I'm a big fan of local publications and authors, and those of you who are familiar with my writing know that I also love flash fiction. I recently came across Blink-Ink, a publication that combines these two enjoyments. They publish 50-word (or fewer) stories in a themed quarterly print collection that is just the perfect size for a pocket. On their "about" page: "It has been said that very short fiction conforms to modern short attention spans. Originally that was intended as a joke, but it is true." Their goals are: "To publish the finest in eclectic succinct short fiction, and to be inclusive of writers as well as readers."
I think that their goals are well met. I read two issues, "One Eyed Jacks & Deuces Wild" (Issue # 27) and "The Enchanted Forest" (Issue # 28). The stories have varied interpretations of the theme, from literal to metaphorical. The tone of the stories range from humorous to serious, from poetic to sparse. The genres are mostly literary to mainstream, with some forays into magical realism or speculative fiction. In "Jacks," there is even a 3-part series of shorts by Linda Tyler, which were among my favorites of the collection, entitled "Escape 1," "Escape 2" and "Escape 3." These three stories show different ways a person can escape - from literal running away from an abusive relationship, to accelerating the death of an elderly parent, to provoking a fight in a relationship.
Blink-Ink is a fun little booklet with about 25-30 short shorts per issue, and it's easy to digest in one sitting. I hope you enjoy reading it.
For those of you who know me, you'll know that I'm a history buff. I'm always happy to read nonfiction books, and I absolutely love very detailed fictional stories set during pivotal moments in time. I especially enjoy reading history from around the world.
Alice S Hill's debut novel, When the Tree is Dry is set in fairly recent times, but it is filled with life and death struggles for basic human and political rights in Zimbabwe. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who is looking for a fast-paced story filled with sympathetic characters, mostly female protagonists, who must do what they think is right - for themselves, their families, and their country.
A full review of the book has been published at Bewildering Stories - you can check it out here. Happy reading!
I grew up in the Bay Area listening to the stories from my Japanese grandmother about our family's internment during World War II. So it was with great interest that I picked up Sherman Smith's book, Silencing the Blues Man. It is the third in a trilogy, following Poets Can't Sing and The Honeysuckle Rose Hotel. The book focuses on the perspective of several characters who have survived the atrocities of WWII, and it explores how Americans from different races and cultural backgrounds cope with the aftermath of war once they return to civilian life.
There is a full review at Bewildering Stories magazine. I hope you enjoy reading it.
I was interested in reading Piers Anthony’s new book, Writer’s Retweet, for several reasons. He was one of the authors I grew up with, and I’m always curious to come back to a writer that I’ve read years ago and see if my understanding of their work offers anything new. I’m also always looking for work that expands my understanding of the creative form, and the concept of this book was intriguing. Every author hears over and over that social media is a key component of today’s writer’s platform, and Mr. Anthony came up with the idea of doing a story in tweets, which would run over the course of many months. Writer's Retweet is a compilation of five of these Twitter stories.
There's a full review over at Bewildering Stories - I hope you find it informative!
There are some books that are hard to put down, and Piece of Mind, by Michelle Adelman, is on that list for me. Written in a conversational style, the prose is simple, yet filled with touches of humor. If I can't go to sleep because I have to turn the page and find out what happens next, I'd call the book a success.
I've written a full review at Bewildering Stories. I hope you pick up the book and enjoy it as much as I did!
I picked up The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True, interested to find a series of characters who were somewhat different and very easy to relate to. The story revolves around a group of women who start attending a support group because they are the wives of sex addicts. So, right off, this is a story about troubled relationships and women who have issues with their self-confidence because of them. But the story doesn't veer into the maudlin - it really tells the stories of these women, who are at times angry, often confused, and still hopeful that things can work out for the better.
It was very easy to get involved in this book and hard to put it down. While I don't know much about sex addiction, one statistic that keeps coming up in the book (although I don't know how accurate it is) is that only one in five people who are married to sex addicts are able to stay married. So out of five women in the group, this doesn't bode well for four of them, which adds extra tension for the reader - Who's going to make it? Who won't? Will they beat the odds?
The writing is straightforward and I would call this a mainstream novel, although there are parts of it that veer into literary style. However, there are one or two small parts that I thought detracted from the whole - they were small enough not to take away my overall enjoyment of the book, although I will mention them here.
