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

 

The Conviction: Enacting Vigilante Justice by John Mathews

Published: 25th January 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 72
Format: Ebook
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Two criminals are responsible for an innocent man getting sentenced to life for murder. An inept defense attorney and a crooked prosecutor are the other players in this case of egregious American corruption.

The four of them have been lured into a trap in an abandoned warehouse. Someone wants vengeance. This is a story of vigilante justice for the wrongfully convicted. Marked doors lead to four locked rooms, one where each of them will have to pay a price for what they have done. What will they be required to do in order to survive?

This riveting crime thriller puts the American justice system in public view and will keep you guessing until the very last scene. A dark masked figure watches…waits…and wants revenge.

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

This short story is an interesting take on the idea of vigilante justice with entrapment, mind games, and threats all playing a part. There is drama and suspense and a multitude of questions about who is behind the elaborate set up. There is mystery and unanswered questions that are hidden from the reader as well as the characters, but small clues and snippets of information make an already mysterious situation complex and even more curious.

Narrative wise the story flowed quite well and Matthews tells the story with care, keeping it interesting and engaging, while also holding back when needed. The dialogue didn’t have much life, and the conversation between character seemed stiff, not really connecting with one another, and yet at times Matthews captures the panic and desperation they feel quite well as their situation looks dire and the begin to turn on one another.

The characters themselves are terrible people in all honesty, but that is why they have found themselves in their current predicament. I didn’t really engage with who they were aside from casting casual judgements on them based on what they did, but not caring about them didn’t really bother me as I was more focused on the developing mystery and game play element than realising how one dimensional they were.

Away from the characters, and to Matthews’ credit, the story itself was clever and it never goes where you expect. From early on it intrigued me and this was maintained as the story progressed with a lot packed into such a short story. There are surprises and revelations that change what you though would happen and what you thought had happened.

I liked the idea of the vigilante justice and the mystery figure orchestrating the entire thing was great and led to all manner of creative theories on who he possibly was. When the man behind the curtain is finally revealed it was certainly unexpected and I can imagine it would split readers to either liking it or disliking it. Personally I wasn’t a fan of how Matthews chose to end it, one because I thought it was going in a totally different direction, and two it immediately seemed unbelievable which flattened the anticipation that had been building from the start. Having said that it was different, and creative in its own way, and it was completely unexpected.

You can purchase The Conviction via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

I Truly Lament by Mathias B. Freese

Published: 15th September 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Wheatmark
Pages: 230
Format: Paperback
Genre: Short Stories/Historical fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

I Truly Lament—Working Through the Holocaust is a varied collection of stories: inmates in death camps; survivors of these camps; disenchanted Golems complaining about their designated rounds; Holocaust deniers and their ravings; collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!); an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the Berlin bunker; a Nazi camp doctor subtly denying his complicity; and the love story of a Hungarian cantor, among others.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for review

The stories in this anthology are not real accounts or experiences, they are fictionalised stories, and yet Freese does manage to capture a small part about what life was like for those during the war. Stories about starving in camps, being dragged away from villages and mistreated by guards, as well as the tales and haunting memories by survivors are all expressed through numerous stories and Freese explores these emotions really well.

Freese does not take one side or viewpoint in his stories, instead he uses a variety of perspectives from prisoners, guards, adults and children, and uses settings and moments that take place before, during, and after the war. Each narrative voice is good at expressing the required level of emotion and feelings, suitable depending on the character and the circumstance, and despite somewhat restricted descriptions, a vivid image of the various environments is possible.

Even though the topic is quite intense, not every story is haunting or depressing; some are humorous and light-hearted, some are certainly strange, and even those from prisoner points of view are fairly philosophical and reflective, yet don’t distract from the serious topic at hand. There are stories that explore falling in love in the early days of the war, about life within the camps, and stories that change the tone completely with humour, absurdity, and intense philosophical and psychological evaluations. For those stories of a darker nature, the details about life in the camps and the abuse suffered at the hands of guards is realistic but have limited detail or gruesome accounts. Freese does not make light of the treatment or shy away from the facts, but he also does not spend time describing it in great detail. There is a great deal of authenticity in many of these stories but Freese is restraining on making it too brutal to read about.

