Audiobook review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Roar
by
Cecelia Ahern

Rating:

I’m not sure how to review a book like this. It’s a collection of thirty feminist fables, with titles that all begin with “The Woman Who…” The author addresses many of the challenges women of many ages face, mostly dealing with identity and self-worth. Some of them are coping with not being “seen” or taken seriously, or being treated as possessions. Some are mothers in crisis, who rush around with their young children. Others are young professionals, feeling suppressed by their male colleagues.

I listened to the audiobook version, which was narrated by three women. I would not call this a relaxing experience. The stories are combative and aggressive and I felt as if the message for most had a very “us against them” approach. The exceptions were some I did enjoy, including “The Woman Who Thought Her Mirror Was Broken,” “The Woman Who Forgot Her Name,” and “The Woman Who Walked in Her Husband’s Shoes.” I liked these because there was better resolution and understanding between the men and women in the stories. Although Ahern uses exaggerated metaphors to make her points (women disappearing, unraveling, being eaten up by guilt), these three fables were more relatable.

Many of the stories, at least in the audio version, have such an angry and staccato tone to them that I grew tired of the message, despite its worth. I think this collection, 289 pages in print and an eight-and-a-half-hour listen, would have been better if it was shorter.

Perhaps these stories were just not for me. There seems to be an equal measure of critical and positive talk online. I’m sharing several bloggers’ positive opinions here so you can decide for yourself:

Bookshelf Fantasies
Emma R
aclaireum

Have you read Roar? What did you think?

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Book Review: Lot by Bryan Washington

Lot
by
Bryan Washington

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you like short fiction and are looking for something new and raw, check out Lot by Bryan Washington. It’s the author’s debut collection of 13 stories, set in Houston, and told mainly by one character. In the first chapter, the central narrator is a 12-year-old boy with a black mother and Latino father. He lives in a poor area of the city with his parents and his older sister and brother above their family-run restaurant, a place where prostitution, drug dealing, murder, gangs, transience and broken families are common. As he comes of age, the narrator’s homosexual relationships are a major theme of the book, especially as he relates to his brother and mother. Later chapters show the narrator as a teenager and young adult, deep into changes and complicated relationships.

Each chapter is a stand-alone story, though they are tied together by the main narrator and other points of view. The “lots” refer to different streets or areas in Houston and are quick looks into the hard lives of the area’s multi-ethnic population. Making rent by whatever means is a common theme. Getting out is another. But for those who get out, for a mere chance to make it, some stay. The burden of staying ultimately falls on the narrator, even when there may be nothing left for him.

Despite their often desperate situations, friendships exist, though many are tenuous or short-lived. Families are often more tenuous and sometimes family isn’t your relatives, it’s the people who look out for you, or even take you in.

The stories are nonlinear and the author’s narrative style is loose, written in an authentic urban slang. Readers need to read for the “feel” of it and to trust that the big picture will be revealed. It is, but with many questions, loose ends, unresolved relationships and unknown futures. That’s the point, I believe, accurately depicting the messy, no promises life of the book’s characters.

I enjoyed Lot because I like discovering new short fiction. It’s an uncensored look at a struggling population with a hopeful finish and I look forward to more from Bryan Washington.

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June book previews: Lot Stories by Bryan Washington and Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Here are two books that have settled into a place on my coffee table. They have been patiently calling to me and I am determined to read them in June.


Lot Stories by Bryan Washington

A collection of 13 short stories set in the city of Houston, Texas. Told mainly by the son of a black mother and a Latino father, a young man who is just beginning to figure out who he is. “Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home.” Because I like short fiction, I’m already drawn to this collection. I like that the stories are integrated and think I will enjoy this debut.


Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

I don’t know how best to describe this debut novel except to share parts of the inside jacket description:

“A literary courtroom thriller about an immigrant family and a young single mother accused of killing her autistic son…”

The book takes place in rural Miracle Creek, Virginia and is about “an experimental medical treatment device called the Miracle Submarine. A pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic ‘dives,’ it’s also a repository of hopes and dreams…” During treatment, the oxygen chamber explodes and kills two people and these events lead to a murder trial.

I haven’t read a courtroom thriller in a long time, so I’m looking forward to what sounds like a unique story!

Do these books interest you? What is next on your list?

