Category Archives: reviews

Short Stories

I don’t usually pick up books of short stories to read. I’m not sure why since I enjoy them. Of course, they come in a variety of flavors.
I’m reading a book of short stories at the moment, Trouble in Mind by Jeffrey Deaver. Some of them are long enough to be novellas. Some feature characters from his mystery/crime novels and some don’t. They are all good reading and each one has a twist in the plot. The first book of short stories I remember reading and enjoying (many, many years ago) was by O. Henry – always a twist at the end.

I’ve read a few other books of short stories recently, mostly books I’m working on, editing and/or formatting for authors to self-publish. Each book is different from the other and all are enjoyable. Seven Days: One Story a Day from the Philippines by Terence Flannery is a combination of truth and fiction from a good storyteller. Some are delightfully funny, others sad. The book is available on Amazon Kindle.

I’m still working on Tom Nelson’s fifth book of stories in his series, Fennimore…as I Remember. His books are collections of articles he has published in the Fennimore Times newspaper about memories of his small hometown. It takes you back to your own small town or even your neighborhood in a city. The latest volume is “coming soon.”
Also in the works is a memoir from Marsha Perlman, which in reality is a group of short stories about events in her life. She has led a very interesting life. The book should be available this summer.

There are other books of short stories that I’ve reviewed previously on this blog. Check them out Post to Post Links II error: No term found with slug "short-stories".

Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett — The Silent History

I stayed up ‘til 4AM a couple of nights ago reading a SF book – The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett. This is soft or social SF. I found the book fascinating for several reasons. One is the fact that it is a collaboration between three authors. Something that caught my attention was that the story was originally written as an iPhone app. Another reason is that they wrote in first person, but each chapter is from a different character’s point of view. You don’t see many books written multiple first person.

An interesting point is that these characters may show up in only one or two chapters or they may continue to appear throughout the book. This made the story a bit difficult to follow when I started reading. I kept thinking, “Did I see this person before?” But that didn’t last when I got into the story.

The plot: Children are born without language capability. It turns out to be a virus and more and more children are born with this condition.

I could get into the story and the characters’ reactions. I could tell you how it relates to the way people today respond to anyone who is “different.” I could tell you how the story progresses. Instead, I’ll let you read this very absorbing story.

Richard Powers – Orfeo

Orfeo is a musical composition transformed into a novel. It is at times lyrical, at times dissonant. It is full of joy and pain, love and frustration. At times I feel I’m taking a course in music appreciation as I read it. I find myself searching for and listening to classical music works mentioned in the story as I go along. One reviewer (Ron Charles, Washington Post) suggests the book could be expensive, even if you check it out of the library, due to the desire to purchase music mentioned in the book. It may not be possible to enjoy this novel if you have no connection with music, either as a performer, writer, or at least an involved listener. Yet Powers is a master with words.

It is the story of Peter Els, a retired musician, composer, professor, who is mistaken for a terrorist and pursued by Homeland Security because of his hobby in bioengineering. In his amateur lab he is trying to design music into DNA. It is also the story of Els life interwoven with his current dilemma. It also has social, political, and cultural underlying themes.

About the writing…
I realize that in my last post I was complaining about literary novels and the lack of quotation marks in some. This is definitely a literary novel with not one quotation mark to be found (though he did use italics for dialog). Yet it held my attention and kept me reading. Granted, it was difficult reading at times (not because of the lack of quotes) and it wasn’t a book I finished in one night…or two or three. In my opinion, this man can write way beyond the capabilities of most of us.

Richard Powers is new to me even though he is a highly acclaimed author winning numerous awards for his novels, including the National Book Award for Fiction. [Wikipedia] I looked up Powers, his work, and reviews of Orfeo because I was curious and intend to read more of his books. Below are some links to reviewers who cover the book in more depth if you’re interested. There are many more if you search.
Jim Holt, New York Times
Steven Poole, The Guardian
Heller McAlpin, NPR
Goodreads.com(reviews from the crowd)

Jordi Puntí – Lost Luggage

Four brothers (Christof of Frankfurt, Christophe of Paris, Christopher of London, and Cristòfol of Barcelona) never knew the others existed until their shared father disappears. The authorities in Barcelona notify Cristòfol that his father, Gabriel Delacruz, is missing and his apartment is abandoned. When Cristòfol visits the apartment he discovers the other three brothers and contacts them. The four brothers set about tracing their father’s history, sharing stories about how he met their separate mothers and his adventures on the road as an international mover/truck driver. None of the brothers or their mothers have seen Gabriel in many years.