Despite being fictional, there is a ring of truth and real emotion in many of these stories that expresses the despair and torment of living in the camps, the justification by the Nazis, and even demonstrating that coming out a survivor does not always mean total liberation from the memories or the suffering. I liked that Freese chose to have many points of view from all parts of the war and from both sides involved. It balanced out the collection and it added a wonderful range of views and experiences of the same situation.

Admittedly not every story was up to the same calibre with some of greater quality and more enjoyable than others. Some were emotive and insightful and were wonderful at evoking feelings and circumstance while others were a tad bland and seemed to be lacking something. Having said that I did find a lot of the stories fascinating, not in a morbid way, but as someone who cannot even fathom what it was truly like, for prisoners or guards. There is no real way to wrap your head around these experiences and no matter how much you read you can never truly capture what it was like. Freese has tried to get inside the minds of people who experienced all sides of the war and has managed to reflect the numerous and various experiences rather well.

There is no denying the topic is one that is haunting and possibly uncomfortable for many, but this is not an anthology filled totally with heavy stories about sorrow and despair. Freese mixes up the styles and the tones and with a mixture of humour and reflection and tells touching stories that try and explore what people went through as a result of World War II. Certainly not all stories will be to everyone’s taste, and some are more serious and respectful than others, but what Freese has done in trying to take new approaches in discussing the Holocaust is certainly commendable.

You can purchase I Truly Lament via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Unsavory Delicacies by Russell Brooks

Published: 11th November 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 28
Format: ebook
Genre: Short story/Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

image

For fans of Barry Eisler and Robert Ludlum. A three-course story collection with a side-order of revenge. 

Crème Brûlée
Rogue operative, Monique Beauvais, cons a software genius into selling her a coveted technology that would allow its user to control CIA drones while they’re in flight. And she will go as far as killing him in public in order to have it.

To the Last Bite
A renowned food critic–whose scathing reviews have closed down restaurants–gets a savoury surprise.

Shashlyk and Morezhenoe
CIA operative, Ridley Fox, leads a team against one of Russia’s most powerful crime families. He discovers secrets, but not one that he was expecting to find.

Three stories with three consequences. All containing three Unsavory Delicacies.

***Caution*** Readers are strongly advised NOT to eat while reading To The Last Bite.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

Brooks’ short stories, much like his novels, manage to encapsulate the thriller genre incredibly well, even with vastly fewer pages. Just like his novels Brooks upholds the tension and the gripping feeling but this time with less action and more cunning.

The theme of the collection is food, though Brooks takes very different approaches for each and as the title suggest they are quite on the unsavoury side. This does not mean though they are necessarily grotesque in description or in content. And yet while there is a warning for one of the stories, there is no denying Brooks is masterful when it comes to grabbing the reader’s attention from early on and holding on till the last page, dragging it around whereever it needed to be in the process.

Once again Brooks demonstrates creative and clever writing and he uses the short story design and the element of the unexpected to his advantage. The building anticipation in the stories is evident and not knowing where it could end up adds to the enjoyment because anything is possible. As a result, each story is brought to life with uniqueness and the perfect amount of pacing, revelation, and intrigue that a short story and a thriller needs.

With only three short stories, Unsavoury Delicacies is a quick read but it is one that once started you will not want to stop. Brooks’ cleverness is clear and his stories are filled with characters and conclusions that leave you wide eyed and mouth agape. This three course collection of stories are somewhat shocking yet fascinating, and with revelations that fit ideally into the thriller genre. I think it is safe to say that they are enough to suitably satisfy your appetite for the suspense but they also leave you wanting more.

You can purchase Unsavoury Delicacies via the following

Amazon
Amazon Aus
Amazon UK
iBooks

Book Bingo Bookshort story

Traveling Left of Center Blog Tour

A few months ago I was lucky enough to review the short story collection Traveling Left of Center by Nancy Christie. Now, in honour of her birthday, Christie is having a blog tour of her book to celebrate! Visit her website to discover other stops on the tour or you can check out my review of this great collection!

The Book

There are some people who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.

TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER AND OTHER STORIES details characters in life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. Their methods of coping range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”).