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2018 recap – a year of change

Fred H. Rohn

This year was a time of great excitement for me, as I helped my father, Fred Rohn, publish his second book, Encounters – Relationships in Conflict. My father was ninety-two when the book was finished, and working on it together was a special time for me. He had been writing short fiction about relationships for most of his adult life and wanted to compile these stories into a collection.

2018 has also been a time of sadness, as my father passed away in June, just weeks after his book was published. During the last few months of his life, we had long discussions about where Encounters fit into the book world and how to promote it. We were both very excited about launching it and acting as our own book publicists.

   

These plans are now my own and, during this transition, I have begun to think about how I will honor my father and what place Encounters and his memoir, A Fortunate Life will have in the indie author market.

Thank you to those who have read and reviewed his books, and shared your enthusiasm on your blogs and on social media. Your comments mean a great deal to me.

My father was also very excited about this video interview, which was published by the Madison Eagle in January 2018. You can view it here or on YouTube below.

 

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The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories
by
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There’s a lot of great literature on the public domain and I found this terrific collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov for free at the Kindle store.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was a Russian playwright and writer of short fiction and is considered one of the all-time greatest masters of the short story. I loved this collection of nine stories, and, while I think I must have studied Chekhov in college, I don’t remember whether I read stories or plays, and so in reading this collection, I was starting from the beginning.

Each story is a little different, but they all paint a universal picture of the human condition in Russia during the second half of the 1800s. Some are about romantic relationships, others about being sick with disease and mental illness. In addition, he includes themes of marriage, class distinction, factory life, religion and nature, as his characters try to figure out their place in the world. Chekhov was a doctor as well as a writer, and he also suffered from tuberculosis, so much of his insight comes from first-hand experience. I read that Chekhov resisted committing to particular religious and political views, and he only touches on religion in “The Black Monk” and on politics in “Anonymous Story.”

A quick search confirms that these stories are well-known and character and theme analyses are a couple clicks away. I won’t do that here. I’ll just share my thoughts about a few.

“The Lady with the Dog” is one of the best in this collection, in which two married people meet and begin an affair. Chekhov’s characters here find love after they have already committed to others, and he shows how they manage their secret lives and whether they can find happiness.

“The Black Monk” is about an overworked university scholar who returns to the home where he was raised by his adoptive father. The father’s successful horticulture business weighs heavily on the old man’s mind, as his grown daughter, now an attractive young woman, thinks of her own future. Pressure to marry the daughter and take over the business leads to a progressive madness, all based on the scholar’s vision of a monk robed in black.

“An Anonymous Story” is one of the longest in the collection and is also one of my favorites. In this story, the narrator, with a mysterious political motive, assumes the position of footman for a wealthy Petersburg official. The official, a confirmed bachelor faces turmoil when the woman with whom he’s having an affair, leaves her husband and moves into their household.

You can find out more about Anton Chekhov on britannica.com and Wikipedia.

I highly recommend this collection and will be looking at more of Chekhov’s stories and plays over time. Here’s a list of what’s else free on Amazon!

The Duel and Other Stories
Uncle Vanya
The Schoolmistress and Other Stories
The Sea-Gull
The Witch and Other Stories
The Chorus Girl and Other Stories
Plays by Anton Chekhov, Second Series
Swan Song
Letters of Anton Chekhov
The Cook’s Wedding and Other Stories
The Wife, and Other Stories
Ivanoff
Note-Book of Anton Chekhov

What great reads have you found on the public domain?

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Friday Fiction – Future So Bright

“Future So Bright”

“I’m twenty-seven,” she answered. Jane was at the age of confidence. Twenty-seven was a good age to be. She had already accomplished a great deal for her age. She had finished her education, was well-paid in her job.

And she felt strong and, if not beautiful, pretty good-looking, above average at least, she reasoned. She worked out. She was a runner, specifically, but also took aerobics classes at a gym. Her clothes fit her well and she felt good about the choice she had made that night: her favorite black top and tapered pants, flat shoes that came to a sharp point at the toe. Jane was not a trendy dresser, but she paid attention to the styles and allowed herself these shoes with the points. She liked having a certain surprise factor in her ensembles, something a person might not notice at first or second glance, but would be pleased to see upon further inspection.

