Mendocino Fire, by Elizabeth Tallent #review #TLCBookTours #MendocinoFire

About the book,  Mendocino Fire Mendocino Fire

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Harper (October 20, 2015)

The long-awaited return of a writer of rare emotional wisdom

The son of an aging fisherman becomes ensnared in a violent incident that forces him to confront his broken relationship with his father. A woman travels halfway across the country to look for her ex-husband, only to find her attention drawn in a surprising direction. A millworker gives safe harbor to his son’s pregnant girlfriend, until an ambiguous gesture upsets their uneasy equilibrium. These and other stories—of yearning, loss, and tentative new connections—come together in Mendocino Fire, the first new collection in two decades from the widely admired Elizabeth Tallent.

Buy, read, and discuss Mendocino Fire

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Elizabeth Tallent Elizabeth Tallent

Elizabeth Tallent is the author of the story collections Honey, In Constant Flight, and Time with Children, and the novel Museum Pieces. Since 1994 she has taught in the Creative Writing program at Stanford University. She lives on the Mendocino coast of California.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Even though Elizabeth Tallent is, by no means, a new voice in American fiction, her work was new to me, and I really enjoyed getting to know her through Mendocino Fire. I find that short stories are an excellent way to find out if you’re responding to a specific author, or jut a specific story. As well, I think they give authors a way to stretch – try on different voices. In this collection of ten stories, Tallent does both: she shows off her versatility, but she also gave me the ability to determine if I wanted to read more of her work (yes, I do.)

Critics have referred to Tallent’s short stories, particularly those in this collection, as “elegant” and “perfectly made,” and I have to agree. Though most, if not all, of her characters – a young man trying to start a life while also accepting that he isn’t the son his father wanted, a young girl exploring her sexuality and forging a future while also facing the fact that futures cost money, a woman still processing her divorce – the list goes on – are demonstrably imperfect, the author has told their stories with grace and not a little bit of dark wit.

I was particularly drawn to Tallent’s use of language throughout the collection. The way she describes David Merson, the protagonist of “Tabriz,” (one of my favorites of the bunch) as “heartsore in the way of old activists,” really struck a chord with me, perhaps because I know so many aging hippies, but that’s just one example of the way she mixes description and social commentary into a satisfying blend.

Of the collection, “Tabriz” and the titular “Mendocino Fire” were the two I most responded to, partly because of the language, and partly because the characters resembled people I’ve encountered throughout my life, which made them seem the most “real” to me.

I had several false starts reading the very first story in the collection, ‘The Wrong Son,” but not everyone will respond to every word any writer offers. Even though I didn’t truly connect with it, though, there were a couple of moments  – Nate’s internal reflection about wondering if he and his young family will ever get out of the trailer he’s renting from his father, and into a real house.  I remember when Fuzzy and I were first married, and facing the reality of what you can actually afford when you’re young and just beginning your adult life.

Overall, this collection is truly compelling, with stunning use of language, vivid descriptions, real, flawed characters, and a theme of broken people becoming whole that I found incredibly interesting and engaging.

Goes well with bean and cheese burritos and Indio beer.


Elizabeth’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, October 20th: Books on the Table

Friday, October 23rd: Bibliotica

Monday, October 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, October 27th: Back Porchervations

Wednesday, October 28th: Olduvai Reads

Thursday, October 29th: she treads softly

Friday, October 30th: M. Denise Costello

Tuesday, November 3rd: Read. Write. Repeat.

Wednesday, November 4th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Thursday, November 5th: Imaginary Reads

Friday, November 6th: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, November 9th: Lavish Bookshelf

Tuesday, November 10th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, November 11th: You Can Read Me Anything

Thursday, November 12th: The Well-Read Redhead

Friday, November 13th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

 

Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family, by Carlton Mellick III (@carltonmellick3) #review @tlcbooktours #giveaway

About the book Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family Clownfellas

  • Publisher: Hydra (July 14, 2015)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

“Carlton Mellick III goes past silly, through weird, detours around dumb, blasts through bizarre, and gets to a place where the normal physics of narrative no longer apply. You will never be the same.”—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Homeland

In a topsy-turvy world where clowns are killers and crooks, Little Bigtop is a three-ring circus of crime, and no syndicate is more dangerous than the Bozo family. From the wildly original mind of Carlton Mellick III comes the short-story collection ClownFellas—an epic mob saga where life is cheap and the gags will slay you.

