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text 2018-04-17 18:45
Book Mail! Thanks to Tigus!

 

Many heartfelt THANK YOUS are going out to Tigus today! I was very excited to find a package waiting for me when I got home last night. Here's what was inside! 

2 super cool volumes of short stories by Frederic Brown, author of NIGHTMARES AND GEEZENSTACKS which I read and enjoyed for the first time last year. 

As a bonus, Tigus threw in the graphic novel FISHHEAD which looks like a perfect fit for me, what with it containing a few words from Joe Lansdale and Guillermo del Toro.

 

I could not possibly be more pleased!

 

Thanks again, Tigus! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-11 07:04
Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue
Touchy Subjects - Emma Donoghue

How do you make conversation with a sperm donor? How do you say someone's novel is drivel? Would you give a screaming baby brandy? In what words would you tell your girlfriend to pluck a hair on her chin? Touchy Subjects is about things that make people wince: taboos, controversies, secrets and lies. Some of the events that characters crash into are grand, tragic ones: miscarriage, overdose, missing persons, a mother who deserts her children. Other topics, like religion and money, are not inherently taboo, but they can cause acute discomfort because people disagree so vehemently. Many of these stories are about the spectrum of constrained, convoluted feeling that runs from awkwardness through embarrassment to shame.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

In this odd little short story collection, Emma Donoghue breaks up her tales into five categories of general life: Babies, Domesticity, Strangers, Desire and Death. A rundown of of the stories:

 

BABIES

 

"Touchy Subjects" (title story) -- a man agrees to be the sperm donor to his wife's best friend. Story gets into general discussion of fertility struggles of women

 

"Expecting" -- a woman lies about being pregnant, the lie gets out of hand

 

"The Man Who Wrote On Beaches" -- a man turns 43 and finds religion, which causes upset in his relationship with his agnostic girlfriend (there is a baby discussion here, if you're wondering)

 

"OOPS" -- James helps friend Neasa through a pregnancy he assumes is unplanned and unwanted, sets himself up as surrogate "uncle" to the child, helping with child rearing over the years

 

"Through The Night" -- Pre-motherhood Una was known for being quite the stoic. Now after giving birth, she finds herself deep in the throws of sleep deprivation and postpartum depression, uneasy with the dark places her mind is drifting. 

 

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" -- A childless couple has embraced their life as dog parents and all is well until the holidays come and they're asked to leave the dogs at home while they attend a family gathering.

 

DOMESTICITY

 

"Lavender's Blue" -- A couple goes near-mad trying to agree on the perfect shade of slate blue to paint the exterior of their house

 

"The Cost of Things" -- An emotional rift develops between a lesbian couple over the medical expenses for their sick cat

 

"Pluck" -- A husband becomes fixated on a single dark hair on his wife's chin

 

STRANGERS

 

"Good Deed" -- A wealthy Canadian man struggles to decide on a course of action over a homeless man he finds laying in the street, bleeding from the mouth 

 

"The Sanctuary of Hands" -- In Toulouse, France, a woman decides to take a tour of underground caverns, but is unsettled by a group of special needs adults joining her tour group. 

 

"WritOr" -- A once successful writer, now struggling with mounting debt, grudgingly agrees to accept a "Writer In Residence" position at a small college, giving writing advice to aspiring authors. 

 

DESIRE

 

"Team Men" -- Teenager Jonathan plays on a football team, with his dad as the coach. His dad is pretty hard on him, when it comes to critiquing Jonathan's athletic ability. When new guy Davy joins the team, Davy quickly becomes the star player. Jonathan feels a little threatened by him at first, but before long they become good friends who progess into secret lovers. Though they think they've been successful keeping their relationship under wraps, Jonathan's father turns mysteriously, progressively angry towards the both of them. 

 

"Speaking In Tongues" -- Ladies Lee and Sylvia fall for each other after meeting at a conference

 

"The Welcome" -- Luce sees one 5-line ad for womens' housing, finds herself triggered by the spelling errors and the political correctness seeping through the choice of wording 

 

DEATH

 

"The Dormition of the Virgin" -- George is vacationing in Italy. The last day of his stay he comes upon a dead body.

