Showing posts with label short story collection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short story collection. Show all posts

Friday, April 28, 2017

Salt and Oil, Blood and Clay by Jennifer Bresnick


Rating: WORTHY!

This is "A collection of short stories, poems, and vignettes that use fantasy and the harsh realities of ordinary life to explore the impact of solitude, sorrow, hope, and longing on how we see and believe in the world." I don't think that blurb does this justice. This is short, but it was quite engaging. I liked how it hung together, and even though I didn't 'get' everything, and didn't like some things, overall I considered it a very worthy read.

I loved that the author isn't afraid to make her poetry rhyme. I'm not one of those people who thinks poetry should be "just like in the Hallmark cards' but neither do I think rhyming poetry is a dirty word. Or more to the point, a set of dirty words! I think poetry needs to have rhythm, meaning, and yes, rhyme, but you can rhyme with meaning and sentiment instead of literally with words. Far too much poetry these days is pretentious prose arbitrarily broken into random clauses. Not with this author, who writes so well that you can feel the emotion coming through those words straight into your heart. That's exactly what poetry should be.

The short stories were quirky and engaging, and in some cases felt like they were unfinished - or were the beginning of something longer, which the author abandoned, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing to get from a story. Some of those were intriguing. Life is unfinished until it's too late; then there's nothing we can do about it! We've left it to others to finish what we started, so my advice is to get it done while you can, and this author brings that and more. I recommend this.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes


Rating: WARTY!

This was a mixed bag for me. I got the advance review copy under the impression (wrongly, obviously!) that it was a story about one person and their interactions with family and friends. It felt like it would an episodic, but coherent whole. In the end, it was a collection of short stories, none of which had anything to do with any of the others. I'm not a big fan of short story collections, but in for a penance, in for a pounding, so off I went.

The first two stories I felt were good, so I was off to a great start; they went downhill for me after that, however. I don’t like full length novels where the plot bounces like a pinball spastically between different sets of characters, even when the whole thing is supposed to come together in a final whole, but at least when it moves around like that, you eventually get to come back to the characters you like and really wanted to read about in the first place!

This means, as I said, that I tend to like collections of short stories less, especially if they’re unconnected. Indeed, the only connection between these stories, it seemed to me, was that they were preponderantly about weak, equivocating women who were obsessed with sex - or when not having sex, were doing drugs. This made them unappealing to me as characters or people. It seemed like they had no life other than drugs and sex, and even when the drugs and sex were not directly to do with them, they were still in the story affecting their lives.

Yes, there was a variety of locale and person in the stories, so on the one hand they were, in a small way, all different, and a reader has a better chance of finding a story they like in those circumstances, but on the other hand, the stories a person might like are over far too quickly, and the reader knows that they’re never going to eventually get back to these characters later in the book. It was with these mixed feelings that I read through this. On the up-side, it was a short and fast read!

As I said, the first two stories were appealing to me, but they were over far too quickly and then rest of the novel went downhill, apart from two brief upticks. The eponymous short story, which came last, was the worst of all, and the title had obviously been chosen for its prurient value. Despite that, I was actually hoping for it to bear me something edifying, ironic, or humorous, but it never did. In the end, it took the same exit from this freeway that all of these stories did: it fizzled out rather sadly, as though the author didn’t know what to do with it (and we’ve all been there, haven’t we, so I do sympathize!).