For years, the hard-boiled capos of the Bozo family have run all of the funny business in Little Bigtop, from the clown brothels to the illegal comedy trade. But hard times have befallen the Bozos now that Le Mystère, the French clown Mafia, has started moving in and trying to take over the city. If that weren’t enough, they’ve got to deal with the cops, the Feds, the snitches, the carnies, the mysterious hit man Mr. Pogo, and the mutant clowns over in the Sideshow district. With the odds stacked against them, the Bozos must fight to survive . . . or die laughing.

Buy, read, and discuss Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million  | Goodreads


About the author, Carlton Mellick III Carlton Mellick III

Carlton Mellick III is an oafish gentleman with the stylishest of sideburns. He is one of the leading authors in the bizarro fiction genre—a booming underground movement that strives to bring weird, crazy, entertaining literature to the masses. Imagine a mixture of David Lynch, Dr. Seuss, South Park, and Troma movies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Connect with Carlton

Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Publisher’s Weekly described Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family as “Mario Puzo meets Barnum & Bailey” and that’s about as accurate a description as I can think of. Make no mistake about it, this collection of short stories is hilarious – clowns as gangsters? really?? – but it’s also dark, gritty, and disturbing.

In the world this book inhabits, Clowns are a kind of metahuman mutant, and each faction has different characteristics. The Bozo family is comprised of traditional American-style circus clowns, while other factions include the French Le Mystère (who are not, apparently, mimes, though I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were – a further tale, perhaps?)  and deal with attacks from the Jugglers.

The author, Carlton Mellick III has taken every gangster trope and every clown trope mixed them up and come up with something fresh and fantastic (in all senses of the word). In one story a coulrophobic (coulrophobia is fear of clowns) veterinarian is dragged to Little Bigtop to save the life of Don Bozo’s pet lion. In another, a human Associate is resisting the serum injection (Happy Juice) that will turn him from Human to Clown because he’s terrified of becoming a statistic. In the universe of Clownfellas, it seems, one in ten people become Sideshow Freaks instead of true Clowns, and are sent off to fend for themselves in the Sideshow without rights or recognition.

(A part of me wonders if that one-in-ten number was just for convenience, or if it was chosen specifically because that statistic is a popular (if not necessarily accurate) representation of the segment of our population that is LGBT.)

Whether you read it for a deeper cause, or simply enjoy the sendup of every mafia movie you’ve ever seen, this collection of tales is entertaining and thought provoking: what is normal? What constitutes crime? Would we be better off if we really could kill someone with a C4-loaded pie to the face and guns that used lethal BANG! signs instead of conventional bullets? Is it true that all you really need in life is “…a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants…?”

Goes well with popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, hot dogs, and beer served in a dangerously flimsy plastic cup.


Giveaway Clownfellas

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a HYDRA mug and a copy of the book!

<a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/235babe7234/” rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”235babe7234″ data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_du4egdek”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>


Carlton Mellick III’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 13th: For the Love of Fictional Worlds

Wednesday, July 15th: PromoteHorror.com

Wednesday, July 15th: Wildfire Books

Monday, July 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, July 21st: Wag the Fox – author interview

Thursday, July 23rd: The Qwillery

Friday, July 24th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, July 27th: W. A. R. G. – The Writer’s, Artist’s & Reader’s Guild

Tuesday, July 28th: The Horror Honeys

Wednesday, July 29th: Mallory Heart Reviews

Thursday, July 30th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, August 5th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, August 7th: Life is Story

TBD: The Scary Reviews

TBD: Bell, Book & Candle

TBD: Kari J. Wolfe

Dark Screams (Volumes 2 & 3), edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar #review #giveaway @TLCBookTours

About the book, Dark Screams, Vol. 2 Dark Screams, Vol. 2

  • On Sale: March 03, 2015
  • Pages: 138
  • Published by : Hydra

Robert McCammon, Norman Prentiss, Shawntelle Madison, Graham Masterton, and Richard Christian Matheson scale new heights of horror, suspense, and grimmest fantasy in Dark Screams: Volume Two, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the renowned Cemetery Dance Publications.

THE DEEP END by Robert McCammon
Everyone thinks the drowning death of Neil Calder in the local swimming pool was a tragic accident. Only his father knows better. Now, on the last night of summer, Neil returns in search of revenge.

INTERVAL by Norman Prentiss
Flight 1137 from St. Louis by way of Nashville has gone missing. As anxious friends and family gather around the gate, a ticket clerk finds herself eyewitness to a moment of inhuman evil.

IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK by Shawntelle Madison
Eleanor has come from New York City to prep an old Victorian house in Maine for America’s Mysterious Hotspots. Although she’s always thrown herself into her work, this job will take her places she’s never dreamed of going.

THE NIGHT HIDER by Graham Masterton
C. S. Lewis wrote about a portal that led to a world of magic and enchantment. But the wardrobe in Dawn’s room holds only death—until she solves its grisly mystery.

WHATEVER by Richard Christian Matheson
A 1970s rock ’n’ roll band that never was—in a world that is clearly our own . . . but perhaps isn’t, not anymore . . . or, at least, not yet—takes one hell of a trip.

Buy, read and discuss Dark Screams, Vol. 2

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million  | Goodreads


About the book Dark Screams, Vol. 3 Dark Screams, Vol. 3

  • On Sale: May 12, 2015
  • Pages: 108
  • Published by : Hydra

Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Darynda Jones, Jacquelyn Frank, and Brian Hodge contribute five gloomy, disturbing tales of madness and horror to Dark Screams: Volume Three, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the celebrated Cemetery Dance Publications.

THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF FREDDIE PROTHERO by Peter Straub
A mere child yet a precocious writer, young Freddie records a series of terrifying encounters with an inhuman being that haunts his life . . . and seems to predict his death.

GROUP OF THIRTY by Jack Ketchum
When an award-winning horror writer on the downward slope of a long career receives an invitation to address the Essex County Science Fiction Group, he figures he’s got nothing to lose. He couldn’t be more wrong.

NANCY by Darynda Jones
Though she’s adopted by the cool kids, the new girl at Renfield High School is most drawn to Nancy Wilhoit, who claims to be haunted. But it soon becomes apparent that poltergeists—and people—are seldom what they seem.

I LOVE YOU, CHARLIE PEARSON by Jacquelyn Frank
Charlie Pearson has a crush on Stacey Wheeler. She has no idea. Charlie will make Stacey see that he loves her, and that she loves him—even if he has to kill her to make her say it.

THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS STRETCH FAR AWAY by Brian Hodge
When Marni moves in next door, the stale marriage of Tara and Aidan gets a jolt of adrenaline. Whether it’s tonic or toxic is another matter.

Buy, read, and discuss Dark Screams, Vol. 3

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million  | Goodreads


My Thoughts

I love horror. I love short stories. I understand (as much as anyone without formal training can) the psychology of the human brain that gives us pleasure and a bit of a thrill when we’re scared. In these two ebook anthologogies, Dark Screams, volumes 2 & 3, I was given a couple hundred (and change) rich pages of all the things I love.

There wasn’t a single story in either volume that I found unreadable, though the subject matter in a couple of them (most specifically “I Love You, Charlie Pearson”) did make me uncomfortable. But horror shouldn’t be just empty scares. It needs to hit you in the sweet spot where the Amygdala and the Cerebrum whisper to each other, where intellect and emotion intertwine, and all of these stories do that, and they do it well.

Not that I’m surprised. I mean, look at that list of authors. Even if the only name you recognize is Peter Straub, consider that he would never allow himself to be in the company of authors of unequal caliber – or at least, he’d never allow his work to be so. And I’m not just highlighting his name because his contribution, “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero,” is my favorite from Volume 3 – written from (mostly) a young boy’s point of view, it’s both chilling and poignant.

My other favorite from volume 3 is “Nancy,” because I identified with the character of the ‘new girl’ trying to navigate her way through the popular and not-so-popular crowds in a town that also has its fare share of actual (as opposed to metaphoric) ghosts.

Volume 2 felt, to me, a bit more polished – the stories of a more equal quality, although I confess, I had to read the novella at the end – Richard Christian Matheson’s “Whatever,” twice in order to really ‘get’ it. Then I was blown away. Still, I want to give “The Interval” (Norman Prentiss) which gives new meaning to the limbo we all feel when we’re caught between hope and reality, and “The Night Hider” (Graham Masterton) which posits a dark and interesting origin story for C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, special attention. Both those stories really played with convention, reality, and what we think we know.

Also on my personal “hit list” is “The Deep End,” by Robert McCammon, which does for swimming pools what Jaws did to the ocean when it was first released (just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Y…) and made me seriously glad that the constant rain has kept me OUT of my own swimming pool so far this year.

If you love horror, if you appreciate the pace and brevity of a short story, if you were the kid whose favorite part of summer camp was telling ghost stories after dark – you will love these two anthologies.

Just make sure you turn on the lights as you enter rooms for a few days afterward.