 

"Enchantment" -- Pitre and Bunch are two longtime friends living in Louisiana who get competitive with running swamp tours... until Pitre falls gravely ill

 

"Baggage" -- Niniane is in Hollywood .... partly on holiday, partly to find out information regarding her estranged brother

 

"Necessary Noise" -- Two sisters pick up their brother from a nightclub, immediately have to rush him to a hospital when he appears to be extremely ill and under the influence of serious drugs. 

 

 

 

Overall Impressions:

 

I closed the book with a strong feeling of MEH. In a number of these stories, there are definitely intriguing ideas that Donoghue experiments with.. they just didn't really go anywhere. Most of these stories didn't close on strong, impactful moments, instead just kinda .. dropped off... which is one of my big peeves with short story collections in general. I will say though, I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first. I was close to DNF-ing after the first few stories but something was telling me to hang in there.

 

I'm glad I did, largely for "WritOr", which ended up being my favorite story in the whole book. After a number of bland bits in the earlier portion of this collection, I was pleasantly surprised to find such humor in "WritOr". Granted, it might be the "you had to be there" brand of humor. Being a writer myself, who worked as a writing tutor in college, a lot of what Donoghue illustrates in this particular story brought back vivid memories of my own experiences in that environment. Perhaps for that story alone, maybe a couple others that made me smile or think for a moment, I'll likely end up keeping this one on my shelves, at least for the time being. But if you haven't tried any of Donoghue's work before, I would NOT recommend starting here. 

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review 2018-04-05 19:03
Dubliners by James Joyce
Dubliners - James Joyce,Del Doughty

Although James Joyce began these stories of Dublin life in 1904, when he was 22, and had completed them by the end of 1907, they remained unpublished until 1914 — victims of Edwardian squeamishness. Their vivid, tightly focused observations of the life of Dublin's poorer classes, their unconventional themes, coarse language, and mention of actual people and places made publishers of the day reluctant to undertake sponsorship.
Today, however, the stories are admired for their intense and masterly dissection of "dear dirty Dublin," and for the economy and grace with which Joyce invested this youthful fiction. From "The Sisters," the first story, illuminating a young boy's initial encounter with death, through the final piece, "The Dead," considered a masterpiece of the form, these tales represent, as Joyce himself explained, a chapter in the moral history of Ireland that would give the Irish "one good look at themselves." But in the end the stories are not just about the Irish; they represent moments of revelation common to all people.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

As a woman of Irish heritage who majored in classic Briitsh Lit in college and now works in the book world, I'm just gonna come clean with this... this is my first foray in the works of James Joyce. I know! I know! You can pull up your jaw now, I can explain. He's just one of those writers that has always been on my "meaning to get to" list. And the horror stories of people that have tried Ulysses -- I at least have a copy of that one somewhere on my shelves -- can scare a girl off. So I thought I would start small with this little short story collection. 

 

I read the blurb on the back of the paperback copy I have that mentioned how Joyce started writing these 15 somewhat interconnected stories back in 1904 at the age of 22, and how he had them finished by 1907 but had to wait til 1914 to get them onto bookshelves thanks to the sensitive Victorian readership of the era. Joyce's publisher was concerned that the themes of the stories might be a bit too gritty for the prim general public. Also, as I understand it, Joyce makes some thinly veiled references to actual people of the time that I'm guessing would not have been received as a form of flattery so much... Well, naturally that made me curious as to what was in store for my modern reader eyes! 

 

As you might've guessed by now, for many of today's readers, this collection will read pretty tame. Yes, it does focus on the lower class citizens of Dublin, yes there are descriptions of squalor that sometimes include coarse language. But all in all, you've likely heard worse these days. A number of the stories focus on children or teens; the very first story being one of a boy processing news of the death of a beloved mentor, others describe two boys playing hooky from school who have an encounter with a creepy guy on a street, and one of a girl attempting to escape an abusive father. There are also stories with more adult themes, spotlighting the topics of promiscuous women, flat-out prostitution, women just generally worn down (physically and emotionally) by their husbands. There's also a story here and there that are less the underbelly of Dublin and more just a Upstairs / Downstairs style story (you know, the privileged & wealthy vs their estate staff). The very last story, "The Dead", was one of this style and ended up being my personal favorite. 