We’re told that stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end – the standard three-act scenario. I’m not one who subscribes to that kind of rigid paradigm, but that said, I felt rather unsatisfied after every one of these stories, even the few I liked. The best of them were like eating a satisfying meal, but after this I felt I’d been promised an equally fulfilling desert, and it was never served. I wanted something more from it, but I was denied time after time. Maybe this was a result of the story being short - too short for me, maybe! The thing is that I wasn’t necessarily looking for a conclusion or a resolution in the traditional sense; I was looking only for something more than I was delivered. Let’s look at each story.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO YOU?
This one featured a young woman in a lesbian relationship who has not come out to her mother. Her dad knows, but is separated from her Mexican mom who lives south of the border, down Mexico way. This story actually should have clued me in better in regard to what to expect from this collection, but it was a new book, I was up for it and evidently blinded by the fact that I enjoyed this one despite the discovery that it really went nowhere in the end. The main character, Lala isn’t strong at all and has no idea how to broach this topic with her own mom, but we're never really given a good reason as to why, having already told dad, her mom should be so much harder to face. Even after the matter is dealt with, there is no aftermath to explore. The story is over, and the character hurries back home, making me feel as though the author herself was dedicatedly hurrying on to the next tale in the collection. To its credit, this was one story which didn't obsess loosely on sex.

WEEKEND WITH BETH, KELLY, MUSCLE, AND PAMMY
I just about liked this story, but it wasn't because of the main character, who was male, but because of Beth, who to me was a stunner of a woman about whom I could read a whole novel were the character to be handled in it like she was here. She was a breath of fresh air, I couldn’t have cared less about the other characters. The story, unfortunately, focused on the guy, and his rather loose and physical relationships with females. It would not have appealed to me at all were it not for Beth's appearances. A story about sex, pretty much.

MIKE ANONYMOUS
This story is about a Japanese guy who has poor English language, trying to get an STD test after having sex with a prostitute. I found this story to be just stupid and vaguely racist. Another story about sex.

I WILL CRAWL TO RALEIGH IF I HAVE TO
This one was thoroughly unsatisfying, too. It was another story about a woman who was unable to get out from under a guy - not literally this time, but figuratively. When it wasn't about him it was about drugs. To me it read like an endless whine and I didn't enjoy it at all..

DESERT HEARTS
This is about a liar/lawyer who talks herself into a job at a store where the first question they ask her is "Are you a lesbian?" This is what she lies about. The store is a sex toy retailer (so there's the sex again). It really went nowhere although it was more entertaining than any of the other stories. This was an odd one because, due to the fact that my phone randomly changes my place in ebooks when it's riding around in my pocket and not switched off, I missed this. It was only when I started writing the review and briefly reviewing the stories, that I realized I hadn't read it! If this has been a full length novel, I would have known immediately that I was reading in the wrong place, but I couldn't tell here. I was glad it was somewhat entertaining, but it wasn't nearly entertaining enough to reverse my opinion as to how entertaining this book was overall.
PEARL AND THE SWISS GUY FALL IN LOVE
This was about objectifying men, really. The guy never even gets a name, yet the main character has endless sex with this virtual stranger, and lets him move in with her even as she doesn't want this, yet is too weak to tell him to move out. It was really, seriously, honestly boring and pointless, and no fun to read.

NEW GIRLS
This is nothing but a list of German friends this snotty young American girl makes and ditches when she moves with her family to Germany. Kudos for bringing in a diversity of locales and character origins, but this was really boring.
MY HUMANS
This was the first uptick on the down-slide. It's the story of a break-up told from the dog's PoV, which was quite inventive and entertaining.
JERKS
This was completely tedious despite being, in part, about a hearing impaired woman who babysits a hearing impaired child. There was so much potential there for a real story, but I never got that story. Instead I got more sex. This woman is limp and motive-less, fresh out of a relationship and falling almost immediately into bed with some random guy she meets. There was, for me, no entertainment value at all.
BARBARA THE SLUT
This is about a highly promiscuous high-school girl two years from graduation, and it began as though it might actually be entertaining, but it was really Mary Sue the Slut, not Barbara. I thought the author was going to make use of the title and run with it, but she never did. The title was simply the name by which this girl was known universally in her school, and that was pretty much the entire story.

Whatever it was that was being attempted here didn't work. The author, despite actually being female, doesn't seem to know the difference between a vagina and a vulva! I mean, you can pat a vagina, but it's really hard to do, and highly uncomfortable if not downright painful for the woman whose vagina is being patted. Much easier to pat a vulva, but do get permission first.

