As I read, I often notice that those delicate moments in between the plot explosions and character epiphanies can be far more powerful than the obvious action or dialogue. Sometimes those spaces lead the reader into the madness of the story... but sometimes, they lead to pure ecstasy hidden in the pause. It's the writer's alchemy that balances the two with gentle finesse. This requires practice and devotion to the craft if they want the reader to give up the real world for the one they have created... if only for an hour or two.
I have found this exquisite balance time and again in the writings of Andrew Allen Smith. Recently, I discovered his first anthology of short stories, The Theft, and was impressed with the collection's impact. This skill in mixing emotion and action, the intensity of gentleness, and the surprise result of mistaken expectations, is clearly something he mastered years ago.
The title story, The Theft, brilliantly captured the anxiety of a moment of fear for someone who deserved it. In this story, he combines the imagination of desire as a motivation, only to have that same imagination act as the betrayer. Most memorable for me in this piece was the strong auditory storytelling. I heard every sound in crisp, clear moments. I'm especially impressed with Andrew's skill in this area, as sound is an element I find missing in far too many books.
Two pieces, Christmas and The Portrait found a strong resonance within me, and in fact, moved me to tears. The delicate way in which Andrew reveals deep emotion inside the thought of a gift or the tender way a painter holds a brush and mixes paint is magical. Because he is thoughtful with the vocabulary he chooses, Andrew imparts tremendous depth with simple elegance. Words are not wasted. The reader can hear the character's thoughts in between the words printed on the page... feel the electricity of emotion... and understand a perspective that perhaps seemed initially unclear.
The catnip Andrew dangled before me, in the taunting of several full works he will one day complete, was anticipation on steroids. I was sucked into these stories, finding myself fully invested in the magic, the character's motivation, the unexpected satisfaction of violence in certain situations, and the quickening of my breath as I read the last sentence of each. I am thrilled with these glimpses into stories that I know will arrive in my hands one day... and I am equally annoyed that I have to wait to discover how they end.
Patience is a difficult thing when you endure such temptations. Satisfaction is realized when I remember Andrew has many other stories that I can enjoy in the meantime. Thank goodness for that!
In the second installment (of what I am hopeful will be a continuing series), Andrew presents fourteen new short stories to engage our senses and catch us a little off balance. It’s an interesting idea, investigating the many layers and perspectives of fear, and this author does it with authenticity and ingenuity. Some of these stories will scare you, others will leave you unsettled, and others may touch a soft spot inside your own fear that you didn’t realize was there.
In The Boathouse, the concept of fear is imagined from three very different perspectives. As we read, we discover that although the players are the same in each narrative, faced with the same situation, each character interprets fear differently. It makes for an interesting study of how each of us reacts to something we find unnerving.
Much to my delight, Andrew added an act two to the story he began in the first volume. Where he began with The Edge, he continues here with Edges. I was fascinated by the first act of this tale and having the opportunity to see how the story evolves in the second was marvelous. The introduction of a sacred book to the story requited my desire for new secrets, enticing my imagination with how the sword was forged and why it was sanctified for its purpose. Like a chocolate torte cake, each layer reveals a little bit more delicious tension and suspense. I am hopeful this story will one day grow into a novella or a full stand-alone novel. My anticipation for even more layers to be revealed is undeniable.
The entire book is filled with gems of literary wonderment, none to be missed. However, my favorite in this collection is a story entitled Monster. This piece grabbed my soul and would not let go. The story considers the fear that lives inside apathy, insatiable greed, altruism, sadness, and revenge. I would love to tell you more… but I won’t. This is a story that should be experienced by each reader on their own terms. But I will say this, I will refuse to forget it, and have enjoyed it with each new read (four so far).
If you enjoy literature that tingles your brain and stings your skin just a little bit, this collection will not disappoint.
When Drake (my Muse, for those of you who have yet to be introduced) and I discovered this author on an Instagram post, we were immediately drawn to her book, and curious about what she may offer in its pages. It had a cute and inviting cover, so I bought it.
This was a fun, slightly introspective, and super-quick read (just 100 pages). This simple guide uses ducks as the example we should all strive to emulate. As a lover of ducks, I agree, of course. Each chapter presents a specific duck character trait and then provides a way for humans to adopt that quality into our lives. A few of the eight chapters cover topics such as “Ducks Can Right Themselves,” “Ducks Are Content,” and “Ducks Know Their Limitations.”
The book touches lightly on each opportunity to grow more duck-like in our daily habits, but unfortunately, only scratches the surface of what could have been a deeper conversation. I enjoyed the whimsical approach to these philosophical ideas, but craved more from this author, as clearly, she understands both duck supremacy and human potential.