Goes well with buttered popcorn and either slightly sweetened cinnamon iced tea or crisp apple cider.


 Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for Dark Screams: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 27th: A Fantastical Librarian – Volume 2

Wednesday, April 29th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – Volumes 2 and 3

Monday, May 4th: Bell, Book & Candle – Volume 2

Tuesday, May 5th: From the TBR Pile – Volume 2

Wednesday, May 6th: Wag the Fox – Volume 2

Thursday, May 7th: Bewitched Bookworms – Volumes 2 and 3

Friday, May 8th: The Reader’s Hollow – Volume 2

Monday, May 11th: Bibliophilia, Please – Volume 2

Tuesday, May 12th: In Bed with Books – Volume 3

Thursday, May 14th: Bell, Book & Candle – Volume 3

Friday, May 15th: Wag the Fox – Volume 3

Tuesday, May 19th: From the TBR Pile – Volume 3

Thursday, May 21st: The Reader’s Hollow – Volume 3

Thursday, May 28th: Bibliotica – Volume 2 & 3

Friday, May 29th: Sweet Southern Home – Volume 3

Monday, June 1st: Kahakai Kitchen – Volumes 2 and 3

 

The Thing About Great White Sharks, by Rebecca Adams Wright (@rvleeadams) – #Review #Bibliotica

About the book, The Thing About Great White SharksThe Thing About Great White Sharks

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Little A (February 10, 2015)

In this collection’s richly imagined title story, our brutal and resourceful protagonist is determined to protect her family from a murderous, shark-ridden world—at any cost. Elsewhere, an old woman uncovers a sinister plot while looking after a friend’s plants (“Orchids”), and a girl in the war-torn countryside befriends an unlikely creature (“Keeper of the Glass”). In “Barnstormers,” a futuristic flying circus tries to forestall bankruptcy with one last memorable show. At the heart of “Sheila” is the terrible choice a retired judge must make when faced with the destruction of his beloved robotic dog, and “Yuri, in a Blue Dress” follows one of the last survivors of an alien invasion as she seeks help.

Extending from World War II to the far future, these fifteen stories offer a gorgeously observed perspective on our desire for connection and what it means to have compassion—for ourselves, for one another, for our past…and for whatever lies beyond.

Buy, read, and discuss The Thing About Great White Sharks

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Rebecca Adams Wright Rebecca Adams Wright

Rebecca Adams Wright is a 2011 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop and a former University of Michigan Zell Writing Fellow. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and has won the Leonard and Eileen Newman Writing Prize. Rebecca lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Rebecca

Website | FacebookTwitter


My Thoughts

Short stories are a great way to get to know an author if you’re unfamiliar with her work, or if you don’t have the time to really sink into a novel. (Personally, I like to keep collections of short stories in the bathroom. Oh, come on, you all know you read there, too.)
I’ve come to think of them as a textual sampler platter. You get all sorts of characters and voices, and you don’t have to choose one to stay with.

Rebecca Adams Wright’s collection of short stories, The Thing About Great White Sharks (and Other Stories), is a prize among short story collections, because it’s fresh and unique, and just a little twisted in places…all things I appreciate.

While the title of the book (and the eponymous short story within) are what drew me to this collection (because I do have a ‘thing’ about great white sharks), and while that story – a whole new way to look at post-Apocalyptic society that (thank you, Ms. Wright) does not involve any humans shambling around or moaning for brains – was compelling, and dark, and even a little dangerous, it wasn’t my favorite of the fifteen.

That honor went to “Orchids,” which starts out as a simple little tale of a woman watering her neighbors plants and turns into something that would make Hitchcock sit up in his grave and demand to film, were that possible.

I also want to give a shout-out to “Sheila” which was sweet and sentimental without being sappy, and reminded me of both the questions that will start to come up as AIs become more widespread and more advanced (Siri has some growing up to do) and of the contemporary, and very real, issue of Breed-Selective Legislation (the laws which ban people from owning “bully” breed dogs like American Staffordshire Terriers, and other ‘pit bull types’).

But those are just three of the collection, and there are twelve others that take us back in time to World War II, and forward to when aliens are a real presence, and span many years and moods in between.

I would say that I’d love to see Ms. Wright give us a whole novel, but I’ve enjoyed her short stories so much, that my greediest self wants to demand another volume.

Goes well with Tapas and sangria or sushi and plum wine – anything that involves small bites of diverse flavors.


