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review 2019-08-19 18:17
Scott Free By Nkosi Ife Bandele
Scott Free - Nkosi Ife Bandele

 

Scott Free
By Nkosi Ife Bandele
Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Published: June 2019
ISBN: 978-1681605340 (pb)
ISBN: 978-1681605333 (ebook)
Pages: 136
Genre: Literary Fiction

Scott Free chronicles the life of a near thirty New York City filmmaker, ironically stuck working the concession stand at an upscale movie theater,, trying to negotiate his dead end relationships, too. He hops a “Greyhound $99 Special” en route to Hollywood, but in failing to reach the stars he lands on his knees, down and out in the San Francisco cleaning toilets and realizing that his life West resembles his life East as there’s really no escaping oneself.

 

Buy Links:

 

 

About the Author:

Nkosi Ife Bandele writes for periodicals, stage, TV, and film. His three novels, The Ape is Dead! (2016), The Beast (2017), and Scott Free (2019), are all published by Crimson Cloak Publishing. His outrageous short fiction, including Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck, Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck Part 2: Shit Shit Shit Shit Shit, and Itty Bitty Titty Committee, appear in Akashic Books’ Terrrible Twosdays series.

 

Find the Author Online Using the Following Links:

Website
Twitter
Facebook
YouTube

 

Source: bookbuzz.net/blog/literary-fiction-scott-free
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review 2019-07-31 22:26
Book Review of Sweet Pea: Plant a seed and watch it grow... (The Chateau Book 2) by Emma Sharp
Sweet Pea: Plant a seed and watch it grow... - Emma Sharp

JOIN LAURA, AND HER FRIENDS IN ANOTHER ADVENTURE PACKED JOURNEY AT HER CHATEAU IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE.

 

Following her accident in the snow, Laura wakes up in Enzo’s bed. How did she get there? Is Enzo her ‘happy ever after? And, where is Shadow, her faithful companion? Follow her antics, as she experiences her first Christmas in the beautiful Ardeche, with exciting visits to Paris to attend the auction of her hidden treasures. Her struggles with builders, as the campsite is under construction and the Chateau refurbished. She also finds herself involved in an emotional court case and must deal with some eccentric guests along the way. Will the ghost of Aunt Mary make another appearance, and does Laura manage to find any information about the resistance in the war years? Read on to find out how Laura deals with her belligerent neighbour, Xavier, and much, much more!

 

Review 4.5 rounded up to 5*

 

Sweet Pea is the second book in The Chateau series written by Emma Sharp.

 

Laura Mackley is a character I struggled to like in the first book of the series. However, in this second book, I found myself admiring her a lot more and enjoyed watching her grow and flourish as the story progressed. Laura is an ex-nurse from England living in a chateau in France she inherited from her Aunt Mary.

 

The story picks up from the end of the first book. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read the first book, so all I will say is that Laura finds herself facing many challenges as she tries to get her new business up and running and the story is told through her eyes.

 

Most of the characters from the first book appear in the second one. Xavier is a French farmer, working for Laura. He comes across as intense and broody at first, but he seems to soften as this story unfolds. Alice is his elderly mother. Who, after recovering from her stroke, is now helping Laura and her son with the running of the farm. Then there is Gus, Xavier's ten-year-old young son. He helps around the farm when not at school and is a lovely character. Enzo is a Scottish vet working in France, and Jenny is Laura's best friend from England, who is a nurse. There are a few more characters that make an appearance, which gives the story a lovely realistic feel.

 

This story is an easy summer read. As mentioned above, Laura grows as a character, and I love reading books when the MC does do so. The challenges she faces are realistic and could happen to anyone, so makes them relatable. The title is apt because there is growth in all aspects of this story - in relationships, and farming, amongst other things. Speaking of relationships, I enjoyed watching one in particular flourish. I will not mention who, as I will leave it to you to read the story to find out. The story also continues about the history of the chateau. And the involvement of the inhabitants of the village during the Second World War. I found this aspect interesting.

 

The ending has a little twist, and I am now looking forward to reading the next book to see how it all works out.

 

Emma Sharp is a debut author who has written an intriguing story. Her writing has improved considerably since the first book. It's not often that the second book is better than the debut, but this one shows the growth of the author as well as the characters. It is still not as fast-paced as some books I've read, but it was enough for me to keep turning the pages. The story flows well, which makes it more enjoyable too.

 

Although there are no scenes of violence, there is some mention of a sexual nature (which fades and is not explicit), I do not recommend this book to younger readers, as I feel they may struggle with it. I do, however, recommend this book to readers of women's fiction, historical fiction, literary humour and romance. - Lynn Worton

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review 2019-07-14 18:00
Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade
Night At the Fiestas: Stories - Kirstin Valdez Quade

This is an intense literary short story collection, consisting of 10 stories mostly set in New Mexico, many but not all featuring Hispanic characters. The author does an excellent job with character, each of the protagonists seeming as real as a character in a good novel, drawn with specific traits that bring them to life as individuals. And the scene-setting is great too; the stories are immersive, with well-chosen details that bring them to life in the mind’s eye without interfering with the pace of the plot. And they are compelling, each one different.

The stories are on the darker side, often featuring broken families, domestic violence (typically off-screen), or just protagonists who feel alone in the world. My two global complaints are that the endings are often a little bit weak – Valdez Quade seems to struggle most with the last paragraph or two of a story – and that a few stories prominently feature secondary characters whose behavior doesn’t quite make sense. Short stories are made for ambiguity, and there’s plenty of that here – I wish I’d read it with someone else, to be able to discuss it, which is a sign of a good short story – but it needs to be calculated precisely.

