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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LIBERATION DAY by George Saunders (@BloomsburyBooks) For readers looking for a true readerly experience #Bookreviews #shortstories

Hi all:

I bring you a collection of short stories by an author I’ve reviewed before, and I’m not surprised some call him “the best short story writer.”

Liberation Day by George Saunders

Liberation Day by George Saunders

“One of our most inventive purveyors of the form returns with pitch-perfect, genre-bending stories that stare into the abyss of our national character. . . . An exquisite work from a writer whose reach is galactic.”—Oprah Daily

Booker Prize winner George Saunders returns with his first collection of short stories since the New York Times bestseller Tenth of December.

The “best short-story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and exquisitely tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: Here is a collection of prismatic, resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.

“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the (not too distant, all too believable) future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and one another. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his reality. In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. In “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed, his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters. And “My House”—in a mere seven pages—comes to terms with the haunting nature of unfulfilled dreams and the inevitability of decay.

Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.

https://www.amazon.com/Liberation-Day-Stories-George-Saunders-ebook/dp/B09SKZ4BJ3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liberation-Day-collection-Prize-winning-Lincoln-ebook/dp/B09TR3DYKW/

https://www.amazon.es/Liberation-Day-Stories-George-Saunders-ebook/dp/B09SKZ4BJ3/

Author George Saunders
Author George Saunders

About the author:

George Saunders is the author of nine books, including Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short-story collection). He has received MacArthur and Guggen-heim fellowships and the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

https://www.georgesaundersbooks.com

 https://www.amazon.com/George-Saunders/e/B000APEZ74/

 My review:

I received an ARC copy of this collection of stories from NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing UK, and I freely decided to review it.

I read and reviewed Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, his first novel, of well-deserved fame, but I was aware that he was well-known for his short stories and tales, so I could not resist checking this collection. Habitual readers of this author might want to check the book’s contents, as some of them have been published before, but I found it a fascinating work, disquieting, disturbing, thought-provoking, but also beautiful and a masterclass in writing. Exploring a variety of subjects (memory, identity, manipulation, politics, lies, moral and ethical values, love, family relations, loyalty, creativity, and art…), with the multiple voices, points of view, stream-of-consciousness, epistles, varying lengths, and genres, and the many settings and characters, it is an extraordinary reading experience.

 Liberation Day. A novella-sized story, an allegory, and/or a dystopian story set in a not-too-distant future (or in a parallel universe), both breathtakingly beautiful and utterly terrifying. Enslavement, murder, memory, forgetting, history, performance, love, family, work, relationships, politics, social order… Brutal and shocking as a work of art should be.

The Mom of Bold Action: This one will make readers, and especially writers, smile, as the main character, Tina, stuck for an idea for a story, keeps trying to make up stories based on anything and everything that happens around her. Unfortunately, when something important (?) happens, her writing has unexpected consequences. Duty, guilt, justice, family, and motherhood all turn this seemingly comedic story into something not quite so benign.

Love Letter: A moving love letter between a grandfather and his grandson, but also a commentary on ageing, politics, the stories we tell ourselves and the excuses we make for our own actions,on how our everyday lives and actions have an impact on History, and a vivid reminder that, as Edmond Burke wrote: ‘All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’.

A Thing at Work: This is a story told from multiple points of view (I am not sure what readers who hate head-hopping will think, but it is clear whose head you’re in at all times) narrating an incident at an office. There are good intentions, pettiness, revenge, self-justification, anger, impotence… And although what happens is of little consequence (at least in the large scheme of life), it is a gem of observation and characterization.

Sparrow: Told in the first person plural and at times even the second person, it is an unusual romantic story, beautifully told and surprisingly optimistic.

Ghoul: The same as in Liberation Day, at first we are not sure what is going on and where we are. Is it a strange amusement park, full of actors playing a variety of roles in different set scenes (even though they are called work-houses)? Is this an underground place? Is it Hell? Are these human beings that at some point went underground and now live an alternative life, a pretend one, forever waiting for visitors from above? There are laws, rules, and the consequences for breaking them are horrific. But if you are aware that someone has broken the rules and you don’t denounce the guilty party, you might end up being punished yourself. There is always room for hope, though. A dystopian version of The Truman Show, an allegory of certain political regimes, or something else entirely?

Mother’s Day: A Mother’s Day that starts pretty ordinary, but a chance encounter makes Alma’s mind wander down memory lane, and the same happens to Debby, the woman she meets, who might not be a friend, but they share a connection. We discover lies, pettiness, self-justification, regrets, and, perhaps mother nature bringing on a day or reckoning.

Elliot Spencer: Another story that begins with readers being witness to something that can have different readings: some sort of therapy, perhaps, or rehabilitation, as the main character (89, later Greg, and possibly neither) is taught words, their ‘meanings’, and trained, but, what for? He discovers he is not the only one, and it seems he is a part of some sort of operation staging protests. But why is he there? Who is he? How did he get here? Does he even know what the cause is? And does it really matter? Is that what politics has become? Memory and what makes us what we are lies at the heart of this story, as it does many of the others. It brought to my mind the first part of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

My House: Two men, with similar dreams, with much in common, whose lives cross because of a house, end up at loggerheads due to a moment’s hesitation and miscommunication. A story that questions what is really important and what meaning we attach to the things that surround us. We cannot be objective about certain things, it seems, and the house stands for something beyond even its history.

I cannot think of any good reason not to read this book. These are not classical stories with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end, and a clear message. These are stories where readers have to work and bring in their own interpretations. After all, that is what reading is, or should be, about. So, accept the challenge, and enjoy these stories.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author, and thanks to all of you for visiting every week, reading, commenting, liking, and sharing with anybody who might be interested. Take care and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE SHIVERING GROUND AND OTHER STORIES by Sara Barkat For those who dare get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of other worlds #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you something that defies easy definitions. Ah, a word of warning. The book will be published (if there are no delays) on the 1st of December, so it might not be available for immediate download if you read this post on the day of its publication, but you could reserve it and won’t have to wait too long for it.

The Shivering Ground and Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Shivering Ground and Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Shivering Ground blends future and past, earth and otherworldliness, in a magnetic collection that shimmers with art, philosophy, dance, film, and music at its heart. 

A haunting medieval song in the mouth of a guard, an 1800s greatcoat on the shoulders of a playwright experiencing a quantum love affair, alien worlds both elsewhere and in the ruined water at our feet: these stories startle us with the richness and emptiness of what we absolutely know and simultaneously cannot pin into place.

 In the tender emotions, hidden ecological or relational choices, and the sheer weight of a compelling voice, readers “hear” each story, endlessly together and apart.

~

“The word ‘original,’ as a compliment, is both overused and quite often misused. But sometimes it’s the only word that will do. Sara Barkat is an original. Her imagination is imperious; she wields words as she pleases, in ways that delight and unsettle. In this, she reminds me of Emily Dickinson. Reading her, I expect you will agree. Don’t miss the opportunity.”

—John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture (1995-2016)

Author Sara Barkat

About the author:

Sara Barkat is an intaglio artist and writer with an educational background in philosophy and psychology, whose work has appeared in Every Day Poems, Tweetspeak Poetry, and Poetic Earth Month—as well as in the book How to Write a Poem: Based on the Billy Collins Poem “Introduction to Poetry.” Sara has served as an editor on a number of titles including the popular The Teacher Diaries: Romeo & Juliet, and is the illustrator of The Yellow Wall-Paper Graphic Novel, an adaptation of the classic story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

https://sarabarkat.com/bio

My review:

I write this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity to read and review an early ARC copy of this special collection…

I enjoy short stories, but I rarely read anthologies or collections of them, other than those of authors I already know and whose writing I love. However, although I had never read this author’s work before, there was something compelling and utterly different about this book, and the cover and the title added to the appeal.

Although I’m not sure what I was expecting to read, the stories were surprising and extremely varied. Some seemed to be set in the present (or an alternative version of the present), some in the past (or a possible past), some in a dystopian future, some in parallel universes, and the characters varied from very young children to adults, and from human beings to a variety of “Others”. Some of the stories are very brief, some are long enough to be novellas (or almost), and they are written from all possible points of view: first person, third person (in some cases identified as “they”), and even second person. I usually would try to give an overview of themes and subjects making an appearance in the stories, but that is notably difficult here. The description accompanying the book gives a good indication of what to expect, and if I had to highlight some commonalities between the stories, I would mention, perhaps, the desire and need to connect and communicate with others, in whatever form possible, and to create and express one’s feelings and thoughts, through any medium (music, painting, writing, sewing…),

These short stories are not what many readers have come to expect from the form: a fully developed narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, although usually providing fewer details and not so much character development as we would find in a novel, and often with a surprising twist at the end that can make us reconsider all we have read up to that point. Barkat’s stories are not like that. They rarely have a conventional ending (even when they do, it is open to readers’ interpretations), sometimes there are descriptive passages that we aren’t used to seeing in short narratives, and the plot isn’t always the most important part of the story (if at all). The way the story is told, the style and beauty of the writing, and the impressions and feelings they cause on the reader make them akin to artworks. If reading is always a subjective and personal experience, this is, even more, the case here, and no description can do full justice to this creation.

Despite that, I decided to try to share a few thoughts on each one of the stories, in case it might encourage or help other readers make their own minds up. I’d usually add here that I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but these are not that kind of stories either.

1. The Door at the End of the Path. A wonderful story full of vivid descriptions of a young girl’s imagination, her internal life, and a reflection of the heavy toll the difficult relationship of the parents can have on their children.