I can't in good faith recommend this one. It showed definite promise in parts, but overall wasn't the ticket to reading pleasure I'd hoped for. The women were too much alike in their dithering ineptitude and lackluster view of life, they showed little to no improvement, were almost universally walked all over by men, and their insipid and uninteresting qualities were not leavened by anything.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Remnants of Passion by Sarah Einstein


Title: Remnants of Passion
Author: Sarah Einstein
Publisher: Shebooks
Rating: WORTHY!
pub. Shebooks


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

Go Shebooks! It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that this is a good idea, but it helps to have one on board, especially if it's Sarah Einstein. The only thing which might have tripped-up this publishing plan was poor reading material, but that's quite evidently not a problem from the sampling I've done, and which I'll review over the next couple of days.

This particular volume is a collection of shorts (no, not those kind of shorts!) with general observations on life - or at least something which resembles it - and it's hard to tell if they're memories or fiction. I hope not all of them are memories! When I say shorts, I really mean it, since this is only 37 pages long, so it's a good, solid read, and in nice bite-sized pieces.

A Meditation on Love is a memory of a trip to a summer-of-love style event where young people (and some not-so-young) free themselves from societal restraints and constraints and enjoy each other, and music and food, and comfortable, unpretentious clothes. This story amused the heck out of me because it seemed so realistic.

The Origins of My Problems With Fidelity tells a story of a sexually-confused high-school girl and her brief (no, not those kind of briefs) encounter with a fellow teen who may or may not have been a lesbian.

Self-Portrait in Apologies is exactly that; a series of apologies to people from the writer's past (real or fictional I know not), and it's both hilarious and sad, comfortable and discomfiting.

Fat is so mixed-up (to put it politely) that I can barely describe it, but it revolves artfully around the fact that there are two kinds of 'fat' when you're a woman: overweight, and pregnant. It's a sad story that really makes you want to go hug this girl and take care of her properly, even as you know you'll most likely be rejected by her if you make any such effort. I was in adoration of the segment relating the narrator's trip to the lesbian conference and the bizarre antics experienced there. This seemed so real to me that it tapped into my own recollections of various encounters I've had, and observations I've made. It's nice to feel that at least sometimes, I wasn't completely off-base with my views even if I was off the reservation!

I loved the honesty and the free-wheeling nature of this collection. It's warm and thoughtful, interesting and moving, and it decidedly has something to say. and I recommend it to both male and female readers who are looking for some honest and thoughtful entertainment.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine by Various Authors





Title: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Author: Various (see Below)
Publisher: Penny Publications
Rating: WORTHY!

This is the first edition of this magazine (to which I don't subscribe). The first edition was published by Davis, but it's now owned by the publisher listed above. This particular edition has several short stories, and description of the "New" Smithsonian museum! The individual stories are reviewed very briefly below.

Good-bye, Robinson Crusoe by John Varley
This is a 29-page coming-of-age (for the second time) story of an alien who starts out spending time in an ocean, living on a largely deserted island, enjoying his gills, fearing the shark which lives out there by the reef, but who eventually realizes he isn't a child and it's time to leave those childish things behind and get back into life where he belongs.

Think! by Isaac Asimov
Thus is a story about the dawn of artificial intelligence - or rather the dawn of a realization by humans that artificial intelligence isn't so artificial after all!

Quarantine by Arthur C Clarke
This is a weird two-page story about a disastrous discovery which could spell the end of the universe: chess!

The Homesick Chicken by Edward D Hoch
This one is hilarious. It takes the joke question: "Why did the chicken cross the road" and make a really funny and interesting short story out of it. Brilliant!

Perchance to Dream by Sally A Sellers
In what is, in some ways, almost an homage to Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, the power of alien regeneration technology in what otherwise appear to be ordinary humans is the subject of this novel. When life is gone the heart lingers on in the body of another - as though it's the heart itself which is the individual, and none of the rest of the body.

