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review 2017-03-12 20:07
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee

The book starts off so wonderfully, drawing you in and making you want to see more of the Kim family.  Unfortunately, the lovely writing and intriguing storyline didn't last very long, and started to wane after about 200 pages.  The writing style changed so much that it became a pain to read, and all the skipping ahead and lack of character development really became tiring.  I really hoped it would improve and tried to keep going, but it just wasn't worth it, so I quit.  Very disappointing after such a strong start.

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review 2016-10-30 16:48
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume One
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories - Professor of Strategic Management Bernard Taylor,Michael P. Kube-McDowell,Christopher Priest

 

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume One is one of my favorite collections of this year, and that's saying a lot because I've read some STELLAR collections in 2016. This is one of the rare times that every. single. story. worked.

 

The stand-outs to me were: Miss Mack by Michael McDowell. It's McDowell. How could it not be good? This starts out as such a nice story about a friendship between two women and then it takes a sharp turn into darkness. Permanent darkness.

 

Furnished Apartments by Forest Reid (I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent intro to this little known author's story. This, and the story itself made me want to immediately read more of Reid's work.) This is a creepy little story about (surprise!) a furnished apartment for rent.

 

A Psychological Experiment by Richard Marsh Most known these days for his novel, "The Beetle", Richard Marsh wrote over 80 books and 300 short stories. This particular tale is a delicious story of revenge featuring some creepy crawlies. I absolutely loved it.

 

The Progress of Arthur Crabbe by Stephen Gregory Stephen Gregory is another favorite author of mine. He's not as prolific as I wish he would be. Valancourt somehow dug up this nasty tale, (which, once again, features a bird), originally published in the Illustrated London News back in 1982. I am so glad they did! I have read everything I could get my hands on from Mr. Gregory. Without Valancourt, I would never have had the opportunity to read this gem.

 

California Burning by Michael Blumlein Michael Blumlein is another author introduced to me via Valancourt Books. They published his collection: The Brains of Rats which contains one of the most disturbing short stories I've ever read. Once again, Blumlein knocked my socks off with this story of a man whose bones would not burn.

 

The Terror on Tobit by Charles Birkin A beautifully written tale and one I found to send chills up my spine. Not only because of the spookiness of the story, but because of the amazing prose. I've never even heard of this guy before, but now I want to read everything he's written.

 

The Head and the Hand by Christopher Priest Probably most well known for his novel The Prestige , Christopher Priest's contribution to this collection was superb. It reminded me a bit of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love and makes me wonder if she ever read The Head and the Hand. It's a rather weird tale, but I loved it. Plus it made me REALLY want to read The Prestige which has been sitting on my Kindle for well over a year.

 

I could go on and on, because as I said every story in this collection worked for me. I can't write a review that's a long as the book though, so just a few more things. The intros to these stories were excellent. Many of them talk about how these authors were prolific back in their day and now have been forgotten. I love that Valancourt is dedicated to bringing these authors back into the public eye. I'm going to do my best to read more of the authors that appealed most to me, like Priest and Birkin.

 

This collection receives my highest recommendation! Every single story is thought provoking and even the introductions to the tales are well written and informative. Plus, these aren't a bunch of stories that you've already read in countless other collections and anthologies. Valancourt worked hard to bring you enticing pieces that will likely be unfamiliar to most contemporary horror readers. All I can say to that is BRAVO! (And MORE, PLEASE!!)

 

Get your own copy here: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories

 

*A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review. This is it!*

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review 2016-09-19 15:53
The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

Shout out to Obsidian Black Death whose review convinced me to buy this book sooner than I otherwise would have.

 

                In the spring, I watched the WGN tv series Underground, which quite frankly should have been nominated for more Emmys than it was.  The first season chronicled the escape attempt of a group of slaves.  Additionally, the story focuses on a slave hunter and his son as well as a white couple who join the Underground Railroad.  While some sequences are a bit much (there is rescue by Native Americans that doesn’t quite work) and some historically inaccuracy, the series is well written, well-acted and gripping.  If you haven’t checked it out, you should.  The best episode is the one told though the viewpoint of children. 