The book is full of stories and sidetracks which all relate to the central plot or theme. It is filled with fascinating characters and wonderful settings. The writing contains humor and trickery, pain and sadness, connections and disconnects. It took me much longer to read than I normally take with a novel, partly because at times I would lose track of long ramblings. But I kept picking it up to continue because it is imaginative, fanciful, humorous, and very well written. Even though it’s likely classified as a literary novel (which I don’t usually read), it has a definite plot and the mystery of, “What happened to Gabriel?”

This book was translated from Catalan.

More about writing reviews…

I am in the process of publishing reviews on this blog that I’ve previously posted on Amazon. I’m linking them to this post.

Post to Post Links II error: No term found with slug "florida-authors"are authors I know from our large group of writers at Gulf Coast Writers Association and/or Fort Myers Writers Meetup or I have met them at book signings. I’ve read these books and liked them. (I’ve purchased other books at these book signings that I wasn’t so crazy about and haven’t reviewed them.)

I’ll add more to this post later.

About Writing Reviews, where do they go?

For those of you who don’t know me, I belong to the Gulf Coast Writers Association in Southwest Florida (I’m their webmaster). It’s a large group of around two hundred writers. I like to buy members books from time to time and if I like the book, I write a review on Amazon. As a writer, I know that good reviews help your sales. I always appreciate a review for my book. More is better.

But…where do they go?

I write a review and see it on Amazon. They even send me an email telling me it posted. A week or a month later, when I go back to check on my review, it has disappeared. The same thing happens to reviews people write for my book. Currently I have one review on Amazon. I asked this question, “Where do they go?” and was told that they need to be able to verify purchase. I can almost understand on the books that I buy from the authors at a book signing or a writer’s meeting. Yet even the reviews I’ve added for books I’ve purchased from Amazon have disappeared.

So…where do they go?

I don’t know how to solve this problem. I’m going to start adding my reviews of these books to other websites, like goodreads, indie bound, aNobii, and LibraryThing. There may be more. The other places I found to leave reviews online seem to be either bookseller sites or sites that have been bought out by publishers/booksellers. So you may have the same problems there that you have with Amazon.

Meanwhile, I’m going to start adding those reviews here on my blog and on one or more of the other places I mentioned. We’ll see how it goes.

Janet Evanovich – Takedown Twenty

Humor is difficult to write – at least for most of us. I think Evanovich has humor etched into her personality. Even though I sometimes feel her Stephanie Plum series has probably gone on too long, I still laugh at the antics. Where else would you find a giraffe running loose in a neighborhood in Trenton, New Jersey, or any other city? It doesn’t show up on the news, there are no police reports…people are ignoring a giraffe.

I think the best scene in this book (notice I say scene because these books are very visual) is when Stephanie is getting a lesson about how to cook a steak and she manages to burn down the house. But you have to read it to appreciate it.

Donna Leon – By Its Cover

Donna Leon is an ex-pat from New Jersey who has lived in Venice, Italy for the past 30 years. In her Commissario Guido Brunetti series, while leading us through the waterways of the old city, she plunges us into the slow-paced atmosphere of Venice’s culture – its beauty, food, people, and problems. By Its Cover has Brunetti looking into the theft of rare antique books and pages (illustrations and maps) cut from books in a library. An ex-priest who was a possible witness to some of the thefts turns up murdered.

I find the pace of this story interesting as Brunetti starts his investigation apparently relaxed and not too concerned and increases his tempo and concern to the point where is barely taking time out to eat or sleep before he solves the crime.

Leon’s settings are fascinating and her plot keeps you reading, but for me the best part of her writing is the characters.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh – The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers. Isn’t that an intriguing name for a book? Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s first novel is superb. She tells the story of a young women coming out into the world from foster care with no family, no home, no education, no job… She has a love and knowledge of flowers, which finds her a job and connects her to people. The story swings between her current life and a past life with a foster mother who wanted to adopt her.

The novel is probably classified as literary or women’s fiction. Not my first choice for reading, but this book is exceptional. Diffenbaugh grabs your attention (and your heart) and holds it from beginning to end.

Ingrid Thoft – Loyalty

Ingrid Thoft’s first novel, Loyalty, features Fina Ludlow, a gritty Private Investigator in Boston who is the black sheep in a family of ambulance chasing lawyers. The plot twists and turns starting with Fina looking for her missing sister-in-law. The streets of Boston felt very familiar to me having spent much of my life there. Good story, good plot, good settings, good characters, and the book kept my interest from beginning to end.