2. Conditions. A glimpse into the relationship between a brother and a sister, where the best intentions can have the worst results, set in a world that is half-dystopia, half an alternative present, with more than a slight touch of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

3. The Eternal In-Between. A dystopia set during a pandemic, with plenty of steampunk-like fancies, and an ode to the power of imagination.

4. The Mannequin. A dystopian world epitomized by the willingness of its subjects to undergo quite an extreme and symbolic procedure to keep the status quo in place.

5. Brianna. A very special retelling of a fairy-tale story that digs dip into the psychological aspects and the effects such events would have over real people, especially if it was a fate repeated generation after generation. One of my favourites.

6. Noticing. A story with a strong ecological theme, a generous dose of fantasy, some beautiful illustrations and eerie pictures, an endorsement of the power of stories, and a strong warning we should heed. Both terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful. Another favourite.

7. Entanglement. A short but compelling story/metaphor of a love affair, and/or the possibility of one.

8. The Day Before Tomorrow. Although set in a very strange and dystopic society, it is a Young Adult story of sorts, and the relationship between the two main characters feels totally natural and everyday, despite the extremely unusual surroundings. Perhaps our stories never change, no matter what might be happening around us. A hopeful story I really enjoyed.

9. It’s Already Too Late. Very brief, very compelling vignette with a very strong ecological message. A call to forget about our excuses and the reasons to carry on doing nothing.

10. The Shivering Ground. A sci-fiction/fantasy/dystopian story that might seem utterly sad and pessimistic, but it is also moving and (I think) hopeful.

11. A Universe Akilter. A wonderful story that kept wrong-footing me, as if the ground the story was set on kept shifting. A Universe Akilter indeed! It starts as the story of the breakup of a romance, seemingly because the man has been caught up cheating, set some time in the past (many of the details and the way the characters behave sound Victorian, but there are small incongruous details that pop up every so often and others that seem to shift), but as the story progresses, it becomes the story of a (possible?) love affair in parallel universes (the universe of our dreams, perhaps), that influences and changes the life of the protagonist, making him discover things about himself and his creativity he would never have considered otherwise. This is the longest story in the book and one that might especially appeal to readers of dual-time or time-travel stories (although it is not that at all).

 

As usual, I recommend those thinking about reading this collection check a sample of it. The stories are quite different from each other, but it should suffice to provide future readers with a good feel for the writing style.

I could not help but share a few paragraphs from the book, although as I have read an ARC copy, there might be some small changes to the final version.

 

All the wreckage, all the ruin, and the ground was brilliant red. Every morning, he would wake to more of the world ending, and the earth laid out a scarlet cloak as though waiting for an emperor to arrive.

 

He wishes, desperately, that he could remember the sound of her voice hen she still knew innocence; that he had thought to fold it in his pocket with the mementos of another life.

 

Perhaps being a mis-turned wheel in a spinning globe is only as it should be after all, when in the spring, the scent of mint and apple blossoms fills the acres behind you.

 

But, surely, I wondered, interpretability only goes so far. To go further would be to strike out onto one’s own adventure, breaking the mass of the art’s finished illusion.

 

I wouldn’t say I “understood” all the stories, or I got the meaning the author intended (if she had a specific design for each one of her stories), but I don’t think that is what this collection is about. Like in an exhibition of artworks, the important thing is what each one of them makes us feel, what thoughts and reflections they set in motion, and how much of an impression they leave on us.

I don’t recommend this book to readers looking for traditionally told short stories, with a clear beginning and end, and a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, readers seeking something outside the norm and happy to: explore new worlds, try new experiences, ponder about meanings and possibilities, and get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of the words, should read this collection. It’s too beautiful to miss.

 Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember, if you’ve enjoyed it, to like, share, click and comment. Stay safe, keep smiling, and dare to explore all the wonderful worlds books can take us to. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog BACKSTORIES by Simon Van Der Velde (@SimonVdVwriter ) Engaging, clever, informative, and beautifully crafted #RBRT #shortstories

Hi all:

I bring you a book that resists easy classification. It is a collection of short stories (sort of), non-fiction biographies (sort of), and also a quiz/challenge for the reader. Rosie never fails in her selection of reading material, that’s for sure.

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde 

Can you find the famous person hidden in every story? And once found, can you understand them?

‘Ingenious idea, brilliantly executed’ – Daily Mirror

Backstories – ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ – is a collection of stories each told from the point of view of one of my personal heroes, (or villains) back when they were just another Jew or black, or queer – back when they were nobody. Bullied, assaulted or psychologically abused, their road to redemption was never easy, and for some there would be no redemption, only a descent into evil.

These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice – but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them – leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

Simon Van der Velde January, 2021

Backstories is published by Smoke & Mirrors Press.

MY BACKSTORIES QUEST

“Whatever happened to, all of the heroes?” The Stranglers 1977

was twelve years old when I first heard this song and although there was something in the feral tone that grabbed me, I didn’t really understand it. I do now. I get the angst and the loss and the emptiness, which is why, in Backstories, I aim to answer the question.

I’m not interested in simplistic tabloid truths. They clung on too long, drank too much, lost their looks and their charm and generally reminded us that we’re all getting older. That’s not what I want from my heroes.

What I want is to find the spark, to dig down into their pain, their passions and their imperfections, and show you our heroes as they truly are.

So join me on my quest. Let’s bypass the obvious, the tedious, and the dull, and brave the deeper, darker paths where the treasures can be found – and together we’ll uncover the fears and doubts that made our heroes what they were and perhaps catch a glimpse of ourselves along the way.

Whatever happened to all of the heroes? They turned out to be human beings, in all their diverse glory.

Simon Van der Velde January, 2021 

https://www.amazon.com/Backstories-Simon-Van-Velde-ebook/dp/B08R7P65Y3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Backstories-Simon-Van-Velde-ebook/dp/B08R7P65Y3/

https://www.amazon.es/Backstories-Simon-Van-Velde-ebook/dp/B08R7P65Y3/

Author Simon Van Der Velde

About the author: 

Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.

Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.

https://www.amazon.com/Simon-Van-Der-Velde/e/B08SKCFFNY/

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I enjoy short stories, but recently I have not read as many as I used to, preferring to read novels that build up more slowly and give you the opportunity to get to know the characters and see how they evolve over time. So this was a bit of an unusual choice for me, but I kept reading intriguing reviews of this book, and after checking it out, I had to read the whole thing. And it was worth it.

I had never read anything by the author, although he has been writing for a while and his short stories have earned him a variety of awards and accolades, but I suspect this won’t be the last of his books I read, and he is already preparing the second volume of Backstories for publication.

It is a bit difficult to talk about this book in any detail without giving too much away. The author explains his goals and what the book is about quite clearly in his description, so I won’t go over it again. I am not sure that I would describe it as a collection of short stories. Some are biographical vignettes, moments in somebody’s life (or their backstories, if we like), where something momentous happened, or is about to happen (in some cases), while others fit in more easily with the standard understanding of a short story containing a full narrative. In some ways, I guess it is the reader’s job to complete the story, by guessing who the protagonist is and understanding how that snippet fits in with the rest of the person’s life, how significant or important it might be, and how much it reveals of what we know happened next to the person.

In some cases, we see a famous person (some are musicians, some important historical figures, some sports personalities, some less-than-savoury characters…) as children or very young adults, and the author cleverly creates a picture of who they were and how that relates to whom they will become. Sometimes, we see somebody on the verge of doing something that would change things forever, and at others, we get an inkling of what things might have been like if something hadn’t happened or circumstances had been different. One of the stories illustrated perfectly a quandary I’ve had for years about a historical figure as if the author had read my mind, but I’ll keep my peace about it as well.

There are 14 stories, tightly written, some in the first and some in the third person, and they move quickly, the style of writing easy but at the same time adapted to the personality, the era, and the location of the individual portrayed by each. Most of them are told from the point of view of the famous person, although there are some in which we see them reflected through somebody else’s eyes. It is very difficult to stop reading the stories, especially if you enjoy guessing games or quizzes, as one gets gripped by what is happening at the time and also hooked on trying to find who the person is. If you want to know how well I got on, yes, I guessed all of them (although in one of the cases I had only a passing acquaintance with the character, and I ended up checking to make sure), and some had me scratching my head until the very end or changing my mind several times as I read, while others I suspected from early on.

I enjoyed them all, in different ways (some because I felt the build-up of the situation, others because the story itself was moving and/or inspiring, some because I loved the protagonists, and some because they chilled me to the bone), and I think most readers will find some that work better for them than others, particularly if they admire some of the protagonists, but there isn’t a bad one in the lot. These are not sanitized and clean stories, and readers must be warned that they will find all kinds of violence, abuse, prejudice… depicted in its pages. The author has explained his reasoning behind his choices, and a percentage of the book’s earnings will go to good causes, so this is more than justified, in my opinion.

I recommend this highly enjoyable collection to anybody who loves quizzes, who has ever wondered what happened before historical figures or famous people became who they are, and particularly to those who prefer their reading short, crisp, and based on facts rather than fancy. And, if you like the formula, don’t forget that there is a second book coming your way soon.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their support, thanks to the author for his book, and thanks to all of you for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and for always being there. Keep safe and always keep smiling!

 

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Book review Book reviews

#BookReview Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet (@KristinFouquet). Whimsical, touching and atmospheric stories and photographs

Hi all:

I bring you the review of a pretty special book. If you’re looking for something a little different and love black & white photos, this is your book.

Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet
Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet

Surrendered Stories with photographs by Kristin Fouquet

These four surrendered stories are accompanied by twenty-four b&w photographs. In “Cocteau’s Ransom”, two dognappers believe they’ve found the solution to their financial troubles until unexpected complications arise. A lonely young woman with employment issues finds her escapism in vintage films at “The Vestige”. When the Roussels “Return to Camp Bon Temps”, their annual summer fishing camp, it’s not all good times as their daughter cannot forget the previous summer. In “Margaux’s understudy,” an inexperienced home healthcare worker uses the past in creative ways to engage her wards.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

https://www.amazon.es/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

Author and photographer Kristin Fouquet

About the author:

Kristin Fouquet writes and photographs from lovely New Orleans. She is the author of for other books of short literary fiction: Twenty Stories (Ranks Stranger Press, 2009), a collection of flash fiction and longer short stories, Rampart & Toulouse (Rank Stranger Press, 2011), a novella and short stories, The Olive Stain (Le Salon Press, 2013), a chapbook of flash fiction, short stories, a novelette, and Parisian Graveyard Postcards, and Surreptitiously Yours (Le Salon Press, 2016), a novella. Her photography has been widely published in both online journals and in print: magazines, chapbook and book covers, and CDs. She enjoys constructing photo essays. Her preferences are fine art photography, street photography, street portraits, and the occasional traditional portrait. You are invited to visit her humble virtual abode, Le Salon, at the web address http://kristin.fouquet.cc

My review:

I received a paperback review copy of this book from the publisher. That has not influenced my feedback.

I was intrigued by the description of this book, by the author’s previous work, and by the fact that this volume of four of her stories includes twenty-four of her own black and white photographs, which illustrate and create an aesthetic dialogue with the content and the feel of the stories. I was also intrigued by the title and my curiosity was answered as soon as I read the opening quote in this slim but handsome volume: A piece of writing is never finished. You just surrender. (Carter Monroe). I love this quote because, as I write as well, I am familiar with the feeling that a story is never quite as good as it could be, and it is never totally finished. In my opinion, though, these stories are perfect as they are.

The four stories are very different, but the images and the writing style turn this book into a unique experience.

I’ll share a few comments about each individual story, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers.

“Cocteau’s Ransom”, written in the third person, is a story of a couple who believe they’ve found a way to make some money by kidnapping a dog, but they have made a mistake (an understandable one, for sure, but still…) A fun and humorous story (although it might upset animal lovers).

“The Vestige” has a touch of nostalgia (in fact, at first I thought it was a historical piece but I soon realised I was wrong), plenty of atmosphere, lovely characters, and it is also a sweet and gentle love (?) story that will enchant fans of the cinema experience and enthusiasts of old movies.

In “Return to Camp Bon Temps” we meet Martine, a girl who’s deeply traumatised due to something that happened last summer.  The story, which is also narrated in the third person (all three first stories are), takes place in the summer camp where the members of her extended family meet every year, and each person has its own role to play. Martin, her father, is a larger than life character who seems to always get his own way, but things are not as they seem to be, and I loved the father-daughter relationship and their moment of truth.

“Margaux’s understudy”, narrated in the first person by a young woman who lands a somewhat odd first-job, has touches of the fairy and/or gothic tale (it made me think of Bluebeard), of old movies and movie stars of the golden era (Sunset Boulevard, for example); it includes fragments of diaries and quotes from plays; it is very atmospheric (and the photographs are gorgeous), and is a fairly whimsical but also touching love story and the story of an obsession. Oh, and one of its characters is a fabulous parrot called Ayo.

As I wrote this review I realised that if I had to come up with a possible theme that links all the stories, it would have to be “appearances can be deceptive”. In these stories, both characters and readers misjudge people and situations, and the twists and surprises come when we learn the truth.

These stories, mostly set in New Orleans, are perfect for reading during short breaks; they create an immersive atmosphere without going into excessive detail, and are ideal for people looking for an engaging interlude between long and demanding reads. I look forward to following this author’s career, and I’ll be sure to visit her website and learn more about her work as a photographer. A great collection.

Thanks to the author for her stories and photographs, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview LIVE SHOW, DRINK INCLUDED – COLLECTED STORIES by Vicky Grut (@VickyGrut) @HollandParkPres) A diverse collection of beautifully observed and written stories #short-story

Hi all:

I don’t read many short-stories these days, but this collection is a must.

Live Show, Drink Included - Collected Stories by Vicky Grut
Live Show, Drink Included – Collected Stories by Vicky Grut

Live Show, Drink Included – Collected Stories by Vicky Grut

Fiction. Short Stories. For the stories in this collection Vicky Grut takes inspiration from a range of often ordinary situations and explores how easily things can go awry or take an unexpected turn. The stories veer from the realistic to the surreal, and nothing is quite what it seems.

To give you a flavour of what they are like here are a few snippets:

In “Rich,” two young people travelling towards Florence just after the Bologna bombing of 1980, decide to cadge a meal and a bed for the night from a girl they barely know. In the early hours of the morning, the atmosphere suddenly changes. They are in over their heads.

In “Mistaken,” an academic is mistaken for a shop assistant in a big London department store. When she reacts impulsively she finds herself in trouble. Help comes from an unlikely quarter–and for all the wrong reasons.

In “Into the Valley,” a woman tries to comfort her suffering mother-in-law on ward 19 in a small hospital in Wales. Underneath the ward sign it says, in English and in Welsh, “Bereavement Office / Swyddfa Profedigaeth.” There probably isn’t a ward 20.

Many of the stories have been shortlisted for awards and prizes over the years, including the Asham Award (twice) and the Narrative Magazine Contest in the US. Six of the stories were included in new writing collections from Serpents’ Tail, Pulp Editions, Duckworths, Granta, Picador and Bloomsbury, and two were published in the States by Harvard Review. The final story “Into the Valley” was included in the list of “Essays of Note in 2012” at the end of Cheryl Strayed’s edition of Best American Essays, 2013. Be prepared to not only be entertained but also taken by surprise when reading the fourteen mini-novels in this collection.

‘Some are dark and disturbing tales of lives viewed from under the mad end of a microscope, others are more of a glimpse of lives gone sideways.’ – Alexei Sayle

‘These delicious, dark, funny and affecting stories – reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor – remind us that life does not come with simple solutions and that often it is in the terrifying messiness that we are the most alive.’ – Tania Hershman

https://www.amazon.com/Live-Show-Drink-Included-Collected-ebook/dp/B07JK5HTQL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Live-Show-Drink-Included-Collected-ebook/dp/B07JK5HTQL/

Author Vicky Grut
Author Vicky Grut

About the Author

Vicky Grut was born in South Africa and lived in Madagascar and Italy before moving to England in 1980 to study fine art at Goldsmiths. She has worked in community arts, for a small independent publisher, as a freelance editor, in the London office of the New Yorker magazine, as a creative writing tutor and a lecturer in several universities, including the London South Bank University and the University of Greenwich. Her first short story was published in 1994 in Metropolitan magazine and since then her work has appeared in new writing collections and literary magazines around the world, including collections published by Picador, Granta, Duckworth, Serpents’ Tail and Bloomsbury.

Vicky was twice a finalist for the Asham Award. “Into the Valley” was listed as a Notable Essays of 2012 in Best American Essays 2013. “In the Current Climate” won the Holland Park Press “I is Another” contest in 2015. Her novel-in-progress Human Geography was shortlisted for the 2017 Caledonia Novel Award.

https://vickygrut.com/home/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of the book from the publisher. This has in no way affected the content of my review.

This is a great collection of short stories. The author has a talent for being able to create a vivid background for her stories and she also gives us a good insight into who her characters are and what makes them tick. I am mostly a reader of novels, and I am aware that sometimes, even after reading a whole novel we still don’t have a clear sense of who these characters are, so this is a skill I particularly appreciate. The stories are beautifully observed; we get to see what is going on through the heads of the characters and also the situation that develops around them. The stories share a variety of moments and events in the lives of the characters, seemingly chosen randomly, ranging from tales of job difficulties, to family relationships, illnesses, and even the death of some of the characters.

I didn’t find any of the stories weak, and I enjoyed them all, although some of them might be better received depending on the mood of the reader and personal taste.

I’ll briefly comment each one:

In the Current Climate. A quietly menacing story that although somewhat surreal and taken to extremes seems very apt in today’s job market and big companies.

Debts. In appearance a vignette of everyday life rather than a complete story, it beautifully conveys how our state of mind can be reflected and amplified by everything around us: interfering neighbours, children’s tantrums, and even the weather. Mundane, wonderfully observed and beautiful.

Downsizing. After reading this story, I don’t think I’ll ever think of audits and management books in quite the same way. A great combination of realistic insight into the workings of modern companies and corporations and the whimsy and imagination of people that can never be totally subjugated.

Mistaken. Retail therapy with a difference. An articulate and high-achieving academic discovers that prejudice is still alive and well, sisterhood can have different meanings for different people, and some artworks can be prescient.

An Unplanned Event. The story of a man who never felt he belonged anywhere and finally gets to feel accepted and loved.

Escape Artist. A young woman ends up violently trapped at home and realises that she is also trapped in her relationship.

Live Show, Drink Included. What starts at a seemingly seedy and slightly menacing location turns up to be a beautiful love story full of light humour and some of my favourite lines.

“If you cut me open with a little knife there’d be a print of her right there in the middle of me” (Grut, 2018, p. 86).

A Minor Disorder. Two young men travelling in South Africa in the mid-1950s with very different attitudes to the situation are affected by the atmosphere around them in contrasting ways.

Saucers of Sweets. A story of life imitating art, especially recommended to people in the book publishing business, with some precious quotes.