I was a little frustrated with the formatting and the editorial errors, as the author is also a teacher, and because of this, my expectations were set a little higher. That being said, if this author were to write a sequel that investigates this conversation with more detail, and is professionally edited and formatted, I would buy it.
This is the second time this year that I’ve read a new cozy mystery written by an Indie Author, who has delightfully written against the grain of traditional publishing’s expectations for the genre while still giving me what I love. In this one, I was pleased to discover dogs and squirrels instead of cats; and a flamboyant dress designer instead of a kindly elderly lady. These tiny, inventive details are what made this story so enjoyable.
Ms. Mooney is a wonderful storyteller who draws you into her mystery much like an imaginative child might tell you a story, with a sincere enthusiasm for sharing her imagination. Her plot has all the recognizable distractions of every day life, juxtaposed with the mystery of a crafty “whodunit”. At each turn of the page, I became more immersed in the next “you’ll never believe it” moment. The effect was refreshingly dramatic.
This is book seven in a series, but honestly, I didn’t feel lost for jumping into the middle of the fray. The characters have been clearly defined with enough backstory that I felt as if these were friends I’d just recently met. Perhaps I didn’t know every detail of their history, but as it is when you meet new people, that didn’t really matter. What made all the difference in my enjoyment of this story was that I felt they were indeed real people, with real frustrations and joys in their personal lives, moments I could relate to easily.
The mystery was exciting, with twisty bits I didn’t see coming. I worked hard to pay attention and predict the outcome, but like the weather, even though we understand the rules of science, that doesn’t always mean Mother Nature complies. Sometimes, a small squall comes up and tussles your boat of rationality upon the waters of intrigue. I found each new piece of evidence and possible suspect shifted my perspective on who the culprit might be. Truly, I didn’t know who the perpetrator was until the reveal. That is very satisfying. To have my need for an intricate detective story, while also being comforted by real people, schnauzers, and squirrels was satisfying and simply nice. And there’s a lot to be said for nice.
I will certainly go back and read this series from the beginning… or, I might just read them out of order… but I will absolutely read them. I appreciate good writing, and even more so when it’s provided to me by the hands of an imaginative Indie Author.
Cozy mysteries are fun because they give you an opportunity to experience all the “whodunit” excitement without the overwhelming car chases, gunfights, and gruesome autopsy details. This particular cozy was a departure from nearly every other book I’ve read in the genre because of its subject matter.
Most cozies install part-time private investigators to solve the mystery. Rarely does this genre offer mysteries solved by “regular” folks with no connection to the profession. It was fresh, inventive, and unpredictable. It is clear Mr. Belz knows his way around architecture, too. I wouldn’t have imagined a setting heavy on blueprints and ductwork to be a believable backdrop for murder, but it turns out, with the right author holding the pen, it certainly can be.
The tension between subplot characters was evenly measured against the main story arc, which meant I was left suspecting a new culprit at nearly every chapter break. The details of the world of architecture were made more interesting when juxtaposed against these very human characters… each given equal time to establish themselves emotionally without revealing the solution to the mystery too early in the game.
It's always interesting to read a story that you know was based in familiar territory. Even though Mr. Belz changed some of the place and road names, I easily identified these local Detroit area landmarks and enjoyed imagining that this novel could have been based on actual events. This story was a comfortable mix of reality and fantasy. Only once did I find myself thinking, “That couldn’t actually happen.” Then once again, like a live trap, I was snared back into the mystery. That one moment aside, the pace of the story was deliberately robust. At each turn of the page, I was challenged to figure it out. As a result, I found it harder and harder to stop turning pages.
I don’t know if Mr. Belz has other novels to discover, but if they exist, I will read them. His style is comfortable and completely accessible, which is exactly the definition of a cozy mystery.
Imagine a Venn diagram. Each circle is a distinct segment of life. Now, add to each sphere the spice of fiction. The result is an entertaining glimpse into how reality and imagination might overlap. In this collection of thirteen short stories, Mrs. Palova was able to draw on her own experiences from life, then fill in the gaps by crafting diverse voices to share tales of small-town Americana. By all accounts, fictional, these stories focus a spotlight on society from the insulation of imagination. After reading, I was left asking, “I wonder how much of that is real?” That pull of wonder, from the reader in me, is a tremendous vote of confidence for the work.
I enjoyed “In The Shadows” for its gentleness in examining recollection and truth. Walking down memory lane is sometimes bittersweet. Taking that journey with an adult child can invoke emotions that perhaps we aren’t prepared to endure. This story was touching for the reflection a special place can show us. We are reminded that sometimes, the words we don’t say can serve as a strong legacy, as well.