So she didn’t mind when someone asked her how old she was because she wanted to tell people, “Yes, look at me, over here!”

And she didn’t mind revealing her age on this night because she had already figured that the man she was talking to was probably the same age. In fact, he was twenty-eight, which he told her once he knew her age. “Well, that’s good,” she thought. “I wouldn’t want to be older.”

He smiled at her as she looked at him, and she smiled too. It was natural. She liked him already. He was dark and mysterious looking. She looked across the room for her friend.

“Want to dance?” he asked her.

He didn’t know this, but Jane loved to dance. He had no idea what he was in for…

Thank you for reading!


Copyright © 2018 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Short story review from: Answered Prayers – “La Côte Basque” by Truman Capote

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom. Short reviews of short fiction. This selection comes from Answered Prayers by Truman Capote.

“La Côte Basque”
by
Truman Capote

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Is it enough to change the names of your characters when you write a story based on real people? I suppose it doesn’t matter much if your characters are cast in a good light. But what if the story is full of scandals very close to the truth? I guess writers must pay the price. And that’s what happened in 1975 when “La Côte Basque” was published in Esquire.

Capote had been a favorite among the upper class society ladies until this point, but they immediately dropped him when they read about themselves in his story. Capote had been their confidante for years and had gathered plenty of material. One of the women reportedly received an early copy and, when she read what he said about her, ended her life with a cyanide pill.

The story is about a gossipy conversation between the fictional Lady Ina Coolbirth (Slim Keith) and her lunch companion, Jonesy. They are seated to be seen at La Côte Basque, a restaurant on East 55th Street in New York. As various social legends arrive, Lady Ina makes catty remarks and shares sordid details about the people who move in her circles. One of the stories closely resembles the facts and the cover-up of the William Woodward murder case in which Ann Woodward shot her husband. Capote’s story culminates when Lady Ina tells Jonesy about the night Sidney Dillon (really CBS founder Bill Paley), a notorious womanizer, slept with the governor’s wife. Paley’s wife, Babe, was dying of cancer when the story was published. Horrified to read the details in print, she never spoke to Capote again.

I had not heard of this short story, which is part of Capote’s unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, until I read The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. Now that I know the back story, I have to agree, it’s pretty harsh. Capote is a talented writer and an interesting figure, but “La Côte Basque” seems like malicious payback for not being one of upper class.

For more about Capote and “La Côte Basque,” check out this November 2012 article in Vanity Fair and click here for a mini biography of Capote.

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Book Review: The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart by Annika Perry

The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart
by

Annika Perry

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The appeal of short fiction is that it offers a glimpse of a character’s life, a problem, a twist and a quick finish. Annika Perry’s debut collection, The Storyteller Speaks, makes good on this promise in her newly published book of fiction and poetry.

Perry gives the reader twenty-one distinct stories about the daily challenges of marriage, children, friendship, family and loss. Her characters are knowable and likable, even the ones who find themselves on the bad end of a decision. Many of her stories depict the author’s upbringing in Sweden and the United Kingdom, yet show a universal understanding of family and relationships. And even though the stories are separate, the reader begins to develop a sense of community, as it seems as if some of the author’s characters might know each other.

Several standout stories will stick in the reader’s mind because of memorable characters and conflicts. In “The Whiteout Years,” a young widower wonders how he can let go of the heavy burden of guilt. Likewise, a young mother faces a very different future in “Sophia!” after a bizarre and tragic series of events. In one, there is a sign of hope. In the other, an unknown challenge.

Other stories finish with a warm feeling of love and friendship. In “Friends Forever,” Perry’s characters overcome a long and painful break and in “Role-Playing,” happiness is a given when old friends reunite.

But Perry isn’t afraid of exploring difficult or dark subjects. In “The Game,” children playing a seemingly harmless game discover the frightening power of their diversion. And in “Smouldering Shame,” Perry’s characters confront betrayal and a sorrowful tragedy. In “A Rare Passion,” a young man acts on impulse and immediately sees the folly of his decision. Can he fix his mistake in time?

Despite difficult subjects in many stories, Perry offers a strong overlying message of hope, love and family, as shown in her final story, “Loss of a Patriarch” in which a family finds peace and comfort after a beloved father and grandfather dies.

