Review: The Grey Forest

Standard

The Grey Forest
The Grey Forest by Maureen A. Griswold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

These stories are exceptionally well written. The author has an effective voice. While I loved several of them for their originality, others were political stumps with straw man characters. She commits the unforgivable sin of breaking the fourth wall to comment on gun control, for example, after delivering her point much more subtly in a perfectly well-crafted story about a shooting. My favorite story by far was the opener, Nelson’s Mandala. (The play on words instantly grabs one’s attention.) It’s the story of a new age bookstore-owning heir whose billionaire father passes away, drawing press attention on his little shop. It does a good job of juggling many different themes and symbols, and ends perfectly, a quintessential example of a strong, modern short story.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a free review. *

View all my reviews

Review: The Pugilist

Standard

The Pugilist
The Pugilist by Sylvia McKenzie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best work of indie fiction I have read so far this year. Macabre, morally challenging, engaging, and classically structured, McKenzie nails a simple tale with the force of short story fundamentals. The story opens with the innocuous premise: a bunch of rowdy boys plotting to welcome a weak-looking new kid to the school. The story is told in the first person of one of the boys, older now, looking back and recounting the episode with regret. There is a powerful sense of foreshadowing and foreboding, with the action ticking that unexploded-dynamite feeling ever upward, and the ending does not fail to deliver. I am pleased to have discovered another A-list indie, and even more pleased to add this author’s healthy little portfolio to my “to read” list.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. *

View all my reviews

Review: The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories

Standard

The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories
The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories by Nicholas Bridgman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the title story the best. “The Passion of Jazz” does an excellent job mixing classic novel themes: musical prodigies, art & love, and bittersweet goodbyes. Many of the stories are short and simple, with perfectly descriptive titles. Creepiest was probably “Sleep,” a disturbed man’s POV description of his crimes & punishment.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

View all my reviews

Review: A Smattering of Darkness

Standard

A Smattering of Darkness
A Smattering of Darkness by Alisha “Priti” Kirpalani
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This author has definitely shown great potential with this work, but I fear she has not yet fully grown into that potential. The book is divided into three sections, “short,” “shorter,” and “shortest.” The “shortest” were merely snippets, beautiful phrases like unfinished poetry. The “short” stories seemed underdeveloped, overwritten, yet very good and original ideas. My favorite section was the “shorter” stories. Although they were hardly developed at all, they struck me as extraordinarily dark and original. This author has a bright future, and I hope she finds her voice and gives full reign to the dark little nuggets, presented in this book in raw form.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. *

View all my reviews

Review: Beyond The Rainbow’s End

Standard

Beyond The Rainbow's End
Beyond The Rainbow’s End by James Pitter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This charming little book consists of sweet, short, simple stories. My favourites were Morris Winthrop and Opposite Directions. In the former, a tabloid reporter watches a fashion event unfold with obvious disdain in a hilarious parody on celebrity and status. In the latter, men ride around in a minibus fervently discussing their route, their better alternatives, their inept driver. It is, again, a funny little jaunt that reminds me a bit of Doerr’s July Fourth. While there is no deep dive into the human condition, it is a short collection that makes for a very entertaining afternoon or before-bedtime read.

* I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. *

View all my reviews

Review: The Gingerbread Collection

Standard

The Gingerbread Collection
The Gingerbread Collection by Victor A. Davis
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Wow, so incredibly humbled by and proud of my first public review. Thank you Joel R. Dennstedt of Reader’s Favorite! https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-gingerbread-collection

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers’ Favorite

The Gingerbread Collection: Short Stories by Victor A. Davis immediately reveals the efforts of a master craftsman hard at work creating what appears to be an effortlessly produced, highly polished, perfectly edited, exquisitely written, fine tuned set of finished tales. Upon opening the book to partake in these delights, the reader immediately relaxes, knowing that he or she is in the hands of a professional writer and master storyteller. The style of writing is impeccable, exhibiting a perfect balance of necessary information, descriptive detail, and allocated momentum uniquely relevant to the action immediately at hand, with finely measured doses of anxious tension to make one hesitate before recklessly plunging on ahead. All for the purpose of entertaining the avid reader with intriguing, helplessly engaging plots.