But now for the stories (and I’d be interested to hear others’ interpretations):

“Nemecia”: The first story starts out strong, featuring a young girl growing up in the early 20th century looking up to her mysterious older cousin. It peters out toward the end, though.

“Mojave Rats”: This is a perfectly fine story about a blended family living (temporarily; the mother depends on it) in an RV park in the Mojave Desert. It spends a little too much time in the protagonist’s head though, and ends on a realization rather than an event; I can see why few reviewers mention it.

“The Five Wounds”: Seems to be the overall favorite of the collection, and it’s very strong: this story of a deadbeat father’s attempt at redemption through a violent religious ritual (one apparently actually carried out by the Penitentes in New Mexico) features a big, dramatic, culturally-specific set piece, and is well-crafted and intense.

“Night at the Fiestas”: On the one hand, I really enjoyed this story of a teenage girl who wants her life to be a drama, and encounters a moral dilemma on her way to the Fiestas de Santa Fe; it’s also an intense and well-crafted story. But the actions of the man on the bus didn’t make a lot of sense to me. How could he just forget the large amount of cash he was carrying, and why didn’t he try harder to retrieve it?

“The Guesthouse”: The dynamics of what feels like an archetypical broken middle-America family seem entirely believable here, but this story’s set piece – involving a boa constrictor – was a little over-the-top for me, and the story ends abruptly on an act of violence without letting us see the consequences.

“Family Reunion”: This is a great story about an 11-year-old who feels like an extra wheel in her blended family and an outcast as a non-Mormon in Salt Lake City. The friend’s mother’s behavior didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it’s an emotionally intense story that left me disturbed by just how alone this kid is.

“Jubilee”: This one is also great: a college student from a poor background intends to shame her father’s landowner boss with her reverse snobbery at a fancy party, but mostly reveals her own clumsiness and insecurities.

“Ordinary Sins”: The setting of this story is interesting, featuring the dynamics of a Catholic parish where the long-term, kindhearted but timid local priest is perhaps to be supplanted by a stern young Nigerian newcomer. But it spends a little too much time in the head of its protagonist, a pregnant young parish employee, as she overthinks a situation she encounters, and the end felt a little obligatory.

“Canute Commands the Tides”: This is an accomplished but disturbing story, about a retiree who, feeling a lack of purpose and connection in her life, befriends the woman she’s hired to help unpack and clean up her new house, only to encounter violence from the cleaning lady’s son. This story made me uncomfortable in part because of the violence (which is starker here than in any other story), and in part because several readers seem to have taken it as a parable about naïve white do-gooders. Certainly reaching out to others can result in being hurt yourself, but I think cautioning people against kindness and generosity is a pretty anti-social message; I also think the story isn’t actually that simplistic, that Margaret is more lonely than meddling and just has bad luck in the family she encounters.

“The Manzanos”: Like most readers, I didn’t think much of the final story. Its lack of plot is a weakness, but its larger problem is being told in the first person, present tense from the point-of-view of an 11-year-old with poor academic skills . . . whose “voice” nevertheless is that of a 30-something well-educated writer in both form and content. It’s jarring and not believable in the least. Presumably this was one of the author’s early stories.

Overall though, this collection really engaged me; it features well-developed protagonists and settings and engaging plots, and gave me a lot to think about. I look forward to seeing what this author does next; she is relatively young but well on her way to being a fantastic writer.

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review 2019-07-03 20:29
Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai I liked this book a lot. It’s an emotionally rich and nuanced tale of four adult siblings and their formative years in an old home in Delhi, where the tough, passionate older sister, Bimla, still lives, teaching history and caring for their mentally challenged younger brother. The timid younger sister, Tara, now married to a diplomat, returns for a visit, and tries to bridge the gap between Bim and their absent older brother, with whom she’s had a falling-out. It’s not a fast-paced story, but it is a well-written, layered, and meaningful one, taking a close look at its complex, sympathetic characters and the nuances of their interactions and memories. It reminded me of Evening Is the Whole Day, which I also loved, though that book is almost lurid by comparison. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy insightful family stories, and who enjoy books driven more by strong characters and writing than by plot. A couple of notes: the book isn’t as short as the page count would make it seem (there’s a lot of words on a page), and the cover seems off-base, considering how often the siblings’ skin is referred to as “white.” Even granting that probably means something different in India than the U.S., I can’t help thinking there’s some exoticizing going on with that choice of image.
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review 2019-06-29 17:57
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

This is a lovely collection and a depressing one. Strout is an excellent writer, with a great eye for nuance of character and feeling. But particularly in her short story collections, she seems drawn to quiet, deep sadness, to loneliness and unvoiced pain and marriages that fail their participants. This collection of linked stories – roughly every other story is about the title character, while the others focus on people she knows – features an older woman slowly losing her husband to medical problems, after they’ve lost and failed each other repeatedly over the years despite their love for one another. So expect a melancholy read.

But at the same time, it’s a great book. Strout is an expert crafter of characters, and I loved reading about the prickly, complex Olive. The stories about other people from her small town in Maine are also quite good, and allow the author a wider range for experimentation (I’m not sure I ever fully unpacked the subtly disturbing “Criminal”), though I would’ve appreciated getting some follow-up on these characters in the later entries. Especially at the beginning, I preferred the stories that covered a longer span of time (such as the phenomenal first story, “Pharmacy”) to the more compressed ones (“Incoming Tide” fell flat for me). Toward the end I was reading it more like a novel, and most interested in getting back to Olive rather than the one-off stories of other townspeople. At times I avoided reading it because it is so often sad, but it’s a great literary collection and one I could see myself returning to one day, there’s so much insight and humanity in it.

Also, the imaginative piece at the end, in which the publisher “interviews” Strout and Olive together, is creative and hilarious – definitely an achievement in supplementary material.

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