“A book should be like a saucer of sweets, each chapter brightly wrapped and inviting in its own right” (Grut, 2018, p. 100).

Stranger. A lyrical observational vignette about an episode that feels oddly familiar and can be read in different ways.

Rich. This story contains the germ of a whole novel, full of fascinating characters (I loved Ashley), a compelling background and enlightening insights. It also has a great sense of time, place, and atmosphere. Its open ending can be discomforting to some readers, but I found it liberating.

There is a quote that particularly resonated with me:

“People equate emotion with weakness…” (Grut, 2018, p. 132).

Visitors. A vignette of small-town life in Wales, containing sharp observations about family relationships and motherly love.

On the Way to the Church. A possible life-changing revelation comes at the weirdest moment and explains many things.

Into the Valley. Having spent time in hospital with both of my parents in recent times, this story felt particularly touching and true to life. It records the last ten days in the life of a woman, spent in hospital, from the perspective of her daughter-in-law. The longest of the stories, it captures the feeling of numbness and routine that can take over one’s life in such circumstances.

“Night shift, day shift, back again to the night. We are far away from the world. We are in the Valley. Deep In” (Grut, 2018, p. 166-7).

There are characters with similar or the same names in different stories, and there are also typical corporate speech expressions which appear in separate stories, so as we read them we might find some similarities or links between the stories included, but as the end note explains, many of the stories have been published before, have received awards, and can, indeed, be read separately. I was impressed by the quality of the collection and this is an author I intend to keep a close eye on in the future.

Grut, V. (2018). Live show, drink included. Collected stories. London, UK: Holland Park Press.

Thanks to Holland Park Press and to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview GODDESS OF THE RAINBOW by Patrick Brigham. A multitude of stories that make up a feel-good novel in an extraordinary setting.

Hi all:

I’ve finally got around to reading this book, and I am pleased I have.

Goddess of the Rainbow by Patrick Brigham
Goddess of the Rainbow by Patrick Brigham

GODDESS OF THE RAINBOW by Patrick Brigham.

Goddess of The Rainbow is a very Greek story involving the rain, and how flooding changes us, moves the finger of fate, and causes us to reflect on our lives. A series of short stories, they all happen in the Greek town of Orestiada. Stories which simultaneously interlink and become a part of the whole, center around Iris – the local DHL courier – who in Greek mythology is not only Goddess of The Rainbow, but also the Messenger of The Gods, thereby connecting the individual tales of this 16 Chapter book. In it there is a murderous estate agent, and his equally murderous wife, an aspiring artist looking for recognition in Athens, an estranged couple separated by time who rekindle their love, a Greek- Australian who is from Melbourne, and a visiting bus load of Russian women from Moscow. They have been invited by the mayor, in order that some of the winging local bachelors might find a suitable wife. There is an illegal Syrian immigrant, a disgruntled typically Greek mother who doesn’t want her son to marry at all, and a Greek Orthodox Priest who has lost his faith. All that and more; stories which come so beautifully together in the last chapter –fascinating and enchanting – which can be read and enjoyed individually, but put together, serve to make the whole novel greater than its component parts.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1980983720/

https://www.amazon.com/Goddess-Rainbow-Patrick-Brigham-ebook/dp/B07CS2DWDV/

Author Patrick Brigham
Author Patrick Brigham

About the author:

The author Patrick Brigham writes good mystery books, many of which are set at the very end of the Cold War and Communism. Featuring fictional police detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert, he is often faced with political intrigue, and in order to solve his cases – which frequently take place in Eastern Europe and the Balkans – he needs to understand how an old Communist thinks, during the course of his investigations.
There are few good books on the subject of international crime, especially mystery stories which delve into the shady side of Balkan politics, neither are there many novelists who are prepared to address Mystery Crime Fiction, like the author.
Patrick Brigham was the Editor in Chief of the first English Language news magazine in Bulgaria between 1995 and 2000. As a journalist, he witnessed the changes in this once hard core Communist Country and personally knew most of the political players. Traditionally a hotbed of intrigue and the natural home of the conspiracy theory, Bulgaria proved to be quite a challenge and for many the transition into democracy was painful.
Despite this, he personally managed to survive these changes and now lives peacefully in Northern Greece. These days Patrick has branched out into contemporary literary fiction, and his newest novel, Goddess of The Rainbow, is about Greece and the Greeks.
https://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brigham/e/B00BGZTKFE/

My review:

I received a paperback ARC copy of this review and that has in no way affected the content of my feedback.

This novel (because yes, although it is composed of what appear to be separate vignettes all taking place in the same period of time and in the same location, it does amount to more than its parts, as the description correctly points out) chronicles a Greek town, Orestiada, and its inhabitants’ adventures at a point of crisis. It has been raining for weeks, the river is growing, and things are coming to a head, and I am not only talking about the weather and the flood.

The author cleverly weaves all the seemingly separate strands, first setting up the multiple characters and their circumstances (we do have a varied catalogue of mostly adult and middle-aged characters, many locals, but also a British man who has lived most of his life abroad [as an unofficial spy now turned writer], a Syrian illegal immigrant, a busload of Russian women, another busload of Israeli women, and people from all walks of small-town Greek life, from farmers to mayors, from factory directors to artists), and then wrenching up the tension, as if the weather was having an effect on the whole population, and things that had been bubbling up under the surface were now ready to explode. And although in some cases the actual resolution is not as spectacular as we might have expected (after all, we have attempted murders, personal threats, cars plunging into a river, racial slurs, a group of Russian women coming to meet the single men of the town in a collective dating experiment, old flames meeting again…) there is a silver lining after the storm and readers leave the town with a warm and hopeful feeling.

What did I like? The story made me think of the best soap operas centred in a community, where over a period of time we get to know the characters, and we care for them. It shows the writer’s great skill that despite the episodic nature of the story, we feel quite close to the characters (some more than others, but still, they are all distinctive and feel real in their everyday preoccupations and lives) and care what happens to them. Iris, in some ways the central character, as she is the goddess of the rainbow in Greek mythology, is the messenger of the town, and no matter what her personal circumstances are she keeps delivering parcels, messages, and bringing her upbeat outlook and optimism to all she meet. She is a favourite of mine, and I was happy things worked out so well for her. But I became fond of most of the characters, even the less likeable ones, as we are offered enough information about them to understand them, and the good-will of the town and its people is contagious. The story is narrated in the third person but each chapter is told from the perspective of the main character it talks about, and that means we get to see them not only as others see them but as they truly are.

The novel creates a good sense of what the place and the homes of the characters are like, without going into long descriptions. Those that are included capture more the mood rather than the detail, and are, like the rest of the book, pretty humorous (with a touch of irony but fairly affectionate). Here Maria, the local artist, who has to produce work that she does not like but is to the taste of the local market, is reflecting upon what the houses of the citizens who came to the exhibitions of her work every year would look like:

Afterwards, these stalwarts would return to their homes —inevitably filled with expensive vulgar baubles, nick-nacks, coloured glass from Venice, and a blue-faced woman enigmatically smiling from the sitting room wall like some demented oriental Mona Lisa.

Together with a collection of pissing dog prints, their overcrowded living rooms were neve complete without a large china bust of Socrates. A translated set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica —carefully secreted an unopened on a half-hidden bookshelf— and their illusion of sophistication was complete.

The humour can be dark at times, especially when it comes to a couple who want to get rid of each other and will not stop at anything to make sure they achieve their goal. Here one of their business associates is thinking about one of his men:

The assassin liked Dragomire because he didn’t mind shooting people when he carried out a bank robbery, which in his view was very professional and to be admired.

I guess we all have our standards and rules of conduct. (By the way, I’d advise law-abiding Bulgarians to keep away from this book, as it does not paint a great image of its people, but the overgeneralisations seem in keeping with the view neighbouring countries might have of each other, not always flattering).

Was there anything I didn’t like? As I said, I enjoyed the atmosphere, the character’s and their stories. I received a copy of the book, in paperback, a long while ago but hadn’t had a chance to read it. Therefore, it might be that the book has undergone revisions and transformations since, so my objections might well be unjustified now. The paperback had some formatting issues (no page numbers, some empty pages and strange distribution of text), there was the odd typo here and there (nothing too jarring even for an early copy), and then there were some peculiarities in the way the story was told. As a non-native English speaker, I am always wary of commenting on style. In this case, I wondered if some of the grammatical structures that sounded slightly odd to me might be an attempt at adopting the rhythm of conversations and speech in Greece, and I soon became accustomed to it and got to like it, but I’d advise readers to read a sample of the book first, to check for themselves.

A feel-good book about a rather wonderful place, one of these towns that, although far from ideal, end up earning a place in our hearts.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview LINCOLN IN THE BARDO: WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017 by George Saunders (@BloomsburyBooks) #literaryfiction #BookerPrize17 Experimental, challenging, touching and funny at times but not a crowd-pleaser.