Rebecca Adams Wright’s TLC Book Tours Tour Stops: TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For a guest post from the author, click HERE. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Friday, February 13th: Book Snob – author guest post

Monday, February 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, February 16th: Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, February 18th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, February 19th: 5 Minutes for Books

Thursday, February 19th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, February 23rd: Conceptual Reception

Tuesday, February 24th: Bibliotica review and author guest post

Tuesday, February 24th: Savvy Verse and Wit – author guest post

Wednesday, February 25th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, February 26th: The Relentless Reader

Monday, March 2nd: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Tuesday, March 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, March 5th: Guiltless Reading

Monday, March 9th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, March 12th: The Book Binder’s Daughter – author guest post

TBD: Bound by Words

TBD: Life is Story

 

 

Island Fog by John Vanderslice – Review

About Island FogIsland Fog

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: Lavender Ink (April 28, 2014)

Island Fog is a thematic, novel-length collection of stories, all set on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Nantucket as we know it began as an English settlement relatively early in the colonial period of the United States. In the heyday of its nineteenth century success as a whaling center, the island, for being as small as it is, was quite the cosmopolitan center. Sailors from across the globe mingled with a mixed local population of descendents of the original English settlers, black Americans, and Native Americans. Today too Nantucket is known as being especially open to visitors from around the world. When one travels there, one feels that one is no longer in the United States but in a culturally indistinct, in-between land, somehow equidistant from North America, the Caribbean, and Northern Europe.

Island Fog captures the physical, social, and political atmosphere of the island from both historical and contemporary perspectives. It is divided into two halves, with the first half containing five historical fictions and the latter half containing six contemporary ones. The first historical fiction is set in 1795, only a decade removed from the young America’s formalized independence from Britain, and the last historical fiction is set in 1920, one year after America’s passage of the infamous Volstead Act (prohibition). The middle three historical stories are set, respectively, in 1823, 1837, and 1846, the period when the whaling industry enjoyed its greatest profitability and the island its greatest wealth. The set of contemporary fictions begin in the late twentieth century and continue into the middle of the first decade of this century. Thus the stories of Island Fog bridge four centuries of Nantucket history.

The first story, “Guilty Look,” fictionalizes the real life Nantucket bank robbery of 1795, an event that famously divided the heretofore peaceful “paradise” into warring factions of Quakers and Congregationalists, Jeffersonians and Federalists. The other historical fictions—through first, second, and third person narration—depict a fraught and potentially violent friendship between a self-assured white adolescent and the half-breed son of the last full-blooded Wampanoag on the island (“King Philip’s War”); the trapped existence of a whaling widow, who while she waits for her disappeared and likely deceased husband has begun to waken to her latent lesbian nature (“On Cherry Street”); the tortured inner life of an ex-captain who has never gotten over having to become a cannibal to survive during one particularly harrowing whaling expedition twenty-eight years earlier (“Taste”); and the exasperation of a lonely African-American school teacher who despite being born and raised on the island still does not feel, and is not allowed to feel, like a native (“How Long Will You Tarry?”).

The six contemporary stories examine a variety of island lives, some of them Nantucket natives but others visitors for whom the island is either a last refuge or an existential prison. Along the way, we meet a carpenter whose wife deliberately jumped off the Nantucket to Hyannis ferry, drowning herself and her infant child (“Morning Meal”); a couple in their thirties who has not recovered, and will not recover, from a series of tragic miscarriages (“Beaten”); a retired businessman who feels thoroughly caught by his marriage to a dominating, materialistic woman (“Newfoundland”); a fortyish leader of ghost walks who is haunted by both a literal ghost and a communication from his former lover (“Haunted”); a Jamaican family trying to establish quasi-American lives for themselves on the island, an effort that a new tragedy at the mother’s workplace threatens to unhinge (“Managing Business”); and, finally, an American student who has given up on college and goes to Nantucket for a prearranged summer job only to find a different job there, one that forces him to reconsider everything he thought he understood about himself, his life, and the island (“Island Fog”).

The focus of every one of the eleven stories in the collection is on the characters populating them: their latent desires and disappointing pasts, their future hopes and drastic, misguided decisions.  These are stories, not treatises on American cultural history. Yet by gathering together in one place all these pieces, a provocative and even cutting picture of Nantucket—its physical beauty, its social tensions, its preening hypocrisies—inevitably arise, making Island Fog far greater than the sum of its gorgeous, sorrowful parts.

Buy, read, and discuss Island Fog

AmazonBarnes & Noble | Goodreads


About John Vanderslice John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas, where he also serves as associate editor of Toad Suck Review magazine. His fiction, poetry, essays, and one-act plays have appeared in Seattle ReviewLaurel Review, Sou’wester, CrazyhorseSouthern Humanities Review1966, Exquisite Corpse, and dozens of other journals. He has also published short stories in several fiction anthologies, including Appalachian Voice, Redacted StoryChick for a DayThe Best of the First Line: Editors Picks 2002-2006, and Tartts: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers.  His new book of short stories, Island Fog, published by Lavender Ink, is a linked collection, with every story set on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.


My Thoughts:

From the opening chapters of the first story in this collection (“Guilty Look”) to the last words of the last story, I was hooked on John Vanderslice’s writing voice, and on his description of Nantucket as it developed from a small village to a thriving community. Admittedly, my own bias made it difficult for me to see a Quaker as a ‘bad guy’ (although all of Vanderslice’s characters are more complex than such a label would imply), and that made the first story a bit difficult for me, but the storytelling won out in the end, and I remained engaged.

The rest of the stories in this collection, linked by their setting and their populations of imperfect, all-too-human characters, were also fascinating, compelling reads. “Beaten,” which involved a couple who had suffered multiple miscarriages, struck particularly close to home for me (I’ve had two.)

If you’re one of those readers whose only knowledge of Nantucket comes from Elin Hilderbrand’s admittedly-addictive beachy novels with their interchangeable pastel-clad husbands and fantastic restaurants, this book will be a wake-up call to a much grittier, more realistic, and more diverse version of the island.

There’s room for both types of story, of course, and one doesn’t compete with the other at all, but given the choice, I’d pick Vanderslice because every single character felt three-dimensional, flawed, interesting, and really real to me, and because the glimpse at the long history of this community – from settlement to whaling mecca to tourist destination – was also a fascinating glimpse into a distinctly American culture.

This was my first introduction to Vanderslice’s work. I hope it won’t be my last.

Goes well with a steaming bowl of New England clam chowder, and a local micro-brew beer.


John’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Monday, January 5th: The Year in Books

Tuesday, January 6th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, January 7th: Books on the Table

Thursday, January 8th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Friday, January 9th: The Book Binder’s Daughter

Monday, January 12th: The Discerning Reader

Tuesday, January 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, January 14th: Lit and Life

Friday, January 16th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, January 20th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 22nd: A Book Geek

Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, by S. R. Mallery (@sarahmallery1) – Review

About the book, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Sewing Can Be Dangerous

  • Publication Date: December 16, 2013
  • Publisher:Mockingbird Lane Press
  • Formats: eBook, Paperback, Audio Book
  • Pages:
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories

The eleven long short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance, and range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets, to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits, to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial star and an eclectic fiber artist, to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macrami artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.

Watch the trailer for Sewing Can Be Dangerous

Buy, read, and discuss Sewing Can Be Dangerous

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Buy the audio version of Sewing Can Be Dangerous

Amazon | Audible.com | iTunes


About the author, S. R. Mallery S.R. Mallery

S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life.

First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

Unexpected Gifts, her debut novel, is currently available on Amazon. Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, her collection of short stories, was released in Jan. 2014. Both books are from Mockingbird Lane Press.

Connect with S.R.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

I don’t sew. I mean, I can hem pants if I really have to, and I can sew a button on, or make basic curtains, but I don’t have the love of fabric that real sewists (my mother’s word) have. I grew up in a house, however, where going barefoot meant you’d probably end up impaled by a straight pin, or three, and background noise nearly always included the cozy hum of a sewing machine’s flywheel punctuated by my mother’s cursing whenever something didn’t go according to plan.

Despite not being a creator of fiber arts, myself, I have dabbled in crewel embroidery (and still do on rare occasions), I’ve tried to learn to knit (I had an excellent teacher, I am incapable of relaxing my grip enough), and I’m fascinated by quilting, and really will try it one day. The mostly-straight lines I can cope with, but quilting also involves math, and geometry was never my favorite subject.

Reading about sewing, and other kinds of fiber arts, however, is something I love to do, so when I had the chance to review Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, I asked for it in paperback, partly because I knew the short stories would make the perfect “bath book,” and partly because I knew I could pass it on to my mother. (It’s part of her Christmas present this year. Shhh! Don’t tell her!!)

I planned to read this book in the bath over a few days, but the first story hooked me so deeply that I was absorbed by Mallery’s prose and forgot to fill the tub. Also, like potato chips, you cannot (well, I cannot) read just one short story, so I had to keep going. Before I knew it, I’d read away a whole night, and only the fact that I didn’t have a bright enough light made me put this book down.