The title story, called simply Gingerbread, retells the story of Hansel and Gretel in a totally modern setting with more anticipatory involvement than the original, and with a decidedly more gripping – and perhaps more morally demanding – finale to the tale. You will be deeply touched, affected, and morally offended … that is guaranteed. You will also have been deeply involved and entertained … that too is guaranteed. This holds true with all of the stories in The Gingerbread Collection (especially one really horrifying tale), in which each tale – so completely unique unto itself that choosing a favorite is not only impossible but somehow inappropriate – seduces the reader into a new and different spot to be, watching with a kind of participatory gaze the events of life so particular to that specific tale. I am attempting to convey here the incredibly lucid sense of reality that permeates each story, immersing the reader quite helplessly as he becomes a participant in the telling. That is what a great storyteller does, and make no mistake, Victor A. Davis is a great storyteller.

View all my reviews

Review: Around the World in 80 Tales

Standard

Around the World in 80 Tales
Around the World in 80 Tales by Dave Tomlinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a great little book for those who love travel but have not been “around the world” like they probably wish. The author shares short journaled adventures from exotic places, from Malaysian island beaches, to Javanese volcanoes, to Cambodian temples to Himalayan base camps. It is not told in any kind of narrative form, so it lacks the kind of magical wistfulness you might get from Bruce Chatwin or Peter Matthiessen. In fact, the author even states that he randomized the chapter order to avoid the inevitable “trip” narratives. However, I enjoyed visiting these many exotic places vicariously. Also note that the book includes gorgeous photographs from these locales, so it is best when read on a full-color kindle (or physical copy, if available).

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. *

View all my reviews

Review: (Almost) Average Anthology: Tales of Adventure, Loss, and Oddity

Standard

(Almost) Average Anthology: Tales of Adventure, Loss, and Oddity
(Almost) Average Anthology: Tales of Adventure, Loss, and Oddity by Jason J. Nugent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked these little stories. The writer has a good voice and style and presents a good range of subjects. There is something about flash fiction that leaves me wanting more. This book reminded me of Impromptu Scribe, in that the author develops a lot of interesting ideas, but doesn’t craft a whole, satisfying story out of many.

View all my reviews

Review: Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf

Standard

Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf
Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf by Erik Von Norden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a history of Western Civilization on speed. Let me first say that the author is apparently extremely intelligent and well-educated, and can spout off facts and historical references with ease. I have to only give it the 2/5 “it was ok” rating. The book reads as an unstructured rant, a merciless succession of fact-laden sentences which occasionally hint at, but never reach, an overarching point. The supposed carrot before his cart seems to be that history is nonsensical, or at least full of nonsensical happenings. This reader will stipulate.

Fun reading for anyone seeking a bird’s-eye flyover of history.

View all my reviews

Review: The Year of the Stolen Bicycle Tire and Other Stories

Standard

The Year of the Stolen Bicycle Tire and Other Stories
The Year of the Stolen Bicycle Tire and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Kozma’s collection. My favorite story was “Mile High Bridge.” There was something about the dynamic between the couple that sustained a perfect short story tension. He wanted to impress her, without thinking about his physical safety. He thought it an odd excursion, but went along with it to be chivalrous. They don’t know each other terribly well, but you can feel the tug of romance beneath the surface. The story is darkly funny, but told realistically, one of those terrible situations we all sometimes find ourselves in, when we think, “one day we’re going to laugh at this.” And of course, the ending was perfect, with as good a last line to a short story as one can ask for.

Although I felt the title story wasn’t the strongest of the bunch, they all present a cohesive new voice to short fiction literature.

View all my reviews