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review 2017-11-23 19:34
Tales in Colour by Kunzang Choden
Tales In Colour And Other Stories - Kunzang Choden

This is a surprisingly good collection of short stories about the lives of women in contemporary, mostly rural Bhutan, by a Bhutanese author, whose own life I wanted to read more about after the all-too-brief introduction detailing her own culture shock as a young girl in an Indian boarding school and her observations of the way women’s lives have changed in Bhutan, often becoming less independent under the influence of foreign culture.

The quality of the book was unexpected to me because, first, I bounced off the author’s novel awhile back (I may now give it another chance), and second, the publishers really let the author down here. The punctuation is bad and there are some grammatical mistakes. It’s unfortunate, though understandable, that this lack of professional copyediting has led some to conclude that the author lacks literary talent, when other indications are to the contrary. The thirteen stories are well-structured and engaging, getting the reader quickly invested in the characters’ lives.

As a cultural document this is fascinating, illuminating various aspects of ordinary life in Bhutan. The stories range from optimistic (a young woman who alternates between visiting her brother in the city, where she adopts the life of an urban sophisticate, and returning to the country to muck out sheds for her mother) to tragic (a dwarf who is shunned by most of her family and community until her death). There’s a strong sense of community life: in one story no one will turn in the village thief because everyone is interdependent, while another, about a single mother whose hard work gets her son through school and allows him to achieve a comfortable life for them both, feels not quite triumphant because it’s framed by the villagers left behind, who experience their success only by viewing photographs.

But the stories are still focused on individual choices and lives; many of the protagonists are poor single mothers, either giving birth outside of marriage, or providing for their families after leaving or being left by their husbands. It is certainly a more dynamic view of individual and family life than Western stereotypes about Asian farmers would lead you to expect. It’s mostly a realistic collection, but there is room for fancy too, as in one story about a misunderstanding between a woman and a mouse.

I finished through this collection quickly, was engaged by the stories, found the characters believable and sympathetic, and enjoyed the strong sense of place and learning about Bhutan. It’s a shame the publishers didn’t do their part; with a bit of polish and a strong publishing house behind it, this could be a real literary success.

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text 2017-11-23 04:17
Reading progress update: I've read 5 out of 320 pages.
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories - Rainbow Rowell,Holly Black,Laini Taylor,Myra McEntire,Kiersten White,Stephanie Perkins,Gayle Forman,Matt de la Pena,Jenny Han,Ally Carter,Kelly Link,David Levithan

Noel is to cute

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review 2017-11-22 00:18
Book Review: Blood From A Stoner by L.A. Witt
Blood from a Stoner: A paranormal gay romance with vampires & weed. In Seattle. Obviously. - L.A. Witt

I first heard of this book when the author talked about it on Facebook - about this romance between a vampire and a stoner. Giggling, I made a note to snatch this up when it became available. 

It's a quick read, and just based on the title, you'd think it'd be all fun and sexy times, and you'd be half-right.

Greg is the aforementioned vampire, forever frozen at 24, needing blood, having to stay out of the sunlight, and somewhat regretting his decision to become one of the undead, even if it will allow him to eventually pay off his student loans. He works as a software engineer for an IT company, and since in this particular universe, people (mortals) know about vampires, the company accommodates them by having the vamps work overnight, and provide sleeping quarters in the windowless basement in case of unpaid overtime so they don't have to drive home in the daylight. 

Zane is a mortal/human, similar in age to Greg, and works at the same company as a programmer. On whom Greg has a secret crush. Zane also indulges in weed which is legal in Seattle, where they both live and work.

Speaking of work, the company has been putting Greg under a lot of pressure to get the new product ready for release, which means overtime and no days off, and Greg is hangry. Which, being a vampire, is never a good thing.

Then Greg happens upon Zane outside, while taking a minute to breathe, and hangry Greg takes up Zane on his offer of taking a sip or five from Zane's neck. Which is super frowned upon at the company, but hey - whatever. Except Zane has partaken of some pot, unbeknownst to Greg. And now Greg is also a bit high.

I laughed and laughed and laughed at this point, because high vamp was hilarious. 

This being an L.A. Witt book, the sexy times are right around the corner, and boy, do they ever burn up the sheets. With or without weed, with or without getting high. The author has a real knack of writing those scenes, and they never felt gratuitous or repetitive. 

Obviously, as feelings develop, as they usually do in romance books, Greg now has a problem on his hands - he's immortal. Zane, not so much. And considering how much Greg regrets having chosen this life, he sure as hell won't convert Zane. But thinking of Zane growing older and eventually dying also makes Greg's unbeating heart hurt. What's a vamp to do?

I'll leave you to read this for yourself...

It's not easy fleshing out your characters to make them realistic in a novella, especially since one of them is supernatural, and you also have that whole world-building thing needing to happen, but the author does a fantastic job sprinkling the info into the narrative without ever making it feel like info-dump. Greg bitches about higher insurance rates, and extra tinting on the car windows, and being taxed higher than mortals, and generally having to pay more for stuff, because of that whole undead thing, which is plenty to make this world feel real enough. 

There's more to the book than just the sexy times, even if those are plenty. There's also doubt and confusion and fear, and the author did a great job exploring those feelings. As the story is told entirely from Greg's POV, we don't get a whole lot of insight into Zane, but what we get is enough to paint a picture of the guy - laid-back, a bit of a free spirit, definitely into weed and sex with Greg, but also insightful enough to realize that Greg needs to come to terms with what's bothering him, and then giving him the space and time to figure things out. Well done, that.

Recommended for all L.A. Witt fans, and those who love romance books that are sexy, light, and fluffy, but also have some serious undertones.

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text 2017-11-17 12:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #14: December 25th - Quaid-e-Azam
Kingdom's End: Selected Stories - Saadat Hasan Manto
Manto: Selected Stories - Aatish Taseer

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless of what part of the world).

 

 

I had a lot of help with this task: I love exploring. I love going new places and I love reading about new (to me) places. So, when the task came up to read about Pakistan I got excited. Then I realised that I don't know that much about Pakistan and that I cannot actually name a single author who actually lived in Pakistan and wrote with a setting in Pakistan. (I did briefly consider Exist West, but I believe Mohsin Hamid may be writing about the human condition in general without naming a specific country.)

 

So, I asked Midu for help and she recommended to try Saadat Hasan Manto, whom I would never have come across if it had not been for Midu's recommendation! (Btw, if you're not following Midu already, check out her BookLikes Follow Friday post!)

 

The more I read about the author, the more intrigued I am about his short stories. I mean, what's not be intrigued by about an author whose openness apparently led to several trials for obscenity, who's been labeled as a rebel, and whose despair over the social and political situation he lived in led him to seek relief in an addiction to alcohol that ultimately killed him.  

 

Link to a fascinating article about Manto in The Guardian

 

I have a couple of choices of books - I found a reasonably priced collection on Ammy, translated by Aatish Taseer, which seems to include some of his most controversial stories, and I also found a collection of Kingdom's End at my library, which seems to contain a wider selection of his writings. 

 

I'll start with Taseer's collection for the purposes of the 16 Tasks.

 

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text 2017-11-15 01:11
Reading progress update: I've read 236 out of 377 pages.
The White People and Other Weird Stories - Arthur Machen

this collection is running at about 3.5 stars, in the ratings game, with me--but to be fair, I've got two long stories left to get done, and my overall view could change...a little.

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