My favorite piece is the the second story, which is about quilts and curses, and appealed to my love of all things spooky and dark, but every single story is a gem – or, more accurately, a hand-sewn bead among a collection of hand-sewn beads. Mallery’s voice is clear and consistent even when moods and tones are radically different, and it was lovely having so many different women as protagonists. Many of these stories could easily be expanded into longer works, if the author chose to do so, but they also stand well in their current format.

Read this for yourself, even if you don’t sew. And buy a copy for a woman in your life who does sew, because she’ll love it.

Goes well with Bold dark coffee laced with egg nog and mince pie served slightly warm.


Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Blog Tour Schedule Sewing Can Be Dangerous Blog Tour

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Monday, December 1
Review at Unshelfish

Tuesday, December 2
Review at Bibliotica

Wednesday, December 3
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, December 4
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews and More

Friday, December 5
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog

Monday, December 8
Review at WV Stitcher

Tuesday, December 9
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, December 10
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, December 11
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, December 12
Review at Based on a True Story

Monday, December 15
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, December 16
Review at Book Babe

Wednesday, December 17
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, December 19
Review at Book Drunkard

The Dunning Man, by Kevin Fortuna – Review

About the book, The Dunning Man The Dunning Man

• Paperback: 140 pages
Publisher: Lavender Ink (October 19, 2014)

The six stories in Kevin Fortuna’s hilarious and gripping debut story collection, The Dunning Man, feature anti-heroes who reject society’s rules, and often show a gritty, Irish American take on the worlds in which they live. Characters from all walks of life—a rogue hip-hop star, a blackjack dealing mom, a middle-aged drunk plowing through his inheritance, and an empty nester housewife trying to make peace with the past. They each exist in the here and now, living for what’s possible and what’s left—not what they’ve left behind. Redemption awaits all, but only along the rutted, gut-churning path of honest self-examination. Age quod agis.

Set in Atlantic City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., the Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Fortuna’s stories depict the violent clash between society’s expectations and the chaotic arc of individual destiny. These are powerful tales of truth seekers imbued with larger-than-life personalities and the all-consuming need to find something worth seeking.

Buy, read, & discuss The Dunning Man


Amazon
| Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kevin Fortuna

Kevin Fortuna lives in Cold Spring, New York. He obtained a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Georgetown University, where he graduated summa cum laude. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Quicksall Medal for Writing, a Fellowship in Fiction at the Prague Summer Writers Workshop and a Full Fellowship in Fiction at the University of New Orleans, where he received his MFA.


My Thoughts

I really enjoy short stories because they have to be so well crafted from start to finish or they just don’t work. Economy of phrase is essential, but not just economy, also precision, and style.

Kevin Fortuna’s collection of stories, The Dunning Man has all three.

I enjoyed all of the pieces in the book, but the first one, which took place en route to Atlantic City, resonated most with me, probably because I know the Academy Bus gates at Port Authority so well, and understood the frustration of the crowded queues for certain routes.

Every tale in the collection is absolutely worth the read, and what I particularly appreciated was that Fortuna’s voice changes slightly for each story, to better match the protagonist he’s depicting, but still remains discernable as being the same author writing. It’s a fine line, but it proves that his point of view is clear and strong, and I look forward to more from this author.

Goes well with A slice of Famous Ray’s pizza and a cold beer.


Kevin’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the list of tour stops, see below, or click HERE.

Tuesday, October 28th: A Dream Within a Dream

Thursday, October 30th: Built by Story

Monday, November 3rd: The Book Binder’s Daughter

Monday, November 10th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Thursday, November 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, November 17th: Conceptual Reception

Tuesday, November 25th: guiltless reading

Tuesday, November 25th: Read a Latte

Friday, November 28th: Walking With Nora

Saturday, November 29th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Reviewed Elsewhere: Taking What I like, by Linda Bamber

Taking What I Like

I reviewed Linda Bamber’s short story collection Taking What I Like over at All Things Girl earlier this morning. I loved the book so much that if I were a student at Tufts, where the author teaches, I would camp out over night in order to sign up for her class.

And I’m a person who typically thinks “roughing it” means “staying in a hotel that doesn’t have room service.”

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

At turns hilarious and poignant, bitter and sweet, but always based in a place of truth, Bamber turns familiar works upside down and lets us see well-known characters to a filter of modernity.