First off, one of the women in the group decides in the middle of the novel to move out of the country. This might be fine, except that this seems to be the end of her role in the book. While the other characters might think about her idly afterwards, her presence in the book has little to no impact on the final story or on the other characters. I kept waiting for the other characters to stay in contact with her, perhaps by email, or at least think more about her, but she basically disappears and that's the end of her role. I feel that having an unfinished story line is okay - as long as the reason behind it makes the reader think more about the character/other characters. But just disappearing for no reason - that doesn't make me think about them at all. Instead, it bothered me as a reader.
The same with the ending of the book. While I don't want to give the ending away, the final story line feels somewhat unfinished to me. The book ends too soon. There WAS an ending beyond where the book actually ended, so the fact that the story concluded where it did felt a little off to me. Not everything needs to be wrapped up in a neat little package, but I really wanted more to the story, even if it was inconclusive. It was too abrupt for me, since the characters talk about planning future actions which are not then carried out in the action of the book. So the fact that we see them sitting around talking as the final scene of the book feels very inactive to me and somewhat anticlimactic.
The last problem I had was just something small I noticed, and I probably only noticed because I'm a writer myself. Since there are several different women who are main characters in the story, the chapters are labeled with the women's names when telling their stories - so, for example, the first chapter is labeled, "Lizzy," the second chapter is labeled, "Hannah," etc. The only difference is when all the women get together at the therapist's office, where the chapters are titled by how many sessions they've come together, for example, "Session Four." The only time this varies is the last chapter, where they get together for a session and instead of labeling the chapter "Session #," it is labeled with the name of one of the characters. Probably another reason that I felt that the story was unfinished - I felt that the continuity of the format was broken (most probably intentionally, but it still struck me as off). I would have also liked to have the story begin and end with the same character OR with none of them, but that's just a tiny personal nitpick and 100% my opinion.
I do feel that it is a wonderful debut novel for Ms. True, and I'd definitely recommend this book and read future work by her.
This is a love story in the midst of moments of tragedy and comedy, and a damn fine read. Not many books make me cry, but there was more than one moment that I had tears in my eyes.
The Day We Met centers around Claire, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's while in her early 40's, although the story is told from several perspectives. There is also Greg, her current husband of only a couple years; her oldest daughter, Caitlin, who is twenty; and her mother, Ruth, who has moved in with them to care for Claire and Claire's youngest daughter, Esther. The story marches backwards and forwards in time, revealing snippets of the past that are slowly fading from Claire's memory as the Alzheimer's grows more pronounced.
In addition to the problem of Claire's disease, the main characters also face personal crises of their own. Caitlin has secrets she is hiding from her family, Ruth lost Claire's father the same way she is losing Claire and seems unable to let go of her anger at the situation, and Claire herself meets a strange man who seems to understand her in a way that Greg is increasingly unable to. As she and her family struggle to come to grips with the disease that is defining her days, Claire tries to find out who she is in the midst of losing what she thought has always defined her life.
This is a beautiful and touching story, and I would definitely recommend it. As soon as I am done writing this post, I am off to pick up more books by Ms. Coleman!
The kids and I have been feeling a little under the weather, so I haven't been posting reviews recently. But I've still been reading, so I have a backlog of reviews to write. One book that I read this past week was The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel, and I must say that I really enjoyed it.
It starts out with the main character, Kate, looking back twelve years to when she was newly married to Patrick, the love of her life. The story begins when he's late coming home and they have a fight. The next day, he goes to work - but he never makes it, as he is in a car accident and dies. Fast forward to the present time and her engagement to her new boyfriend, Dan. Life seems to be going great for her again until she starts having dreams about her ex-husband and the life they could have been leading.
All these elements could be cliché. Heck, they are, even I will admit that. But Harmel handles the scenes without a maudlin air, and makes the story and the characters feel real. The characters make bad decisions and they aren't always perfect, but I was drawn completely into the story. What's amazing is the main character's occupation is as a music therapist to kids, especially disabled kids, and it felt as if the author must have been involved in that world also, since the details are so seamlessly incorporated into the narrative. However, reading Harmel's notes at the end, I was startled to learn that she'd created these characters' occupations all by research. One would never know when reading the book.