The Storyteller Speaks is a touching look at the challenges of life and relationships, an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more from this promising author.

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Cover reveal for Encounters: Relationships in Conflict by Fred H. Rohn

Make room on your bookshelves and eReaders for Encounters: Relationships in Conflict by Fred H. Rohn, a collection of short fiction about the human relationship.

Social mores change from year to year, but one thing remains constant: conflict between people results from differing perceptions, often between men and women and between different generations. In each story, characters confront a variety of personal and professional problems and must either compromise or adjust to new circumstances. In “The Painting,” a young married woman’s deceit catches up to her. “Doc Brunner” tells the story of a pastor facing a series of interrelated problems during World War II. In “Harry,” music from long ago invokes powerful memories.

Representing a wide range of age groups and set in many different time periods, these stories show that, while times change and circumstances differ, conflict and resolution in human relationships is an ageless cycle.

Fred H. Rohn is the author of two business accounting books and a memoir, A Fortunate Life. He has been married for seventy years and has four children and nine grandchildren. The short stories in Encounters represent years of accumulated notes for story ideas. He lives with his wife, June, in New Jersey. Encounters is scheduled for release in July 2018.


     Click here to view Rohn’s January 2018 interview with the Madison Eagle.


Click here for more information about A Fortunate Life.


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Friday Fiction – Adventures at Fifty

“Adventures at Fifty”

Jocelyn groaned that morning. Her body creaked and cracked as she stood. Her heels hurt. The pain shot up her legs and she waited for the relief that came after standing for a bit. That subsided, and she then became aware of a twinge of nerve pain in her back and shooting down her left leg. “God, I’m falling apart!” she wailed inside her head. Outside, she pretended her best that all was good and she charged on through her day, wincing when necessary and taking care of these ailments in private, for that is all they were, just ailments, annoying as they were.

And most of the day she felt pretty good, good enough at least that these things, though bothersome, were only at their worst in the morning and as the day went on, they fell into the back of her consciousness.

So by the end of this particular day she was feeling better. Her back felt better and her heels hurt less. At seven-thirty, when all her work was done and there was time to kill, she went outside to find her son, who was down at the end of the street. Wanting to get to corner faster, she grabbed a scooter from the garage, contemplated a ride down the driveway to get her on her way and stopped. “No,” she thought. “Start at the bottom.” So she walked the scooter nearly down to the bottom and hopped on with just a little way to go before the street met the driveway. She didn’t know exactly what happened next and in what order, but there must have been a bump along the way, for a split second later she was in an airborne tangle with the scooter. And it wasn’t until later that she figured that her knees and elbows must have hit the road first and then maybe the palms of her hands. But what she remembered most was the jarring sound of her chin smashing down on the road and the jolt of pain that shot through her jaw a second later.

She might have called out. She hoped she hadn’t, actually and, when she looked around, she saw that the street was empty. A circle that on a cooler day would have been filled with children and their parents was mercifully empty and so her ridiculous scooter accident was thankfully unseen.

“I am a complete fool!” she thought. For Jocelyn had recently turned fifty and was struggling to accept and assimilate her age into her life with her family, her active children. As she looked down the street and pulled herself up, she saw her son riding towards her on his bike. He had seen and was racing up to check on her.

Once standing, she was sure her elbows and knees would be bleeding, but they were only scraped a little. The palms of her hands stung, but they too were generally okay. She opened her mouth and there it was, the worst of her injuries was in her jaw.

She wanted to brush it off, but inside she was in a crisis. She got inside the house, her young son behind her. He wasn’t too worried—she was glad for that. Little boys wiped out all the time on their scooters and bikes.

As she walked through the garage and into the kitchen, she felt a rush of nausea and sweat. Her body shook. She wanted to hide or at least play down her fall. Her teenage son was there, on the computer. Maybe he wouldn’t look at her too closely and notice what his brother had not—that she was afraid, that she felt weak, that she was about to faint.

She got herself onto the couch. “I fell off the scooter,” she announced. “Are you okay?” her teenage son asked. “I think so. I just need to sit.” She sat and willed the room to settle, her sweat to dry, her legs to find balance.

“I’ve got to get better at riding that scooter,” she thought to herself. “Maybe a different pair of shoes…”

To be continued…

Thank you for reading!


Copyright © 2018 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.