The first story in the collection, “Casting Call,” gives us all of the familiar characters from Othello – including a Desdemona who remembers having died – and turns them into the English department faculty in a small university (though it could be worse, Desdemona points out: the characters from Measure for Measure run the political science department at a school in Ontario; at least the Othello crew is in their creator’s field of study.), arguing over hiring diversity and creating new and different romantic liaisons.

Read the rest of the review here.

Review: Five Fables by Christine Cunningham

Five Fables
by Christine Cunningham

Product Description (from Amazon.com):
Christine Cunningham is spinning a few tales, five to be exact, ranging from the whimsical to the twisted. Why read one good story when you could read five?

1. Sweetest Release: Sometimes the world conspires against you when all you need is a bathroom.

2. Tic-Tac-Toe: Can a boy protect his mother and sister from the shadow in the yard?

3. Happy Birthday: Find out why you’ll never want to sing the song Happy Birthday to your child again.

4. Story Shopping: Things go awry when an author has no story to write.

5. Tarantula: Saving your best friend from your mother isn’t easy to do.

My Thoughts

True confession: I like to read short stories in the bathroom, because you can finish them in one visit without any body parts going numb. As a kid, my favorite bathroom books were two red hardcovers (the dust-covers long since gone missing) from Reader’s Digest that were compilations of pretty much every fairy tale ever written, in the original pre-Disneyfication versions.

Christine Cunningham’s collection of short stories, Five Fables was my bathroom book for part of this month, and I enjoyed every bit of her writing. “Sweetest Release,” which is from the point of view of a dog, made me laugh loud enough to frighten my own dogs. “Tic Tac Toe” balanced cozy hominess with a taste of suspense. “Happy Birthday” was delightfully creepy. “Story Shopping” spoke to the writer part of my soul – the part that doesn’t write in cafes, but simply observes others (and sometimes uses them as improv characters), and “Tarantula” made me grin despite the title (I hate spiders).

Cunningham has a wry voice and does well with tiny plot twists and last-minute zingers. I enjoyed her work immensely. This book was one I requested as a review copy, and I was not disappointed, except in that this is only volume one.

Ms. Cunningham if you read this: MORE PLEASE

Goes well with: Quilted Northern. Or a glass of lemonade and goldfish crackers, if you’re NOT reading it in the bathroom.

A Matter of Perception, by Tahlia Newland

A Matter of Perception

When Tahlia Newland, an on-and-off blog-buddy of mine, asked me to read and review her collection of magical realism/urban fantasy short stories, there was no way I could refuse, but the truth is I’d have read this collection of six tales no matter who the author was.

Taken together, these stories are a collection of different ways to perceive fantasy, and to use fantasy to perceive reality. The collection feels like a complete suite – all moods and tastes are well represented. Taken separately, well, let’s do that, shall we?

The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice
An unnamed photographer’s assistant sees an interdimensional monster, and is rescued by a god, though she does some rescuing of her own. It’s a great blend of action, romance, and philosophy. This was my favorite of the collection, and not just because it’s the longest or most developed. I really wanted to know what happens next

The Bone Yard
This one is the darkest in the series, in terms of mood. It involves a woman in a desperate situation being helped by supernatural beings, though the twist at the end is rather grisly. A balance of classic horror and modern terror.

Mistril’s Mistake
With great power comes great responsibility, even when you’re a wizard. The colored light battle had me imagining light sabers (but only a little), but the story about taking ownership of your actions is actually very good. More, please?

A Hole in the Pavement
What if our emotional troughs became literal holes that we fell into? That’s the premise of this story, and Newland envisions it beautifully. It was delicate and delicious.

Not me, it can’t be
Mind blowing: alternate points of view between a modern woman undergoing chemo and an ancient (fantasy?) world woman about to become a ritual sacrifice – and each are apparently dreaming of the other in a fabulous riff on the old “Am I a man dreaming I am a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I am a man” conundrum. I was teary at the end.

Rose Coloured Glasses
Easily the lightest tale in the sextet, this story is about an office worker named Sally who discovers a new perspective on her colleagues (and a possible new romance) thanks to a very special pair of glasses. Haven’t we all wished for these at some point?

I believe that any fan of fantasy, magical realism, or just a really gripping tale, will find this collection of stories compelling and entertaining, but what really puts the cherry on top is Newland’s explanation of the themes, included at the back of the book. Excellent book group fodder, but perfect for a plane trip, as well.

Goes well with hot chocolate and a brownie.

This book is available for Amazon Kindle. Buy this book from Amazon.com >>