Hi all:

I bring you a review that is a follow-up on a series of reviews from last year.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo: WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017 by George Saunders

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017

A STORY OF LOVE AFTER DEATH


‘A masterpiece’ Zadie Smith

‘Extraordinary’ Daily Mail
‘Breathtaking’ Observer
A tour de force’ The Sunday Times

The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven-year-old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War

The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos, and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?

https://www.amazon.com/Lincoln-Bardo-WINNER-BOOKER-PRIZE-ebook/dp/B01HI8M1TY/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lincoln-Bardo-WINNER-BOOKER-PRIZE-ebook/dp/B01HI8M1TY/

Editorial reviews:

A masterpiece (Zadie Smith New York Times)

Must be one of my favourite novels. What a warm, kindhearted and radical piece of writing. Such delicacy, such serious wit. I love it (Max Porter)

An early contender for 2017’s Man Booker, a highly affecting novel about Abraham Lincoln’s grief at the loss of his young son (Sunday Times 2017-01-01)

The much anticipated long-form debut from the US short-story maestro does not disappoint (Guardian 2017-01-07)

The debut novel by the short-story supremo George Saunders. Set in 1862 in a cemetery in Washington, it has drawn high praise (New Statesman 2017-01-06)

A cacophonous, genre-busting book inspired by the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son (Metro 2017-01-09)

Filled with wit and sadness. It is an immensely powerful work. In the hands of the right imagination, the horror of individual loss can become an extraordinarily humane exploration of the beauty and the value of life, however painful (Guardian 2017-09-21)

An original father-son tale that expertly blends history and fiction (and even the supernatural), Lincoln in the Bardo explores grief, loss, life, death (Buzzfeed Year Ahead in Books)

George Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time (Khaled Hosseini)

A morally passionate, serious writer … He will be read long after these times have passed (Zadie Smith)

Review

‘It would be an understatement to call this novel an extraordinary tour de force.’ (The Sunday Times)

‘A luminous feat of generosity and humanism.’ (The New York Times)

‘A surreal metaphysical drama about grief and freedom … A father-son narrative that is both hilarious and haunting.’ (The Evening Standard)

Author George Saunders
Author George Saunders

About the author:

George Saunders is the author of nine books, including Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won the inaugural Folio Prize (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short story collection). He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University.

https://www.amazon.com/George-Saunders/e/B000APEZ74/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

First, in case you have not read the book or anything about it, and wonder what the bardo of the title refers to, it is a Buddhist concept (in Tibetan Buddhism, it seems, and I’ve read that Saunders is a Buddhist) referring to an intermediate state between death and rebirth (between two lives on Earth).

Now that we’ve cleared that out, if you follow my blog, you might remember that I reviewed some of the books that had made the long and the short-list of the Booker Prize. I enjoyed some of them more than others, but I had not read the book that actually won the Prize, and when I saw it come up on NetGalley, I could not resist. I had heard and read a great deal about it, and I felt I had to check it for myself.

This is not a standard novel. It is composed of fragments, divided into chapters, some that appear to contain extracts from a variety of written historical documents (diaries, newspapers, books, memoirs) which provide background to the events, Lincoln’s presidency and the tragic death of his son, Willie, victim to typhoid fever. Other chapters, also fragmented, contain first-person observations by a large variety of characters that ‘live’ at the cemetery where Willie is laid to rest. Call them ghosts, spirits, or whatever you prefer, they seem to have been there for a while, some longer than others, and they interact with each other, while at the same time talking about themselves and taking a keen interested on little Willie Lincoln and his father. We have the spirits of black and white characters, young and old, men and women, well-off citizens and paupers, people who had lead seemingly morally exemplary lives and others who had gone down the wrong path, some who had taken their own lives, others who had died by accident or in bed. There are some actively atoning for their sins while others only seek entertainment. They are a motley crew, and although we hear mostly from three of these characters (Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins, and the Reverend Everly Thomas) and from Willie, they all make important contributions and help create a whole that is more than its parts.

The structure of the novel is puzzling and intriguing, and although it made me think of postmodernism and pastiche, the methodology used to construct the novel is not an attempt at emptying it of meaning or making us reflect upon the artificiality and futility of seeking truth and understanding. The death of a child (even if we are not parents, most of us are close enough to the children of relatives and/or friends to be able to imagine what it must be like) is a terrible tragedy and although there are light moments in the novel, there are touching and moving ones as well. Some of the fragments emphasise the diverse opinions and judgements about Lincoln and his presidency (by the way, although some of these fragments are real documents from the period, others have been created by Saunders, and it is not evident while reading which ones are which), but everybody agrees on the devastating effect the death of his son had over the president. The hopeful ending might feel somewhat surprising but is open to interpretation, like the rest of the text.

There are fragments that will make readers wonder about religious beliefs, others that question the social order, racial ideas, and the Civil War. But I fully understand the puzzlement of many readers who leave negative reviews on this book (and the negative reviews are many) stating that they don’t understand anything, it goes over their heads, and it is not really a novel. Some readers, familiar with Saunders’s short-stories, prefer those to the novel, but as I have not read them, I cannot comment.

Here some examples of the style of writing in the book (in this case, I definitely recommend prospective readers to check inside or get a sample to see if it suits their reading taste).

…only imagine the pain of that, Andrew, to drop one’s precious son into that cold stone like some broken bird & be on your way.

Mr. Collier (shirt clay-stained at the chest from his fall, nose crushed nearly flat) was constantly compelled to float horizontally, like a human compass needle, the top of his head facing in the direction of whichever of his properties he found himself most worried about at the moment.

The money flows out, tens of thousands of men wait, are rearranged to no purpose, march pointlessly over expensive bridges thrown up for the occasion, march back across the same bridges, which are then torn down. And nothing whatsoever is accomplished.

Blame and Guilt are the furies that haunt houses where death takes children like Willie Lincoln; and in this case there was more than enough blame to go around.

The book collects a large number of endorsements and reviews at the end, and I’ve chosen this one by James Marriott, from The Times, for its briefness and accuracy: ‘The book is as weird as it sounds, but it’s also pretty darn good.’

In sum, this is a highly experimental book, for readers who enjoy a challenge and don’t mind a non-linear narrative, who enjoy literary fiction not focused on plot, and are intrigued by new writers and what makes critics tic. It is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one and I, for one, hope to catch up on some of the author’s previous books.

Thanks to NetGalley, to Bloomsbury and to the author for the novel, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

Categories
Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog DANGEROUS TO KNOW: JANES AUSTEN’S RAKES & GENTLEMEN ROGUES Ed. by Christina Boyd (@xtnaboyd) If you love Austen, Regency-period novels, and bad boys, you must read this. #Bookreview #Blogtour

Hi all:

Today I’m taking part in a Blog Tour that Rosie Amber alerted me to. I got a copy of the book, so it’s a blog tour with review. And it has the advantage of including two fabulous giveaways and even a playlist. I loved it and I hope you do too. Ah, and the book launches today. So you won’t have to wait to get it either!

DANGEROUS TO KNOW: JANES AUSTEN’S RAKES & GENTLEMEN ROGUES Edited by Christina Boyd

“One has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” —Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpieces are littered with unsuitable gentlemen—Willoughby, Wickham, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elliot, et al.—adding color and depth to her plots but often barely sketched. Have you never wondered about the pasts of her rakes, rattles, and gentlemen rogues? Surely, there’s more than one side to their stories.

It is a universal truth, we are captivated by smoldering looks, daring charms … a happy-go-lucky, cool confidence. All the while, our loyal confidants are shouting on deaf ears: “He is a cad—a brute—all wrong!” But is that not how tender hearts are broken…by loving the undeserving? How did they become the men Jane Austen created? In this romance anthology, eleven Austenesque authors expose the histories of Austen’s anti-heroes.

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues is a titillating collection of Georgian era short stories—a backstory or parallel tale off-stage of canon—whilst remaining steadfast to the characters we recognize in Austen’s great works.

What say you? Everyone may be attracted to a bad boy…even temporarily…but heaven help us if we marry one.

PUBLISHING DATE: November 15, 2017

APPROXIMATE PAGE COUNT: 380

Dangerous to Know playlist
Dangerous to Know playlist

PLAYLIST on Spotify

https://open.spotify.com/user/dimuzioc/playlist/4D32eY2iqoEkdq9gAknWqs

Other links:

GOODREADS

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36151853-dangerous-to-know?

 

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY/BOOK LIFE

https://booklife.com/my/project/dangerous-to-know-jane-austen-s-rakes-gentlemen-rogues-26423

Here is the blog tour, if you want to follow it, as it features some of the stories, more fabulous content and if you follow and comment, you can enter the second giveaway:

THE #RakesAndGentlemenRogues BLOG TOUR

💗Monday, November 6: REVIEW: Margie’s Must Reads, https://margiesmustreads.com

 

💗Thursday, November 9: REVIEW, Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

 

💗Monday, November 13: REVIEW, Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

 

💗Tuesday, November 14: REVIEW, Olga of ROSIE AMBER team, http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/

 

💗Wednesday, November 15: (release day) REVIEW, Just Jane 1813, http://justjane1813.com

 

💗Thursday, November 16: REVIEW, Diary of an Eccentric, https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com

 

🎩Monday, November 20: FEATURE w/Katie Oliver (George Wickham), From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

 

🎩Wednesday, November 22: FEATURE w/Joana Starnes (Willoughby), Babblings of a Bookworm, http://babblingsofabookworm.blogspot.com

 

🎩Friday, November 24: FEATURE w/Sophia Rose, (General Tilney), Herding Cats & Burning Soup, http://www.herdingcats-burningsoup.com

 

🎩Monday, November 27: FEATURE w/Amy D’Orazio (Captain Tilney), My Jane Austen Book Club, http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.com

 

🎩Wednesday, November 29: FEATURE w/Brooke West (Henry Crawford), VVB32 Reads, https://vvb32reads.blogspot.com

 

🎩Thursday, November 30: FEATURE w/Lona Manning (Tom Bertram), Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

 

💗Friday, December 1: REVIEW, Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

 

🎩Monday, December 4: FEATURE w/Beau North  (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

 

🎩Thursday, December 7: FEATURE w/J. Marie Croft (John Thorpe), Harry Rodell blog/ROSIE AMBER team, https://harryrodell.wordpress.com/author/rodellh

 

💗Friday, December 8: REVIEW, From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

 

🎩Monday, December 11: FEATURE w/Jenetta James Hannah McSorley (William Elliot), Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

 

🎩Thursday, December 14: FEATURE w/Karen M Cox (Frank Churchill), Darcyholic Diversions, http://darcyholic.blogspot.com

 

🎩Monday, December 17: FEATURE w/Christina Morland (Sir Walter Elliot), Of Pens & Pages, http://www.ofpensandpages.com

THE GIVEAWAYS

Giveaway 1
Giveaway 1

 

Grand Prize #1.