The eerie experience of “The Death Song” satiated my desire for a curiosity that illuminates secrets we may not expect. This was my favorite of the collection. The details of this story were foggy in some places, and extremely precise in others, which kept me on my seat’s edge as I waited for the final curtain. I was not disappointed. However, it does make me wonder, what was the inspiration for this story? Was it just a pantomime of possibility in a moment of dreamy shadow, or perhaps a validation for the deed actually done? In either case, the layers of mystery here were delightful to read.
Not all of the stories connected with me, as is to be expected with a short story collection; but the bulk of them did. I read this book in its e-book format and found some flaws in the formatting and a few editorial mistakes. However, those minor issues did not detract significantly from my enjoyment of the collection, overall. I am interested to read what else this author has to offer.
This is book two of the "Dry Earth Series". The first episode, “The Bright and Darkened Lands of Earth”, appeared in the dystopian short story collection “Postcards from the Future”. I was eagerly waiting to see what would happen next with these characters and where the story might go. Dr. Levin did not disappoint.
With this installment, we are taken deeper into the environment, community, and culture of a dystopian Earth. The emotions of the characters are experienced in real-time, offering readers an opportunity to become fully immersed in the impact of what they revere and why. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of any novel that treats books as sacred. This story does that, and more. In this harsh world, the gentle adoration of the written word, even for those who cannot read, is deeply understood.
Levin delicately introduces us to characters who are “different”, though never “less than”, which again supports his reputation for embracing the strength of a story through viewpoints that perhaps we may not have considered, especially in this genre. His heroes are unlikely, which compels us to cheer for them. Woven into this story is Levin’s approach to the responsibility of family – whether by blood or not – and the consequence of protecting that legacy. The impact is stunning.
Donald Levin has already proven himself a Master of the police procedural mystery. With this novel, he can claim that title for the dystopian genre, as well. I look forward to the next book in this series.
I found this to be an entertaining romp through a world I was fortunate enough to have subverted. I was lucky, or so these fun anecdotes would make it seem. Each page offered a humorous vignette into the uncomfortable world of this crazy change of life most women endure. Then, reminded of the strength in the absurd with scripture to comfort.
Ms. Verges’ approach is warm, disarming, and giggle-worthy. By sharing moments from her own experience, she allows women to embrace and accept the second half of life with humor and dignity. I will never be in a position to fully relate to these experiences (having personally skipped this phase of womanhood), but I am grateful that this book is available to help other women find a comforting commonality.
This book also offers those who have not been affected by “the change” (like me, and countless men), to understand it a little bit better, so that we can grow to be more supportive and patient. When we find a way to share life through laughter, we grow within the strength of community, and with an added confidence in ourselves.
Thank you, Ms. Verges, for offering us this gift. But for the record, I really wanted those hot flashes!
~signed, Forever Freezing.
I’ve always been a tremendous fan of fairy tales, especially The Brothers Grimm stories. So it’s fun for me to discover a retelling of these classics. I think it requires a special kind of creativity to take a story that has been so ingrained in our culture, and spin it in a different direction, forcing us to set aside our initial understanding of plot and character for something new without losing our touchstones to the original. This is one of those stories.
You wouldn’t initially think that Snow White and Zombies have anything to do with each other, but Mr. Boley offers us an opportunity to give that notion a second thought. Grouchy is a skilled storyteller as he recounts his history with Snow, his hidden love, and the aftermath of that fateful kiss. Grouchy is a believable narrator, curious in his thinking and touching in his lovelorn memories. These characters have backstories (a thought that never occurred to me as a child), and Mr. Boley explores this alternative history with an interesting insight. The psychology behind the players in this tale is as engaging, if not more so, than the action, and the author does a good job at balancing both.
While it’s true this book is a little too bloody for children, teenagers and adults will enjoy the pacing and wit this author brings to the page. The action is nearly non-stop, with just the right few moments in between to catch your breath. There’s a special kind of snark that Mr. Boley grants his characters that allows us to step outside the confines of what we thought we knew, and walk a different path through the forest.
This book is creative in its portrayal of the Snow, the Dwarfs, their Human oppressors, and Zombies. It shows us magic and love through a different color of the prism of storytelling. This is the first in a series, and I'm curious to see what comes next.
As an American writer, I was interested to read this poetry collection by an Indie Author in Pakistan. I was intrigued to see how someone of a different culture approached poetry and language. I was pleased with the outcome.
Although some of the phrasing was cumbersome, probably due to the challenges of translation, I enjoyed the concepts and vocabulary in this book. There were many themes on love, perspective, solitude, and relationships that were easy to understand and lovely to experience. It is clear that this writer has a thoughtful mind and a vibrant imagination.
If you are interested in how someone from another culture contemplates life through the written word, this book would be a good choice.
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