Air Raid by Herb Boehm, aka John Varley
This is the short story which gave rise to the movie Millennium and was the sole reason why I got my hands on this volume! This story is brilliant and discusses people of the future - on a rotting, dying Earth polluted beyond redemption, sneaking back into the past to steal good bodies - but not just anybody, only live bodies which were due to die in airplane crashes, and which are replaced by fabricated bodies, so the live humans won't be missed.

Kindertotenlieder (dead songs of childhood) by Jonathan Fast
I don't know if this is a rip-off of another short story I once read or of that was a rip-off of this one. The other story (the title of which escapes me, I'm afraid) was about this exclusive restaurant where on rare and unpredictable occasions, the chef would serve a really fine meat, exquisitely prepared with special ingredients in the very secret kitchen. Tours of the kitchen were, coincidentally, also held on rare and unpredictable occasions....

Period of Totality by Fred Saberhagen
This was a really boring story about which I remember nothing other than astronauts trotting around on a planet waiting for an eclipse. Or maybe it was an eclair. An eclair de lune....

The Scorch on Wetzel's Hill by Sherwood Springer
This wasn't a terribly bad story, but it wasn't really very engaging, original, or entertaining, either.

Coming of Age in Henson's Tube by William Jon Watkins
This is a YA story of young kids using the peculiar gravity of the space tube in which they live to go base jumping, with all the attendant risks if you chose the wrong gravitational spot to leap into.

Time Storm by Gordon R Dickson
This is a longer (~34 pages) and fortunately interesting story about a guy who is trying to find his way through a North America racked by time storms, which cause faults in the air and which can be deadly if they sweep over you. He has a girl and a leopard in his van with him, and he has to contend with the weird and the dangerous - and that's just the people he meets....

I recommend this edition of this sci-fi magazine.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender





Title: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
Author: Aimee Bender
Publisher: Anchor Books
Rating: worthy

Note that this one is definitely not young-adult, unless it's a very mature young-adult!

I don't know if Aimee was on a Bender when she wrote this but this is one of the most off-the-wall books I've ever read, so naturally it appealed to me immensely. It's a collection of 16 rather zen-like short stories in a number of parts, but since I can't be discussing a woman's parts in a blog like this, those shall remain anonymous!

The Rememberer is a story of a woman relating the death of a relationship which she sees as her lover devolving through various animal stages, from human to ape to turtle, to salamander, to single-celled organism.

Call My Name is about a rather desperate and privileged woman trying to connect and discovering that she;s not so privileged after all.

What You left in the Ditch shows how a woman whose husband returns home with a bizarre war injury cannot connect either.

The Bowl is about loss. Or about a fruit bowl....

Marzipan, despite being my most sinful treat, is so completely out there that it defies description. Just suffice to say it tells the truth, the hole truth and nothing but motherhood.

Quiet Please tells of a frustrated librarian and her rather literal relationship with men who frequent her, how shall I put it, domain and are reduced to dewy-eyed decimals?

Skinless is missing something. It felt like just the muscle and bone.... Or it might be about young love.

Fugue is about relationships. Or not.

Drunken Mimi is about impish love - literally.

Fell This Girl is about horniness.

The Healer Tells the amazing tale of two mutant girls, one who had a hand made of fire, the other who had a hand made of ice, and their difficult relationship in a small, isolated town.

Loser is about an orphan who can find things by sensing their 'tug'. Unfortunately, he can't find people, unless they're wearing something of which he can sense the tug. And he can't find his parents, nor they him.

Legacy and the rest below I haven't yet read, but if you want to get out of your mind, then this is definitely the ticket for you. Most of the stories are very short (unlike some of mine in Poem y Granite!), and the entire book is a quick read.

Dreaming in Polish is a weird story about two old folks who dream in Polish and are mistaken for prophets!

The Ring is about a woman who falls in love with a "robber" and when she joins him in his light-fingered excursions she finds rings hidden in pots in the kitchens of the homes they burgle, one of which is a ruby ring, which stains bright red everything it touches.

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt is the most bizarre of all: it's a short story comprised of even shorter stories.

So yes, if you want to blow your mind, then this is the book for you. I loved it.