This is a romance, but romance is not really the only theme of the book, nor necessarily the conclusion the main character comes to at the end. Her ex-husband, the love of her life, IS dead, and she has to come to terms with that - but, in doing so, she realizes that there are many types of love, not all of them the ones she initially thinks are important. I would definitely recommend this book, and I plan on picking up Harmel's first book, The Sweetness of Forgetting.
First, I want to say how much I enjoyed the writing style of this book - it was hard to put down. I can see what the hype was about and why it was made into a movie - I haven't yet seen the movie, but I can perfectly see this story being carried out in film.
Having said that, I also have to say the second half of the book was just as well written as the first half, but the plot veered too far into the implausible for my tastes. There were a couple things that pulled me out of the story:
1) There were too many writers in the book. Perhaps I'm biased since I'm a fiction writer myself, but one of the first lessons we're told is: Don't write about writers. Not only are Amy's parents writers, but Amy and Nick are both writers. Although Amy's parents being writers helped fully flesh out the plot, Nick certainly doesn't need to be one also. Because of the fake diary Amy plants as part of the evidence piling up against her husband, it might lend credibility for her to pull off the con by being a professional writer... then again, perhaps it's not necessary. Many people have very wonderful blogs nowadays, but aren't "professional" writers. And the fact that ALL the main characters share the same profession? Too many writers in the book, in my opinion. Like too many chefs spoil the broth.
2) Amy's psychosis reads too much to me like a made-up story rather than a fully realized narrative. She is logically crazy. I felt myself being stretched a little past credibility with some of the actions attributed to her.
3) Amy's character is inconsistent. She goes to such great lengths to protect herself and set up the narrative to frame Nick. Then once she stages her disappearance and reaches the cabins in the middle of nowhere, she immediately starts hanging out with two strangers whom she knows nothing about, even going so far as to reveal where she keeps her money and watching a TV show about her own disappearance with one of them. I understand that to forward the plot, her money needs to be stolen in order to be forced to turn to Desi... but it really seems out of character for her. It seems stupid and spur-of-the-moment, and the whole point of the book is she ISN'T stupid or spur-of-the-moment. She's insane, but she's methodical and patient.
4) Nick staying with Amy at the end of the story seems implausible to me. While the child might be SOME motivation, is it worth the rest of his life with crazy Amy? Seems out of character to me. He's turned to another woman before, and he could again. At the end, he talks about not wanting to become Amy, then contradicts himself by saying he's reaching her level of craziness. Again, this struck me as inconsistent.
***END SPOILER ALERT***
Other than these few plot points that bothered me as I read the book, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'd definitely pick up another book by Gillian Flynn.
There's definitely a lot to like about this book. It's a story about five college friends who have turned thirty and found out that their lives are not where they expected. The main character, Ben, is in the middle of a divorce with his wife, Sarah. Lindsey, whom Ben has loved since college, is a temp worker whose life lacks anything permanent, carrying over to her relationships. Alison has put her personal life on hold for ten years, since she's been in love with Jack the whole time, who is now a big-shot movie star with a serious coke addition. Chuck is still the class clown whom none of the friends take seriously, although he is currently a highly respected doctor.
The characters are complex but likable, and a story that could be full of clichés has only one or two to hold it up. The writing style draws the reader in and keeps the reader zigzagging between sympathy for the characters and laughter at their crazy antics.
There's only one part of the book that made me go: "Whaaaat?" One of the main characters is a player, who picks up random women from bars for one-night stands. One of the women he picks up lies about her age - she is still in high school and under 18 years old. Ben, the main character, finds out about this and chooses not to tell anyone about what he has found out. I kept on waiting for consequences for the characters because of this statuary rape, but nothing happens in the book - the characters just keep on doing their thing, and this part of the storyline goes nowhere. So it left me with a bit of an icky feeling. This isn't the only instance when the main characters do something highly illegal in the book that turns out "all right" in the end, so it left me with the idea of a pattern of "do anything and it'll be okay." I wasn't too keep on that part of the story.
***END SPOILER ALERT***
Other than that, I enjoyed the book and would probably pick up another one from Jonathan Tropper.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.