More Than Friends by Liv Devereaux

Published: 5th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 47
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dana and Hope used to be best friends in elementary school. When they got to high school they lost touch. Dana got busy with soccer and Hope found a boyfriend. When they are paired up together for a project, Dana and Hope get the chance to get to know each other all over again. They’ll realize that both girls have changed in the last three years of high school. 

I picked this not looking at the page length, rather by the summary. I could easily see this as a full novel though, Devereaux easily could expand this into something longer, the bones are there. As is it is sweet, a bit rushed and easily solved, but at 47 pages you can’t expect anything but happy coincidences and easy solutions.

Despite this, it was a nice story, and even though it was short it felt established and rounded and a satisfactory read. Dana and Hope were good characters, the dual narration offers two perspectives and two stories, a great chance for readers to see the misunderstandings and hidden secrets which make young romance so lovely.

I would read this again if Devereaux expanded this into a full novel, but for the time being it was a lovely story about young love and repairing friendships.

You can purchase More Than Friends via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

First Kiss by J Tomas

Published: 29th August 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 JMS Books LLC
Pages: 11
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Noah Lipinski has a fierce crush on Doug Hathaway, a hot jock on the high school football team whose locker is fifteen down from Noah’s in the hall. When Melissa Bradshaw, only the most popular girl in school, suddenly shows an interest in Noah, he suspects he’s being set up for a cruel joke. She asks him to Homecoming and he refuses to go.

After school, the doorbell rings and Noah’s sure she’s back to pester him about the dance. But when he opens the door, he finds Doug there instead, with an explanation and a much better offer than Melissa’s.

At 11 pages there is a lot of pressure to make a fully rounded story and Tomas almost hits the mark. For a short story is covers the key intrigue points but there wasn’t enough time to get a feel for the writing, or get settled into the story. It is an enjoyable snippet, but I wasn’t totally caught up in the story, Noah was a good character, and I could see the approach Tomas was aiming for, but there just needed a bit more to cement the narrative. Tomas brushes past the characters, enough for the reader to get a glimpse at who they’re meant to be, but nothing sticks beyond one dimension.

I’m not 100% sure more pages would help, there can be power in a short story, there needs refinement in the writing though to make the characters count in the space they have and bring across depth in the story.

You can purchase First Kiss via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Two for the Road (#3) by Ekta R. Garg

Published: 30th June 2015
Goodreads badgePublisher: Prairie Sky Publishing
Pages: 60
Format: ebook
Genre: Short stories
★   ★   ★  ★  – 4 Stars

Ah, summer. Long days full of warm sunshine and one of the most popular times to travel. But what happens when something throws your travel plans off course?

This June meet brand new characters in Two for the Road!

The First Story, “Excess Baggage”: Allison has just come home from a grueling business trip. All she wants to do is spend a quiet weekend at home parked in front of the TV or maybe curled up with a blanket. When a friend calls to ask her for a favor, though, all of Allison’s plans hit rough air.

The Second Story, “Wrong Way”: With one daughter married and another in college, Rachel and Jim should be enjoying their time as a couple again. But Jim’s worries about his widowed mother force Rachel into a spur-of-the-moment road trip to check on the old bat. When Jim catches Rachel complaining to a friend, tension will ride with them in the car. Can Rachel make an apology stick? 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

With these two new additions to the Stories in Pairs series it is clear Garg’s imagination and creativity isn’t waning anytime soon.  I love these paired stories, there is such a simple pleasure derived from two stories, connected by theme, characters, anything at all. I love Garg’s concept and execution and with this being the third set of stories I am just as delighted as I was the first time.

With Two For The Road the common theme is travel, more specifically travel plans gone awry. The first story is Excess Baggage and follows Allison, a woman who is planning to spend the weekend home relaxing after a business trip yet ends up playing host to friends of a friend who are heading out on a trip in the next couple of days.

From page one Garg captures Allison’s exhaustion and her frantic life, through Allison’s expression and actions you understand who she is and the kind of life she leads and you want her to have the relaxing weekend she longs for.

What is interesting in Garg’s approach is that it’s not Allison who is going on a trip, she is just coming home. But her involvement with others is what makes this story work so well. There are many twists and turns, if one can call them that. Changed plans, chaotic schedules, and the pressures of work and little sleep are all part of what makes this story so enjoyable.

The second story takes a more direct approach in the travel concept and has a different tone completely to the first. Wrong Way is a great expression of the issues that come up in marriage and the compromises and sacrifices that are made. The marriage between Jim and Rachel is played out on their car trip to visit Jim’s mother, during which their relationship is tested.

With Rachel as narrator only one perspective is given, but Garg uses thoughts, arguments, and debate between the pair to gain additional understanding and see Jim’s point of view. With every argument and comment that the pair throws at one another, a deeper understanding of both characters and their lives together is understood, highlighting the repeated arguments and frustration felt by both.

I like that while there are conclusions to these stories, there are no real resolutions provided. As readers we are allowed to work out what happened next while still being given an ending deserving of the story and one that is unexpected and suitable. Once again Garg has created two unique and enjoyable stories that retain the coupling concept she’s had since the first Stories in Pairs, and she has done so with the same creativity and style that made them so wonderful in the first place.

You can purchase Two For the Road via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Also Known as Lard Butt by Ann Herrick

Published: 4th June 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Books We Love, Ltd.
Pages: 80
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/short story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Laura finds out that, Ricky, the boy who created her horrible nickname, “Lard Butt,” has moved back into town—and immediately schemes to keep him quiet. After all, she can’t let her new swim teammates, especially drool-worthy Noah, hear the horrible name! No way!

