Book 360: #First Impressions #Second Chances – Heidi Belleau

Belleau, Heidi - First Impressions, Second ChancesI grabbed a copy of this book for free from the Riptide Publishing website. I did this before I had an interaction with Riptide that left an incredibly sour taste in my mouth and has pretty much guaranteed I won’t read any of their books again, but I’ll save that for the end of this post (after the recommendation).

This novella’s synopsis (Amazon Affiliate link) was just too cute to pass up. You get a second chance with your first crush and they happen to be gay too? Add in the techno-crazy insta-celebrity age and of course it’s going to be adorable. This rings especially true if you’re main character is a somewhat neurotic shy guy who has gone out of his way to avoid social-interactions in person, but has a large online following. I mean come on librarians and bookstores, let’s just go ahead and create the sub-sub-genre “Socially Awkward Romances.” I’d be all over that.

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Book 348: In Youth Is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House – Denton Welch

Welch, Denton - In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather's HouseThe publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, reached out to me with this book as I’d previously read Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies, and she is even mentioned in this work.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant at first as Bowles’ work was very well written but I just didn’t like the characters. Thankfully, Welch’s characters were a bit more accessible for me. This is two shorter stories so I’ve separated my response into two parts. The publisher provided a copy of this book and I received no compensation for my honest opinion.

The one over-arching them the two pieces have in common is the idea of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, before it was commonly talked about and/or accepted. I tried (aka did a brief google search) to find out about Welch’s sexuality, but again this was a long time ago before our out and proud mantras of today. Welch died young, he was only 33, and there is only speculation outside of his written works which in today’s society seem pretty explicit. Regardless, I enjoyed both of these snippets of the past for completely different reasons.

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Book 313: The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury

Bradbury, Ray - The Martian ChroniclesI really need to stop saying that I love fantasy and am not a fan of science fiction. This was one of those novels that reminds me how much I enjoy thoroughly well written science fiction and often times the lines between science fiction and fantasy are blurred.

It was actually interesting as I read this novel that I wanted to know more about the technical and physical engineering/feats of the book. I wasn’t satisfied with the answer being “it was” or “just because.” I say this is funny, because that’s the part that has always put me off from science fiction. The too detailed focus on the technology, the terraforming, the space travel and the other more technical/physical aspects as opposed to the exploration of new planets, the contact with alien life and the mental and physical reactions to all of the above, really made me question why I say I’m not a big fan of science fiction.

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Book 308: Household Stories – Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - Household StoriesI haven’t written about it yet, but I will in the near future, but I signed up for my first Coursera course! It is called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World and so far I’m enjoying it. Household Stories was our first reading and looking at Goodreads, EVERYONE who reads the Lucy Crane/Wlater Crane version seems to have taken that same Coursera course! I’m seriously looking forward to the other books and stories we’ll read for the course and this was a great start.

What I found most interesting about the collection was the obsession with food and with fallen females. Every story was somehow related to food (needing food, wanting food, having too much food, etc.) or dealt with a female character (human or anthropomorphic) who caused troubles for other characters (the adulteress Mrs. Fox and the numerous wicked step-mothers among others).

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Book 302: Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret - Stone MattressAtwood is an incredible writer and story teller and there’s really not much more that needs to be said, so when I saw her newest collection of short stories I knew I had to request it! I received a copy from the publisher, in return for my honest opinion:

Spectactular.

That would be a little cruel, to leave it just at that even though it would still describe it perfectly. Below, you’ll find a one-to-two sentence review of each of the nine tales and a single quote from each.

On a different note, if you haven’t heard Margaret Atwood is the first author of the future library! This is a project where authors are asked to write a work and it won’t be read for 100 years. This makes me both incredibly happy, as she writes such fantastic speculative/near future fiction, but also sad that I won’t be able to read it! It’s a fascinating project and I could go into it in detail, but really you should just read about it at The Guardian.

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Book 290: One More Thing – B.J. Novak

Novak, B. J. - One More ThingThis was quite possibly the strangest and quirkiest book I’ve read in ages. The majority of it comes from the randomness of the collection of short stories, but a lot of it comes from Novak’s rather odd, but incredibly witty imagination. My friend Caitrin lent me this ages ago and I finally got around to reading it.

The first I heard about it was on the podcast Dinner Party Download where Novak read a few of his short stories and then he was in Boston for a reading and book signing and Caitrin and a few friends went. I didn’t go as I’m super selective over what books I want signed, my bookshelf space is severely limited, but I would definitely go to hear him speak now, having read the book! Doesn’t hurt he’s a local boy from Newton and went to Harvard so even more reason to pay attention (never really followed The Office so wasn’t familiar with him at all).

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Book 225: Two Short Stories

So I felt really guilty about reviewing either one of these short stories/novellas on their own so I squished them together and counted them as one book. Total they are barely 50 pages, but I’m including them anyway. The first, In Another Life, is an ARC from the publisher and I received nothing for my honest opinion; the second, Karma is the 2013 Boston Book Festival 1 City 1 Story selection.


Montgomery, E. E. - In Another LifeI would’ve read this ages ago if I would only have realized that it was a novella/short story. For some reason I assumed this was a standard 150-200 page love story type novel. Regardless I am glad that I read it, even if it was only 28 pages.

They say that the hardest thing to write of all forms of writing is a short story. Now I don’t know who they are or whether this is true, but I can say I have read really bad short stories and amazing short stories. I think a lot of authors struggle with the finite amount of space and telling a complete story within the short story structure. And although E. E. Montgomery does a great job with this as a short story (or novella as the publisher says), this story would only have been better if it had more meat to it. I will say there were golden passages that made my breath catch and made me want the love the two characters had such as
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