 

Oh, the husbands. Yes, many of them here are portrayed as alcoholics --- another shock, I know! LOL Also, we're talking about the Irish here, so it's somewhat inevitable that at least a little religion gets worked into the stories here and there. 

 

My impression of Joyce, in this instance anyway, is that while his stories approach risque themes, his writing style beats around the bush so much it was hard for me to feel much shock or offense. In fact, some of the stories featured quite sweet scenes of family bonding between parents and children or lively, jovial times between friends. It's not all grim and grit! But it did end up being largely blah for me. There, I said it. At the risk of offending my Irish ancestors, I'm putting it out there --- I found Joyce's writing here kind of dull! Meet y'all at the square in five for my stoning, hehe. 

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review 2018-03-22 22:00
THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP edited by Ellen Datlow
The Devil and the Deep - Ellen Datlow

An anthology built around the theme of the ocean? How could I say no to that? Not all of the stories resonated with me, but many did. And the ones that did- resonated deeply.

 

FODDER'S JIG by Lee Thomas. Sea monsters, a gay couple and a gold-digging relative. Every time I thought this tale was nothing special, something special happened. I need to read more Lee Thomas!

 

WHAT MY MOTHER LEFT ME by Alyssa Wong blew me away. Imaginative and bold, I already purchased another story from this author. This was my favorite tale in the book.

 

SISTER, DEAREST SISTER, LET ME SHOW YOU TO THE SEA by Seanan McGuire. I always wanted a sister. Now, I know I was better off alone.

 

SHIT HAPPENS by Michael Marshall Smith. I laughed my butt off. Then I became nauseated and then I laughed some more. This is one of the grossest and funniest stories I've ever read.

 

HE SINGS OF SALT AND WORMWOOD by Brian Hodge. Even though they weren't the main crux of the story, I never knew ship-worms existed and now I may never go into the ocean again.

 

A SHIP OF THE SOUTH WIND by Bradley Denton. This one wasn't about the sea as we know it, but instead, a sea that dried up long ago. It also features the coolest ship I've ever read about.

 

With a few more notable stories by Christopher Golden and Steve Rasnic Tem, I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology and can honestly say that I highly recommend it!

 

You can get your copy here: THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP

 

*A big thank you to Marion Schwaner at Night Shade Books for the free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2018-03-22 19:36
Folk Tales of the Maldives by Xavier Romero-Frias
Folk Tales of the Maldives - Xavier Romero-Frias

This is an enjoyable book of folklore from the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Though the author’s writing in the introduction is a bit stiff, the 80 tales included are characterized by strong storytelling, and paint a vivid picture of the traditional culture of the Maldives. The stories are perhaps best described as legends, featuring kings, ghosts and spirits, good and evil sorcerers, and monsters from the sea, alongside regular people who interact with all of the above, and of course a few animal stories. A few tales are based on recent historical incidents, while most seem to be set sometime in the distant past. Despite the large number of stories, ranging in length from 1-2 pages to 12 or 14, they felt fresh and engaging throughout. In fact, two different stories about a man who falsely sets himself up as an expert have opposite endings.

I would have appreciated more information about the Maldives and the storytellers, who are identified by name and place of residence but not otherwise discussed, though the author might reasonably have seen that as beyond the scope of this book. I was surprised to learn that the book is actually banned in the Maldives, which currently has a strict Muslim government; Islam has been in the islands for centuries and appears in many of the stories, but the stories treat it casually, as part of the backdrop. More information about life in the islands today, to put all this in context, would have been helpful. That said, I think this is an excellent choice for those who enjoy folklore, and I enjoyed reading it.

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