The eighteen stories in TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER AND OTHER STORIES depict those types of situations, from the close calls to the disastrous. Not all the stories have happy endings—like life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.

In these stories, the characters’ choices—or non-choices—are their own. But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash?

Teasers

(From “Traveling Left of Center”)

“Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.”

Mama was always saying things like that. She had a phrase for every occasion, and would pronounce them with a certainty that, in my younger days, I accepted as gospel. But that time, I didn’t pay her no mind. I just went on painting my nails “Passionate Purple,” hoping that the sexy polish would catch the doctor’s eye.

I was justifiably proud of my hands, especially since, at that particular time, they were the only part of me that was skinny. A girl’s body sure takes a beating from having a baby. It had taken me at least a year to get my shape back after Robert Nicholas, and it looked like Rebecca Nicole wouldn’t be any kinder to her mama than her big brother had been.

(From “The Sugar Bowl”)

Chloe would tell men that the slightly battered and tarnished sugar bowl was a legacy from her grandmother.

“Granny,” she would say, her eyes fixed on a distant spot in the small apartment, “had to sell all her possessions to keep my mother fed and warmed. But she saved the sugar bowl for better times. And when she died,” here, her voice would quiver and a brave smile would slip across her face, “she left it for me, for my ‘better times’.”

The story always worked on those older men who would bring her home after a pleasant dinner in a quiet, expensive restaurant. They would listen to her story as she poured freshly-brewed coffee into delicate porcelain cups, her light brown hair falling softly around her face.

And they would be overcome with feelings of protectiveness for the young girl, so unlike the hard brittle career women they were used to. It would be almost obscene, they would find themselves believing, to think of taking this fragile flower to bed.

Instead they would kiss her chastely on the cheek and then leave, never understanding that it had all been carefully orchestrated—the dinner, the story, the quiver in the voice.

And if they should call again, she would be politely unavailable. Chloe could not support a return engagement. Her story was only strong enough for a single run.

(From “Watching for Billy”)

The sound woke her from her usual afternoon sleep. One of the curses of old age was the need to nap at odd hours of the day, coupled with the inability to stay asleep during the dark hours of the night. And since Roger died, it was even worse. Agnes found herself nodding off at mid-morning while the game shows played on the television screen, during the afternoon courtroom dramas, after the soup-and-sandwich dinner that almost always constituted her evening meal. Why not? There was no one to talk to and nothing else to do.

Brad said that she wouldn’t be bored if she moved into one of those retirement homes. But she didn’t want to leave her home and go live among strangers—even if sometimes the loneliness was more than she could bear.

“I’ve lived here more than 60 years and I’m not leaving now,” she had told her son. “There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind.”

“Fine,” he answered, an unmistakable note of irritation in his voice. “But if you won’t move, then you need to at least have an alarm installed. There have been too many break-ins in your neighborhood lately.”

Agnes agreed reluctantly… was dutifully attentive when the technician explained how the alarm worked and what each noise and light represented.

During the long summer days, she didn’t bother to activate it until bedtime, trusting in the safety of daylight to keep thieves and robbers from her door. But as winter drew near and the days grew shorter, she found herself turning the alarm on at the first sign of dusk, feeling for the first time a little unsure, a little vulnerable, in the house where she had lived for six decades.

About the Author

NANCY CHRISTIENancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as Wild VioletEWR: Short StoriesHypertextFull of CrowFiction365Red Fez, WanderingsThe Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.

A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG) and creator of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio.

Visit her website at www.nancychristie.com or connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or at her writing blogs: Focus on FictionThe Writer’s Place and One on One.

 

You can purchase Traveling Left of Center via the following

eBook: Amazon  Apple iBookstore  Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million Kobo

Trade Paperback: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million and select independent bookstores

 *February 2015 only — Birthday Blog Tour Sale Price [Click here for link to BIRTHDAY SALE OF AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK]*

 

Nancy’s Blogs:

Focus on Fiction www.nancychristie.com/focusonfiction/

The Writer’s Place www.nancychristie.com/writersplace/

One on One www.nancychristie.com/oneonone/

 

All Your Bits and Pieces Needs

Website

Facebook

Google+

LinkedIn

Twitter

Pinterest

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries