit of information about the author:

Author Donna VanLiere
Author Donna VanLiere

Donna VanLiere is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author and gifted conference speaker. She has published fourteen titles including The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing, both of which were adapted into movies (starring Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Perry and Neil Patrick Harris) and garnered big ratings for CBS television. LifetimeTelevision adapted The Christmas Hope (starring Madeline Stowe) and premiered it December 2009 to stellar ratings as well. Donna’s non-seasonal novel, The Angels of Morgan Hill, has captured the same warmth as her Christmas books and continues to please loyal and new fans alike.

Donna is the recipient of a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, an Audie Award for best inspirational fiction, a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year and was recently inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence joining such luminaries as Coretta Scott King, Hugh Downs, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Senator John Glenn. Donna is an in-demand conference speaker having appeared at countless women’s and family events, including select Women of Faith and Extraordinary Women conferences.

Donna lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, Troy, and their children, Grace, Kate and David.

Learn more at www.DonnaVanLiere.com

Interview: 

As I mentioned earlier, author Donna VanLiere agreed to answer some questions, and here they are.

Thanks very much for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. It’s an honour to have you as a guest on my blog.

You’ve written about other things too, but many of your books are seasonal, with a Christmas theme. What made you choose Christmas in particular?

Christmas is about hope and joy and the greatest story ever told. I feel like all of our stories are birthed out of the manger story. For me, it’s quite easy to develop a story around Christmas because for many people Christmas is difficult. I want each of my stories to be filled with characters who are like people you know, not cookie cutter characters. I want the reader to know that despite hard circumstances that hope is alive.

I love The Christmas Town. The setting (Grandon, a place where I’d love to live), the characters, the stories… Do you have a favourite?

I can’t choose a favorite among the Christmas stories because I love all of the characters!! My favorite book I’ve ever written is one called The Good Dream. It’s set in 1950 in East Tennessee and is about a single woman and a little boy and their journey together.

It’s difficult to choose, but Ben’s character is somebody we’d all love to meet. Can you tell us a bit more about his creation?

Ben bags groceries at the local supermarket. He is a pure, sweet soul who never meets a stranger. Several months before Christmas he decided he wanted to do something to make a difference as he bagged groceries. No one knew, not even Ben himself, how that one idea would inspire the townspeople.

Is there any specific message you’d like to send your readers?

We never really understand how important we are to someone else’s story. Our own story isn’t just about us. It’s about so many others around us. Just like in The Christmas Town you are not just a bag boy or a cashier or a waitress or a parks & recreation employee. You are an important character in someone else’s story.

Thanks so much to Donna VanLiere for answering my questions and for giving us this story that made even me (a bit of a grinch) feel more of the Christmas spirit. And thanks to you all for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

Categories
Book reviews Writing

M.M. Bennetts Historical Novel Award. Have you written a historical novel?

Hi all:

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that a few months back I was very busy reading novels for a Historical Novel award, the MM Bennetts, and I couldn’t really talk very much about it. I received an e-mail yesterday about this year’s award and I’m going to help once again with the process of selection. This made me realise that I had not dedicated a post to the winner, and I thought, better late than never. So here it is:

Into the Hidden Valley
Into the Hidden Valley by Stuart Blackburn

Into the Hidden Valley by Stuart Blackburn

The sins of the father …
Charles Taylor was raised in the typical British manner of the late Victorian era: distant from his father, George, a civil servant in India. The two grow closer as Charles ages, but after his father’s untimely death, he finds himself on a path of discovery about George’s life and his role in the pacification of tribes near the Tibetan border, especially his father’s encounter with a powerful shaman and his son. A past as hidden as the Apatani valley, which protects its secrets well.

Stuart Blackburn was born American, but is a man of the world. Experiencing India first hand in Peace Corp, Stuart would later go on to earn a PhD in Indian culture and folklore. A teacher for many years, Stuart’s writing remained in the academic field until 2014 when his first novel , Murder in Melur, was published in India.

Link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YT6WGV2/

I have not read the novel and I can’t give you my personal impression, but having been involved in the process of selection, I’m aware it must be pretty special to have made it all the way and won.

In case you want to know a bit more about the author and the novel, here are two posts, one announcing the winner, and the other sharing a detailed interview with the author:

http://www.mmbaward.org/2016/09/announcing-winner-of-2016-award.html

Interview:

http://www.mmbaward.org/2016/09/interview-of-stuart-blackburn-2016.html

And if you’re an author, or know one, who writes historical novels, you could be interested in submitting the novel. Here is the post that explains it all:

http://www.mmbaward.org/2016/09/call-for-submissions-2016-we-invite_23.html

Thanks to the M.M. Bennetts Awards organisers for counting with me again, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, CLICK, and tell your author friends!

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