Enter Rafflecopter to win fifteen books from the anthology authors! One winner. Fifteen books! Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #1 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway 2.

Grand Prize #2.

Follow our “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s #RakesAndGentlemenRogues” Blog Tour and comment on each stop to be eligible for #RakesAndGentlemenRogues Pleasures prize pack: ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Print, autographed by Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle; Bingley’s Teas (Willoughby & The Colonel); Jane Austen playing cards; set of 6 Austen postcards; and ‘The Compleat Housewife’ notecards set. (All guest comments will be entered in drawing to win. Comment at each site to increase your odds.) Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #2 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

Dangerous To Know Ed. by Christina Boyd
Dangerous To Know Ed. by Christina Boyd

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, my review:

Thanks to Rosie Amber from Rosie’s Book Review Team for alerting me to this opportunity and to the editor Christina Boyd for providing me with an early ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

After reading many great reviews of The Darcy Monologues, when I had the opportunity to sign up for this blog tour I could not resist. My fondness for Jane Austen’s novels cannot compare to that of the authors of this anthology, but rest assure that you don’t need to have read several times all of Austen’s novels to enjoy this collection (although I don’t doubt you might enjoy it even more if you have).

Each story centers on one of the rakes or gentlemen rogues in one of Jane Austen’s novels (sometimes several from the same novel). As the editor explains in her note, after The Darcy Monologues she and some of the authors started looking for another project and noticed that there are many characters that are fundamental to Austen’s novels, but we don’t get to know much about, and on many occasions we are left wondering how they got to be how they are, and what happens to them later. All the stories retain the historical period of the novels, sometimes going back to give us information about the background of the characters, to their childhood, early youth, and on occasion we follow them for many years, getting a good sense of who they become when they exit the novel.

Each one of the stories is prefaced by a little snippet about the character chosen, and by one or several quotations (sometimes spread throughout the story) taken directly from Austen’s novel, where the character is mentioned. I must say the authors remain very faithful to Austen’s words although they use their imagination to build upon those snippets, always remaining faithful to the language and the spirit of the period, although the modern sensibility is evident in the stories.

We have stories with happy endings, stories that are dark and sad, stories of broken hearts, funny stories (sometimes thanks to the wit of the characters involved, others thanks to the wit of the writers who follow in Austen’s footsteps and poke fun at the most preposterous individuals), and some touching ones. There are very clean stories and some steamier ones (as it seems only appropriate to these “gentlemen”), but the editor includes a very detailed classification of the degree of heat of each one of the stories, and apart from one of the stories A Wicked Game, the rest are not scandalous (even by Regency standards).

Many of the stories are told in the first person, and that helps us share and understand better the characters (however much we might like them or not), but the few told in the third person also work well, especially as they tend to centre on characters that are perhaps particularly insightless and more preoccupied with appearances than by the truth.

I imagine each reader will have his or her favourite stories. I was a bit surprised because I thought I’d enjoy more the stories featuring characters of the novels I was more familiar with, but that was not always the case. (OK, I truly loved Fitzwilliam’s Folly about Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, but not only because of the novel, but because the character is wonderful, witty, yes, Darcy makes an appearance so we get to see him from somebody else’s point of view and someone who knows him well at that, and I loved the female character in the story too). Some writers managed to create a sense of a small society, as it must have felt at the time, where characters from several novels kept meeting or just missing each other but are all connected or know of each other. I know this was a book about the gentlemen, but I was very taken by some of the female characters, that on many occasions were the perfect match for the men.

If you are curious to know which of the characters are featured, here is the list: John Willoughby (Willoughby’s Crossroads by Joanna Starnes), George Wickham (A Wicked Game by Katie Oliver. This is the hottest one and there are some similarities to the previous story but, if you’re a fan of the character, I think you’ll enjoy this one), Colonel Fitzwilliam (Fitzwilliam’s Folly by Beau North. I’ve already mentioned this one. I love Calliope Campbell too. Well, love everything about this story and the style and the repartee reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s plays), Thomas Bertram (The Address of a French Woman by Lona Manning. How blind can one be, or perhaps not!), Henry Crawford (Last Letter to Mansfield by Brooke West), Frank Churchill (An Honest Man by Karen M Cox. One of these characters enamoured of himself who tries to do the right thing but only if it is convenient and at little personal cost. I suffered for poor Miss Fairfax), Sir Walter Elliot (One Fair Claim by Christina Morland. This is one of the stories told in the third person that do follow the character for a long time. The song “You’re So Vain” might as well have been written about him. I really enjoyed this one, first because the comments about the character were funny, later, because the tone changes and I liked his wife, who, of course, loves to read), William Elliot (The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot by Jenetta James. This somewhat related to the previous story but is quite different and particularly interesting for the comments about life in the theatre), General Tilney (As Much As He Can by Sophia Rose. This story, that uses both third and first person, I found particularly touching. Appearances can be deceptive, indeed), John Thorpe (The Art of Sinking by J. Marie Croft. This is a farce, the character a buffoon and the story really funny, especially because the character is the butt of all jokes but remains full of his own importance), and Captain Frederick Tilney (For Mischief’s Sake by Amy D’Orazio. Another great story. The main character justifies his actions insisting that he is helping other men avoid mistakes, but eventually learns to see things from a female perspective. A great female character too, Miss Gibbs).

I highlighted many passages and lines, but I don’t want to make this a never-ending review. I’ll just say the language is perfectly in keeping with the period and the stories and I’ll be exploring the books of all these writers. (There is information included about each one of them after their respective stories).

I did not cry with any of the stories (although some were quite touching), but I did laugh out loud with quite a few. I recommend this book to readers of historical romance and romance of any kind, those who enjoy short-stories with fully-fledged character, and I’m sure anybody interested in Regency novels and Jane Austen’s, in particular, will love this book.

And, I couldn’t leave without sharing a bit of information about each one of the writers and the editor:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS and the EDITOR:

CHRISTINA BOYD https://m.facebook.com/TheDarcyMonologues/ wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner, The Quill Ink, a contributor to Austenprose, and a commercial ceramicist. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by actor Henry Cavill when she won the Omaze experience to meet him in the spring of 2017 on the London Eye. True story. You can Google it.

KAREN M COX https://karenmcoxauthor.wordpress.com/ is an award-wining author of four novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, and I Could Write a Book, as well as an e-book novella companion to 1932, The Journey Home. She also contributed short stories for the anthologies Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and The Darcy Monologues. Originally from Everett, Washington, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

MARIE CROFT https://www.amazon.com/J.-Marie-Croft/e/B004HZD22W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1508353662&sr=1-1 is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF Novella), and her humorous short stories: “Spyglasses and Sunburns” in the Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology and “From the Ashes” in The Darcy Monologues. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

AMY D’ORAZIO

https://www.facebook.com/Amy-DOrazio-author-369312830172988/ is a former scientist and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in equal measure. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters devoted to sports with long practices and began writing stories as a way to pass the time spent at their various gyms and studios. She firmly believes that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily-ever-afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. She is the author of The Best Part of Love and the soon-to-be released A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity.

JENETTA JAMES https://www.facebook.com/jenettajameswriter/ is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing, and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers, as well as a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues.

LONA MANNING https://www.amazon.com/Lona-Manning/e/B01N7UJHJX is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians. She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can follow Lona at www.lonamanning.ca where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.

CHRISTINA MORLAND https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Morland/e/B01IJHEZKQ spent the first two decades of her life with no knowledge whatsoever of Pride and Prejudice—or any Jane Austen novel, for that matter. She somehow overcame this childhood adversity to became a devoted fan of Austen’s works. When not writing, Morland tries to keep up with her incredibly active seven-year-old and maddeningly brilliant husband. She lives in a place not unlike Hogwarts (minus Harry, Dumbledore, magic, and Scotland), and likes to think of herself as an excellent walker. Morland is the author of two Jane Austen fanfiction novels: A Remedy Against Sin and This Disconcerting Happiness.

BEAU NORTH http://beaunorthwrites.com/#top is the author of three books and contributor to multiple anthologies. Beau hails from the kudzu-strangled wilderness of South Carolina but now hangs her hat in Portland, Oregon. In her spare time, Beau is the co-host of the podcast Excessively Diverted: Modern Austen On-Screen.

KATIE OLIVER https://www.facebook.com/KatieOliverWriter is the author of nine novels, including the Amazon bestseller Prada and Prejudice, as well as the Dating Mr. Darcy, Marrying Mr. Darcy, and Jane Austen Factor series. She resides in South Florida with her husband (where she goes to the beach far less often than she’d like) and is working on a new series. Katie began writing as a child and has a box crammed with half-finished stories to prove it. After raising two sons, she decided to get serious and get published.

She is convinced that there is no greater pleasure than reading a Jane Austen novel.