She’s determined to put a million years between grade school and junior high—even in the face of a father who drives an éclair, a would-be-movie-star mother who suddenly moves back home, and a past that comes back to haunt her with the dreaded nickname.

Although Laura’s embarrassed about how she looks in a swimsuit, she tries to stay true to her vow to take risks. She even lets Maria talk her into going to the school dance, where she braves negotiating a truce for a quarreling couple.

New friendships form, Laura’s mother starts getting too domesticated for Laura’s comfort, and hints of romance start to develop—or do they?

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

The idea of this ‘Lard Butt’ is a bit strange, Laura isn’t overweight, she just has a large bottom. The way she talks about it is like it’s an abnormal growth but it seems to just be a bit bigger than most. Her thoughts about it switch from acceptance to being self conscious, her mother calls it a problem which wouldn’t help, and she was teased as a kid (hence the nickname), but she has learnt to try and deal with it.

Laura is shy and not confident, she has one friend she has known since elementary school, and she is starting at a new school with apprehension. But at the same time she is determined to make changes in her life and leave the old her behind. It’s sweet in a way, Laura doesn’t try and do a complete remodelling of herself or her personality, she just decides to take risks and do things that may be out of her comfort zone.

The ‘Lard Butt’ aspect isn’t a major focus, it plays a role but it acts more of a starting point to what else happens in the book. Laura’s history and own feelings about it are understandable, especially memories of being teased, but the constant references she makes to it can become tiring, especially when it isn’t really a crucial plot point.

Being young and a bit naive Laura has a good voice and story to tell. Seeing things from her perspective provides us with her thoughts and opinions, and it also shows us how clueless she can be as well. Understanding people and situations when Laura does not makes you read a lot more into the story than the one she gives, which makes it more rounded, but there remains a focus on Laura and her growing confidence than really delving into multiple character backgrounds.

The characters are quirky and sweet and varying versions of interesting and they are as deep as they need to be for the story. Some certainly more than others, but because we see things through Laura’s eyes many references or details are briefly addressed or skipped entirely. There are many secondary characters you grow attached to like Ricky, and even a teacher at times, sweet people around Laura that help fill her world and help change her way of thinking. Her relationship with her friends and family is strong and Herrick explores these different connections with varying degrees which work quite well meaning you get a great understanding of her relationship to each person.

There are both happily ever afters and not so happily ever afters which is a great balance, it reflects reality quite well, varying degrees of good and bad things happen, nothing too life changing or exciting, just daily life. The story is quite short which I think works to its advantage, there isn’t enough to sustain a longer story and I think Herrick has balanced everything out nicely, providing conclusions, hope and resigned you to the fact that life isn’t always perfect, but you can make the best of what you’ve got.

You can purchase Also Known as Lard Butt via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

 

More for the Heart (#2) by Ekta R. Garg

Published: 7th April 2015
Goodreads badgePublisher: Prairie Sky Publishing
Pages: 65
Format: ebook
Genre: Short stories/Romance
★   ★   ★  ★  – 4 Stars

Two more stories about the power of love. Two more stories about the characters you remember. Two more stories for the heart.

“Making The Proposal”: Readers learned in Two for the Heart about the end of Pooja and Akshay’s unique arrangement—get married and then prepare their divorce papers—but did you wonder how it began? Just how did Pooja and Akshay make this crazy deal in the first place? Find out in this first story in More for the Heart.

“Reminiscence”: In Two for the Heart, sisters Rose and Helen reconnect with great reluctance after an 11-year estrangement. These two women have spent more than a decade apart. What convinces Rose to stay this time around? Sit at the table with Rose and watch her internal transformation in the second story in More for the Heart.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This second installment in Garg’s Stories in Pairs continues the stories from the first set but with a slightly different angle. In ‘Making the Proposal’ Garg rewinds the clock and offers a prequel of sorts to Pooja and Akshay’s story with additional information than what was provided originally. Once again getting involved in both these characters lives was wonderful and gaining more insight into their relationship and being given new information about their arranged courtship provides another level and depth to the story we already know. Pooja and Akshay are character you can’t help but love, they are great together and Garg demonstrates their new relationship and developing friendship naturally with banter, humour, and understandable uncertainty.

The second story, ‘Reminiscence’, does not continue the story on so much as offer an alternate perspective. With Helen’s sister Rose the new point of view it enables an insight into her character and through Rose’s reflections and self-evaluation a better understanding of her relationship with Helen is generated. While this does little to progress the story it does add to character development and builds on the sisters’ relationship with one another and highlights the hostility between them.

Garg is extremely clever in her construction of these stories, especially in these second installments that follow the first. The retelling of sorts with Pooja and Akshay, and the new perspective with Rose and Helen change how these stories are viewed but it also maintains the narrative and the feeling that has already been established. Once again I enjoyed Pooja and Akshay’s story a bit more than ‘Reminiscence’, though I couldn’t really tell you why. Both stories are clever and very skilfully told, but Pooja and Akshay have a relationship that you can’t help but fall in love with.

In terms of construction, Garg uses her words carefully and doesn’t waste them putting in things unnecessarily. Character opinions and intentions are made clear without needing long explanations and with such few pages to work with Garg manages to tell complete stories creatively and with style.

I would still love to see this collection as a novel, even with the alternating stories and character points of view, mainly because Garg’s stories are so sweet and despite the length of the stories they capture your attention and are quite interesting. Having said that I also love how Garg has approached telling these stories, I think it is clever and creative and I look forward to the next set of stories and seeing where Garg takes the series.

You can purchase More for the Heart via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

 

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