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review 2018-04-19 21:31
Marshall Islands Legends and Stories by Daniel Kelin
Marshall Islands Legends and Stories - Daniel A. Kelin

It’s hard to rate books of folklore; it seems odd to judge another culture’s traditional stories on my standards for literature or entertainment. But I can only rate from my own perspective, which is affected by factors out of the author’s control. One, I’ve read several books of folklore lately, and may have begun to tire of it a bit; I can say this is neither the best nor the worst such book I’ve recently encountered. Perhaps I imbibed too many somewhat similar, very short stories in too little time, and my interest has waned. Two, I had this through Interlibrary Loan on a tight schedule, which left me feeling obligated to pick it up at times I would otherwise have chosen something else.

That said, this is a perfectly readable collection of folklore that made sense to me as a foreign reader. Which makes sense, because the stories were told to a foreign (Hawai’i-based) author/dramaturge who collected them. The book is sized to fit in with textbooks, and has ultra-wide margins in which definitions and pronunciations are sometimes included. But with large font and illustrations, it is still a quick read. It includes brief biographical sketches (and sometimes photographs) of the storytellers, but to me these were too brief: the barest of bare-bones, without room to for the storytellers’ personalities or life experiences to come alive. 

Overall, there’s nothing here that would make me hesitate to recommend the book to those who enjoy folklore. But I prefer books from which I can learn more directly about what people’s lives are like.

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review 2018-04-18 20:49
Book Review of Little Bear and His Chair by Claressa Swensen & Illustrated by Alena Paklina

 

Book Review of Little Bear and His Chair by Claressa Swensen & Illustrated by Alena Paklina

 

Review 5*

 

This is a wonderfully illustrated story for children aged between 3 and 8. I loved it!

 

I love the colourful illustrations done by Alena Paklina. They bring this short story to life and will engage a child who hasn’t fully grasped how to read yet, but who can follow the story with ease as it's been read to them by their parent. It compliments the short story written by the author so one is transported directly into the tale. Depending on the child’s age and reading ability, the author has written a charming story that is easy enough for a young reader to follow, as she uses simple words that will not confuse a child.

 

The story is a simple but important one about learning to share. Little Bear has a lovely chair but refuses to share it. Because of his selfish behaviour, he has been left out of the fun and become lonely, which is no fun at all. He learns that by sharing, he is included in all the fun and games with his friends. This then translates into teaching the young reader how it is better to share when playing with their friends or siblings. Some adults reading this book may decide that this book is also about bullying as Little Bear is not exactly nice to his friends. However, this is not the impression I found when reading it. I suppose it depends on your upbringing and what your life experiences have made to you as a reader, and how you interpret a book in a certain way. I can only go on my impression of this book and I think it’s a lovely book that can entertain as well as educate. Everyone’s opinion is different, so I will leave you to decide if, after reading the sample, whether you would want your child to either listen to you read it, or they read this book on their own.

 

This book is suitable to read as a bedtime story, or anytime at all, especially if a child has a short attention span. It is a quick read, so even if they haven’t settled down, the lovely pictures will entertain the children.

 

Claressa Swensen is a new author to me, as I have not read her other children’s books. However, I would definitely read more of her books in the future.

 

I highly recommend this book to children aged 3 upwards and to adults looking for a fun but educational read for their children. – Lynn Worton (Book Reviews by Lynn)

 

P.S. This book has not yet been published and will be on Kickstarter for a crowdfunding campaign at the beginning of May. Please consider donating to it. The link to the campaign will follow once it goes live on 1st May 2018.

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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 2018-04-14 13:59
Book Review of 'Til Death Do Us Part (an adult retelling of The Little Mermaid) by Dianna Hardy
'Til Death Do Us Part (an adult retelling of The Little Mermaid) - Dianna Hardy

BRAND NEW COVER! (Same content.)

 

"The day you get married, is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. Dreams are made of such things. But I forgot. I could blame the witch if I wanted to - in fact I did, for quite a while after - but the fault can only lie with me. Being with him made me so happy - so very, very happy - that I chose to forget. I chose amnesia. If I had had any foresight into how my flippant choice would ruin him, I would have saved him the heartbreak. I would have forfeited my knowing him, my own selfishness, lived forever in the pain of unfulfillment, if it meant he could be spared...."

 

When you love someone so much that your heart aches without them in your life, would you give up everything you've ever known to be with them? Would you give up your identity?

 

This is exactly what Aria did. But her sacrifice comes at a great cost, with startling consequences. With no memory of her previous life, she's forgotten what she really is, and who she's left behind: a jealous, possessive God, who's finally found her, and will stop at nothing to keep her heart from ever straying again.

 

In this dark and passionate retelling of The Little Mermaid, can a love founded on humanity, stand the passing of time, an angry sea-God, and even death itself?

 

*Please note: this book is NOT "erotica". (It has been mistakenly placed in that category, and you will be sorely disappointed if you are buying this for titillation!) It is a dark fantasy gothic romance, containing only a couple of mildly explicit scenes. In the vein of many dark fantasies, it also contains some violence which may disturb some readers.

 

Notes: The English translation of the original story, Den lille Havfrue, by Hans Christian Anderson, works out at just under 10,000 words. This retelling is just over 10,000 words.

 

Review 4*

 

This is an interesting retelling of The Little Mermaid. I loved it.

 

Aria is a character I neither liked or disliked. I did find her a little selfish and self absorbed with her love of Simon. However, she also showed an inner strength when faced with difficult decisions, and also had to deal with an abusive situation.

 

This short story was a quick read, with lots of twists to keep the reader guessing as to what would happen next. There is a scene that could potentially upset some readers, which could also be a triggering event for them if they’ve been in an abusive relationship or been abused. So reader beware! I did enjoy Aria’s journey of emotional growth through the tale though. She matures within it. However, I’m not sure about the ending. It left me with mixed feelings even though it concludes satisfactorily.

This book is one of Dianna Hardy’s earlier works, which is why, I think, I found it a little disappointing even though I loved it. Her writing has improved a lot since this book was originally written. I love her fast paced writing style and I found no problem with the story flow, so as an introduction to her storytelling, this would be the ideal way to start.

 

Due to scenes of a sexual nature and abuse, I do not recommend this book to younger readers under the age of 16. However, I highly recommend this book if you love paranormal/supernatural romances and adult-themed fairytale retellings. - Lynn Worton

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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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