SOPHIA ROSE https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13418187.Sophia_Rose is a native Californian currently residing in Michigan. A long-time Jane Austen fan, she is a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues, Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, and Then Comes Winter anthologies, short stories based on Jane Austen’s works. Sophia’s love for writing began as a teen writing humorous stories submitted for Creative Writing class and high school writing club. Writing was set aside for many years while Sophia enjoyed a rewarding career working with children and families. Health issues led to reduced work hours and an opportunity for a return to writing stories that continue to lean toward the lighter side of life and always end with a happily-ever-after.

JOANA STARNES https://www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats—physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst—but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine. She is one of the contributors to The Darcy Monologues anthology, and the author of seven Austen-inspired novels: From This Day Forward—The Darcys of Pemberley, The Subsequent Proposal, The Second Chance, The Falmouth Connection, The Unthinkable Triangle, Miss Darcy’s Companion and Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter. You can connect with Joana through her website www.joanastarnes.co.uk and on Facebook via her timeline and her author page, All Roads Lead to Pemberley. 

BROOKE WEST https://www.facebook.com/brookewestwrites/ has always loved the bad boys of literature and thinks the best leading men have the darkest pasts. When she’s not spinning tales of rakish men and daring women, Brooke spends her time in the kitchen baking or at the gym working off all that baking. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son and their three mischievous cats. Brooke co-authored the novel The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the short story “Holiday Mix Tape,” which appears in the anthology Then Comes Winter. Find Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.

And of course, the links! (You’ll better hurry because the special price is only on offer until the end of the tour!)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0778WQF53/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0778WQF53/

Thanks to Rosie, to Christina and all the authors for such enjoyable book and for allowing me to feature it here, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and of course, don’t forget to participate in the giveaways!

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Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD by Ottessa Moshfegh (@penguinrandom) A marmite collection of unique characters and stories #amreading

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book by a writer I’ve reviewed here before. And, well, it’s a bit special…

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

Homesick For Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

The debut short story collection by the author of Eileen, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016.

There’s something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh’s stories, something almost dangerous while also being delightful – and often even weirdly hilarious. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet; all yearning for connection and betterment, in very different ways, but each of them seems destined to be tripped up by their own baser impulses. What makes these stories so moving is the emotional balance that Moshfegh achieves – the way she exposes the limitless range of self-deception that human beings can employ while, at the same time, infusing the grotesque and outrageous with tenderness and compassion. The flesh is weak; the timber is crooked; people are cruel to each other, and stupid, and hurtful, but beauty comes from strange sources, and the dark energy surging through these stories is oddly and powerfully invigorating.

Moshfegh has been compared to Flannery O’Connor, Jim Thompson, Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith but her voice and her mastery of language and tone are unique. One of the most gifted and exciting young writers in America, she shows us uncomfortable things, and makes us look at them forensically – until we find, suddenly, that we are really looking at ourselves.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Homesick-Another-World-Ottessa-Moshfegh-ebook/dp/B01HFV2B94/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Homesick-Another-World-Ottessa-Moshfegh-ebook/dp/B01HFV2B94/

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Dark, confident, prickling stories . . . . Moshfegh uses ugliness as if it were an intellectual and moral Swiss Army knife . . . Her stories veer close to myth in a manner that can resemble fiction by the English writer Angela Carter. There’s some Flannery O’Connor, Harry Crews and Katherine Dunn in her interest in freaks and quasi-freaks . . . At her best, she has a wicked sort of command. Sampling her sentences is like touching a mildly electrified fence. There is a good deal of humor in “Homesick for Another World,” and the chipper tone can be unnerving. It’s like watching someone grin with a mouthful of blood.”
– Dwight Garner, New York Times

“A fluent, deeply talented artist . . . Moshfegh quickly established herself as an important new voice in the literary world, and her concerns for those isolated not only in the margins of society but within the physical confines of the body itself mirrored the work of brilliant predecessors like Mary Gaitskill, Christine Schutt and, in some ways, Eileen Myles. Homesick for Another World continues that exploration but with a wider range, over a larger landscape. It’s a paradox that in order to locate a sense of national character—and that ever-elusive American dream—art must continually probe the places where that dream seems to have all but disappeared.”
The New York Times Book Review

“On second and third reading, these stories reveal coils of plain language and quick narratives tight as songs. What is at first urgent and disorienting becomes a hymn, improving with repetition, all of it worth memorizing.”
— Village Voice 

“[A] stunning debut short story collection . . . Moshfegh displays a preternatural ability in short fiction, her stories impeccably shaped, her sentences sharp, and her voice controlled and widely confident; the stories of Homesick For Another World are near perfect examples of the form . . . What makes the pieces composing Homesick so thrilling, in addition to their technical inscrutability, is their ability to surprise—with their ferocity, depravity, and casual violence, with their very ability to so consistently unsettle . . . Amid the collection’s dark tone, Moshfegh imbues an equally dark humor, at times absurd, at others melancholy and bone-dry . . . If you’re the kind of person who laughs when the grandma gets axed in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” you’ll be right at home in Homesick.”
— AV Club

“Ottessa Moshfegh’s story collection, “Homesick for Another World,” couldn’t come at a better time. Notions of class and power are in an unpredictable flux. A new elite rises, flipping the deck into the air. Nobody knows where the cards will land. So here comes Moshfegh, whose imaginative writing about train-wreck characters, rich and poor, adheres to a relentlessly dim worldview where a divided America comes together in the muck . . . The best stories in the collection, however, contain memorable, conflicting images of squalor and beauty, chaos and pattern.”
— Associated Press

“All psychologically astute, astringently funny and wonderfully entertaining.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Startling and impressive new short story collection. . . Despite her unsparing dissection of their paranoias, fetishes, and failings, Moshfegh doesn’t condescend to her characters; she is both gimlet-eyed and compassionate . . . there is both piercing wit and unexpected poignancy to be found in Moshfegh’s original and resonant collection.”
— Boston Globe

“The characters in this collection are an unlovely bunch but make for an irresistible read . . . Moshfegh — a Boston-born, Los Angeles-based writer whose Man Booker-shortlisted novel Eileen (2016) infused the same sensibility into a witty, skillfully told suspense story — has other tones and tricks at her command. She writes terrific, attention-grabbing openings, and impactful last lines that don’t strain for a lapidary effect. Her damaged-girl deadpan snark is second to none . . . the authority of her storytelling means that she’s able to bring the reader along with her on some surprising paths to her typically desolate destinations.”
— Financial Times 

“Stunning short story collection . . . There’s not a story in Homesick for Another World that’s anything less than original and perfectly constructed. Moshfegh’s talent is unique, and her characters — unfiltered, cold, frequently pathetic — are all the more memorable for their faults and obliviousness. Anyone who’s experienced the special kind of homesickness that lacks a home will find something to relate to in Moshfegh’s unsettling, sharp stories.”
— NPR

“These stories are Moshfegh’s deepest, darkest moments of introspection. Let them in.”
— Electric Literature

“The title and cover of Homesick for Another World might lead you to believe Ottessa Moshfegh’s stories are set in outer space, but she’s done the opposite: approached Earth as if it were an alien planet . . . Moshfegh imbues her anguished realism with equal parts murky dread and clever turns of phrase. But for stories about isolation and loneliness, they are also oddly funny…  a short story collection that’s as consistent—and often brilliant—as they come.”
— GQ 
 
Ottessa Moshfegh’s startling new stories are darkly, prickly, gross — and impressive….
Despite her unsparing dissection of their paranoias, fetishes, and failings, Moshfegh doesn’t condescend to her characters; she is both gimlet-eyed and compassionate. These are “sad. . . lonely and troubled” people, but many are improbably appealing; even the most twisted and tortured have recognizably human qualities . . .  if you can stomach the discomfort, there is both piercing wit and unexpected poignancy to be found in Moshfegh’s original and resonant collection.” — Boston Globe

“Psychologically astute, astringently funny and wonderfully entertaining . . . Moshfegh’s singular stories are unified by bold ideas, intoxicating detail and perfectly calibrated humor and pathos.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“Sentences looped and pulled into perfect slipknots: Moshfegh’s ear is original, and her command of form, expert. I would read anything she writes.”
Harper’s 

“Homesick for Another World showcases her mastery with tales of a range of creeps and weirdos in despair… This cast of boors may not be the kind of folks readers would seek out to spend time with in real life. But in Moshfegh’s stories, their company is irresistible.”
Time 

“Homesick for Another World is an impressive study of human vulnerability and self-deception, through which the reader is guided by a cynical and darkly funny literary voice.”
1843 Magazine

“Expertly crafted stories . . . There’s not a throw-away story in the collection. Each resonates with seemingly effortless, ineffable prose, rarely striking an inauthentic note—particularly memorable are the endings, which often land to devastating effect. The author’s acute insight focuses obsessively, uncomfortably, humorously on excreta, effluvia, and human foible, drilling to the core of her characters’ existential dilemmas. Moshfegh is a force.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred)

“[Moshfegh] is fearless in her probing of her characters’ emotional wounds, proceeding with such a sure touch readers are compelled, not repelled. The directness of her style demands that we register the life ‘stuffed between the mattress and the wall.’ While it is not always an easy read, this collection will leave readers with a sharper, more compassionate sense of the human condition.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“A smartly turned and admirably consistent collection about love and its discontents.”
— Kirkus 

Author Ottessa Moshfegh
Author Ottessa Moshfegh

About the author:

Ottessa Moshfegh is the author of McGlue, Eileen, and a forthcoming short story collection, Homesick for Another World.

https://www.amazon.com/Ottessa-Moshfegh/e/B00MC7025W/

A review in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/20/homesick-for-another-world-by-ottessa-moshfegh-review

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Vintage (Penguin/Random House) for offering me an ARC copy of this collection that I voluntarily chose to review.