 

                A student watched the show as well because she was interested in the history of the Underground Railroad.  She didn’t know much about however, and had confused Sally Hemmings with something connected to Washington.

 

                I’m angry at society not at the student because it should be in an English Composition 101 Class that students find out about Sally Hemmings, the impact of slavery.  Something is wrong somewhere.  In part because people either try to white wash out - Bill O’Reilly’s comment about the slaves building the White House or we focus on a very narrow view – only the big plantations but nothing about free blacks for instance.

 

                In many ways, Whitehead’s book does redress some of this.  In Whitehead’s book, the Underground Railroad is, in fact, an Underground Railroad.  As Sallie May of Ask a Slave would say, a road under the ground.   The story is mainly about Cora and her journey to freedom.  Cora is pursued by a slave hunter who failed to recapture her mother.  It’s a matter of pride at this time, for him.  Cora is divided about her mother, for her mother left her behind when her mother ran.

 

                Whitehead’s novel succeeds in part because it is so stark.  The horror isn’t the actions; it is the fact that the actions are accepted as everyday actions as nothing out of the ordinary.  Usually in many narratives there is a precipitating event.  For instance, in the series Underground Rosalie runs because of a violent attempted rape.   Cora’s desire to flee doesn’t seem to come from that “straw”, it is harder to put into words, and perhaps is more powerful because of that.  There are two incidents that immediately precede her flight but neither one seems to be a full tipping off point.  She was given the chance, she seized it.

 

                Along with Cora, the reader than goes on a journey over the pre-Civil War south.  While Whitehead has played a little with historical placement, all that which Cora encounters has historical source.  Valentine Farmer’s has real forerunners, and the various laws about African-American as well, there is even a reference to the sterilization of minorities.

 

                At times, Whitehead leaves Cora and gives the reader glimpses into other people, answering in part some questions.  He shows that a slave hunter can include a black man, that an underground railroad supporter can have less pure reasons for doing what she does.  He shows humanity.

 

                The book is stark, but a powerful read.

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review 2016-04-05 20:22
The Sage of Waterloo: A Tale - Leona Francombe

The riffs on religion, life, and choice were interesting, but the character of William didn't really seem rabbity too me. It is a magic fable more than anything like a novel. Still some lovely writing and thought provoking passages.
 

 

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review 2016-03-26 15:26
Good sweeping historical fiction
City of Darkness, City of Light: A Novel - Marge Piercy

 

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

                Perhaps the most common thing every nation in the world shares is its ability to leave people behind when progressive change occurs.  Abigail Adams reminded her husband to not forget women when America was being founded, and of course, he did.  Women helped in World War I and they still didn’t even have the vote.  There are still debates about whether African-American women should put men’s rights before all

rights.  In fact, that is not doubt true for any minority culture or ethnicity in any country.

 

                So it is should be of no surprise that the French Revolution, which included the famous picture of a bare-breasted victory (and let’s really think about why she is always half nude), neglected the women who were a large part of that revolution.

 

                Piercy’s book chronicles the lives of Paris citizens as they struggle in the days leading up to the Revolution and the days after it.   While the majority of the characters she follows are women, there are more than a few men.  The book is a rather cynical and somewhat hopeful look at revolution and change.  Piercy’s book is worth reading because she covers all walks of life.  There is Pauline, a young woman in Paris who has her own small business, a chocolate shop.  This isn’t Chocolat, so the emphasis isn’t on the wonderful food and treats that she produces.  It is on the politics and how Pauline gets caught up in.  Is Revolutionary Paris, revolutionary enough?

 

                And that really is the question. 

 

                Most often grand sweeping historical novels that are suppose to focus on the little person, really do not.   They might start out that way, but plot and readership interest, always cause said little person to become part of a coterie of upper echelons.  It is to Piercy’s credit that while some of her characters cross over, not all of them do.  In many ways, it makes her historical fiction far more believable and compelling.  While she does focus on the movers and shakers to a degree – both Danton and Robespierre have a role or two – the focus is kept on the smaller players.  The everyday people that many readers of such books would have been.   It really does feel like the stews of Paris at some points.

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