logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: short-stories
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-08-13 11:54
Far Away and Further Back- Patrick Burns

      This memoir is one of little vignettes set in different times and places as Burns’s life took him around the world. At times the stories are very ‘familiar’ to one of my age and relative privilege, as we baby-boomers have seen the world open out under the blast of the airline jet engine. However, they should appeal to a much wider audience. Burns is good at drawing one into his observations of times and places, now changed or changing, so helping one appreciate the ups and downs of living his sort of middle-class, often-relocated, lifestyle.

      Nowadays, travel seems to be ever more routine and ever less exotic, and of course it never has been all fun. Burns spares us from many of the mundane difficulties, the personal psychology, of constantly moving a family from one short foreign posting to another, a burden that anyway regularly falls heaviest on partners and young families.

This is a book of twenty random assembled short stories taken from a full and industrious life, that began with a childhood centred in Rotherham, England, and eventually encompassed locations as scattered as Buenos Aires, Ann Arbor and Guangzhou.

      Increasingly, as the world shrinks, the world-wide business career is conducted from one, tacky, noisy, communal space, in Milton Keynes, or Santa Clara, and/or from the home-based ‘office’. Foreign postings may well be becoming a thing of the past for all but the most select of ‘business’ managers. There will always be economic migrants, but probably these will decreasingly be those in the cadre structure of international firms that once relocated so very often. The experience of this businessman posted so far and wide may well soon read like distant history, even if politics and strife should allow us to continue our addiction to distant ‘package’ holiday travel.

      If you like memoir and particularly short, pithy stories snapped from personal histories, you should love this book. Patrick Burns has had a life full of interesting anecdotal incidents, which he has penned in this entertaining and personally modest script. One feels that he never strays from simple, honest, unexaggerated truth and thus created these edifying glimpses into his personal history. This isn’t autobiography designed, and so often failing, to be awe-inspiring; this isn’t look at me, aren’t I special, this is look at the special, often extraordinary people, I have been lucky enough to journey with. This book is one of those rare memoirs that easily holds my rapt attention.

AMAZON LINK

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-08-02 02:30
ARC Review: No Regrets by Alex Jane
No Regrets - Alex Jane

This is a really short book, but it definitely packs a punch. 

Ryan is an ex-soldier, working in a diner in a small town, keeping to himself. He stays mostly in the kitchen, and when he's not working, he's in his camper behind the diner, keeping the nightmares at bay with alcohol.

Lucas is barely twenty, quiet and shy, a regular at the diner who's caught Ryan's eye - mostly because Ryan recognizes something in the young man, primarily in the haunted eyes and the bruises on his skin.

Both men are damaged, though not beyond repair. Their relationship builds slowly, so slowly, and trust doesn't come easy, but it comes. 

The story is dark, by design, and rather angsty. The author cleverly peels back Ryan's layers one at a time, and it's not immediately clear why Ryan reacts so strongly to Lucas' plight.

The diner's owner knows of Ryan's back story, and she realizes that Lucas is in some danger, but both she and Ryan also know that they cannot step in unless Lucas asks for help. Which is why boss lady encourages Ryan to befriend Lucas to build a level of trust. She has another motive which is clear to both Ryan and this reader.

Initially, this book reads as a regular hurt/comfort kind of story, but then it takes a really dark turn with an unexpected twist. I was a bit surprised at Lucas' reaction, but I also understood that he might react that way. Yeah, I know this is vague. Deal with it by reading the book. 

I didn't like the ending. Well, let me rephrase that - I liked that Ryan and Lucas got their HEA. What I didn't like is that Ryan thinks this thing (which I'm not going to spoil here), and it sounded as if that was his reason for proposing, and if that's the case, WTF?

I enjoyed this overall, even if the ending left me scratching my head a bit and definitely sort of ruined their HEA for me. YMMV.


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **
 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-27 13:38
The Complete Father Brown Stories
The Complete Father Brown Stories - G.K. Chesterton

As advertised, this modest kitten squisher contains all five collections of Father Brown stories, as well as both parts of The Donnington Affair. That’s nearly 800 pages of everyone’s favorite short, round priest with the funny round hat. I’ve pretty much been fibro-fogged up the wazoo for the entire month of July, so I figured a book of short stories would be perfect reading and not tax my impaired concentration abilities. I was sort of right.

 

The Blue Cross, the first story in the first collection, is funny, clever, five-star gold. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to read more. The second story went downhill from there, and then my Father Brown experience plateaued in the mildly-entertaining-to-mildly-disappointing range and I found myself skimming or outright skipping entire stories. (Especially any story in which early 1900’s racism reared its ugly head. There was some pretty gross Orientalism and more N-words than I was prepared to encounter. Oh, and if the first person to perfect time travel can go back and ban white British novelists from writing anything to do with voodoo, THAT WOULD BE GREAT.)

 

In hindsight, I probably should have taken a break and read something different between each collection. It turns out my ability to binge-watch the TV series inspired by the stories doesn’t translate to the stories themselves and there is indeed such a thing as too much Father Brown.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-22 15:29
Review: “Little Boy Afraid: A Boystown Prequel” (Boystown Mysteries, #0.75) by Marshall Thornton
Little Boy Afraid: A Boystown Prequel - Marshall Thornton

 

~ 3.5 stars ~

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-21 14:36
Experimental, challenging, touching and funny at times but not a crowd-pleaser.
Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders

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.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?