I read Moshfegh’s novel Eileen (nominated for the Booker Prize, read my review here), admired it (perhaps liking it is not the right way to describe it) and I was curious to read more by the same author.  When I saw this book on offer I took the chance.

This collection of short-stories does reinforce some of the thoughts I had about Eileen. Ottessa Moshfegh can write, for sure. If the stories in this collection have anything in common, apart from the quality of the writing, is the type of characters. They all (or most) are lonely, only a few are likeable (they can all be liked, but that’s not what I mean) and easy to relate to, they often have disgusting habits (although I suspect that if our lives were put under a microscope and every last little detail was looked at and written down we might not look very pretty either), and are lost. The characters made me think of Sherwood Anderson and Flannery O’Connor (not the style of writing, though): those people who don’t seem to fit anywhere and are utterly peculiar, although many of the characters in the stories are only peculiar because we get a peep into their brains. One gets the sense that they would appear pretty normal from the outside. A man who lives alone at home, watching telly, and is friendly with the girl living next door. A Maths’ teacher, divorced, who might cheat on the students’ exams. A Yale graduate, who does not know what to do with his life, spends too much money on clothes and gets infatuated with a woman he only met briefly once. A couple of children, twins, telling each other stories. An aspiring actor who can’t get any acting jobs.

Of course, there are other things we discover. The man seems to have a strange interest in the girl next door. The Maths’ teacher drinks so much she keeps a sleeping bag at the school (well, it’s really a room in a church) so she can lie down between classes. The graduate has to sell his clothes in a desperate attempt to get the attention of the woman he is mad about. One of the twins is planning to kill a man. The aspiring actor doesn’t know who Scorsese is (or much about anything) and can’t even kiss a girl on camera. The author digs deep into the characters’ façade and pulls a distorted mirror to them, that like in caricature drawings, emphasises the weirdest characteristics rather than what might make them seem ‘normal’ because normal is a construct after all.

Not many of these stories would fit comfortably into standard definitions of what a short story is supposed to be like. If the author pushes the boundaries with her choice of characters and her descriptions (a lot of them have acne that they squeeze, they are sick or make themselves sick, their bodily functions are described in detail, and some are … well, let’s say ‘alternative’) she does the same with the stories. Quite a few of them seem to be slices of life rather than stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. There are some that have more of a conventional ending (even if it is open ended), but plenty do not and it is up to the reader to decide what, if anything, to make of them. If I had to choose and extract something from the stories (not a lesson as such, but a reflection of sorts) is that perhaps the only characters who end up in a better place or experiencing some sort of happiness (or contentment) are those who don’t try to live up to anybody’s expectations and accept what might appear to be strange alliances and relationships. But perhaps it is just that those are the stories that have stuck more in my head.

Reading the comments, this collection, much like Eileen, is a marmite book. Some people really love it and some hate it with a passion. As I said, the writing is excellent, but you’ll need to have a strong stomach and not mind detailed descriptions of bodily functions and less than flattering individuals (nobody is tall, dark and handsome here, although some characters believe they are). Although many of the stories might feel dispiriting and depressing, this depends on the point of view of the reader and there are very witty lines and funny (but dark) moments.

Here some examples:

‘Oh, okay, there were a few fine times. One day I went to the park and watched a squirrel run up a tree. A cloud flew around the sky.’

‘I had a thing about fat people. It was the same thing I had about skinny people: I hated their guts.’

‘Her face was pinched, as though she’d just smelled someone farting. It was that look of revulsion that awoke something in me. She made me want to be a better man.’

In sum, I wouldn’t dare to recommend this book to everybody, by a long stretch, but if you want to check great writing, have a strong stomach, and don’t mind strange and not always likeable characters and unconventional stories, dare to read on. It will be an utterly unique experience.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this novel, thanks to you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book launch book promo New books

#TuesdayBookBlog THE THREE THINGS SERIAL STORY by Teagan Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) and GLIMPSES by Hugh Roberts (@HughRoberts05) Two irresistible new books by fabulous fellow bloggers.

Hi all.

I usually share new books on Fridays, but I’ve decided to take advantage of the #TuesdayBookBlog tag and try and bring a bit more attention to two books that fellow bloggers I admire have published very recently. Although I haven’t read the books in their book form yet, both of them have also shared their stories, either in their totality or some of their content, on their blogs, so I can recommend them both hand in heart.

Here they come…

 

 

 

The Three Things Serial Story by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story by Teagan Geneviene

The Three Things Serial was a spontaneously written (“pantser”) story. Everything in it — characters, setting, plot, was driven by “things” left by readers of the blog Teagan’s Books, episode by episode.

It quickly became a 1920s Mystery with armature sleuth, Pip, telling the story. Pip is determined to be a modern woman, a flapper.

Everything about this story was determined by the random “things” readers sent. Absolutely nothing was pre-planned. First came the narrator, Pip, aka Paisley Idelle Peabody. I imagined the voice of Lucille Ball as Pip, telling a story of her youth. Then came the 1920s setting, inspired by oscillating fan. Next the “things” brought characters, particularly Andy who came back for another serial. Eventually a thing gave me the Florida setting. I think you get the idea of how this worked.
Pip, a modern woman — a flapper, begins the first of several adventures. In this story a mysterious white-haired woman is kidnapped. Pip finds a bent key, a scrap from a special quilt, strange tattoos and other “things.” Later, Pip and her friends find themselves on a luxurious yacht where they encounter figures from history and celebrities of the era. The mystery comes to the forefront when they reach the destination, the gilded mansion, Ca d’Zan.

While it was not great literature, it sure was a fun ride! Many readers asked me to provide the serial as a book, and that’s what I’ve done with this novella. So sit back and enjoy the Three Things Serial.
See all 2 formats and editions

 

Teagan Geneviene author

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, a southerner by birth, was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when she moved there. She had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences in both the southern states and the southwest. Teagan writes many types of fantasy, from what she likes to call “quest type” fantasy, to urban fantasy, to fantasies with a dash of mystery. Her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers.

Major influences include Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?disable_polymer=true

Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM/

Here I share the post she’s written about the novella in her own blog, so you can get it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:

https://teagansbooks.com/2016/12/02/book-launch-the-three-things-serial-story/

And you must check her video:

And second…

Glimpses by Hugh W. Roberts

Glimpses by Hugh W. Roberts

See all 2 formats and editions

After publishing some of his short stories on his blog, Hugh W. Roberts, who suffers from dyslexia, received numerous requests to publish his short stories in a book.

Here, at last, are 28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns.

‘Glimpses’ allows the reader a peek into the lives of everyday people who are about to have life lead them on an unpredicted path. From a mysterious deadly iPad app, to a hole in the fence that is not all it seems, to a strange lipstick that appears to have a life of its own, you will encounter terror, laughter, sadness, shock and many other emotions on journeys which promise a thrilling and gripping climax.

If you are a lover of shows such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’, then you’re in for a real treat with this first collection of short stories from Hugh.

Dare you take a glimpse into the lives of these unsuspecting characters?

“If you’re looking for a thoroughly entertaining read, Glimpses is the book for you. Each story has been cleverly crafted; through Hugh’s wonderful imagination, he has the ability to whisk you away to many different worlds, past, present and future. Every story makes a compelling read and just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, Hugh masterfully reveals a brilliant twist. With bite-size and longer stories, Glimpses is a must-read. I loved it.” – Esther Newton, Writer, and Author.

Hugh W. Roberts, author

Biography:

Hugh W. Roberts was born in Wales and returned to his homeland in 2016. Having lived in various parts of the UK, he spent twenty-seven years living and working in London, a city he loves very much. He’s also lived in Chepstow, in south east Wales, Hartlepool, in the north east of England, and Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of the UK. Despite the fact that he has dyslexia, Hugh was thrilled when he passed both his English Language and English Literature exams at school. He has always enjoyed writing, especially short stories, and was only persuaded to start publishing his work when he was introduced to blogging in February 2014. This was the catalyst that propelled him to fulfil one of his lifetime ambitions of writing and publishing a book. Still a very keen blogger, Hugh has built up a large following on his blog made up of family, friends, authors, and people from all over the world. He writes about everyday life, publishes some of his photography, and has even dabbled in writing poetry (one of the writing elements he finds difficult to do). His blog can be found at www.hughsviewsandnews.com Now living between the town of Abergavenny and the city of Swansea, Hugh shares his life with his civil-partner, John, and their Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Toby. He spends his days writing, reading, walking, cycling and likes to relax in front of the television with a glass of red wine. He’s always been a morning person and does most of his writing during the day. Hugh has already begun writing short stories for his next book, which he hopes to publish towards the end of 2017. In the meantime, he would really appreciate it if you would consider leaving a review on Amazon for this, his first short story collection.

Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hugh-W.-Roberts/e/B01N40ZABP/

Here is the author’s own blog post:

https://hughsviewsandnews.com/2016/12/01/glimpses-launch-day-newbook-booklaunch/

I have had the pleasure of meeting Hugh Roberts in person (he’s a lovely man and an amazing writer), and although I haven’t met Teagan Geneviene in person, after following her blog and her serials, and having contributed to them on several occasions, I feel as if I knew her too. I’m very happy to see they’ve published their books, so the world at large can check their fabulous writing, and I hope you will.

Thanks so much to Teagan and Hugh for their books, thanks to all of you for writing and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

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