Monthly Archives: August 2014

Review and Giveaway: Flings by Justin Taylor

Today I welcome TLC Blog Tours to The Book Binder’s Daughter with a collection of short stories.  You are welcome to read my review, learn a little about the author, enter the giveaway (US/Canada) and visit the other stops on the blog tour.

My Review:

Fings HC I like it when collections of short stories have a theme running throughout and this is definitely the case with Flings.  In each story, the character or characters seem to be at a crossroads and are trying to determine what they should do with the next stage of their lives.  In the first story, “Flings,” a group of friends have just graduated from college and all 6 of them are having a hard time figuring out what to do now that the structure and safety of college life is gone.  They try different careers and relationships and it takes a while for each of them to settle into a comfortable place in life.  I found the beginning of the story confusing as the author kept jumping from character to character and the verb tenses kept changing.  But I realized that the confusion in the narrative mimicked the tumultuous circumstances in the characters’ lives.

In “Mike’s Song,” a middle-aged man is taking his two grown children to see a Phish concert.  We learn as they are driving to the concert that the dad, whose name is Mike, cheated on his wife and as a result broke up their family.  Mike is trying to navigate his new life without a wife and children around.  He contemplates selling his house, he awkwardly sends texts to his inappropriately young girlfriend, and attempts to enjoy a Phish concert where he feels out of place.  Will this stage in Mike’s life bring him any happiness or did he throw away his family for no good reason?

Seventy-two year old Carol finds herself alone for the first time in her life and is trying to figure out how to deal with the quiet.  In this story, aptly named “Carol, Alone”, a widow looks back on her early life in New York where she was a teacher and married with two children.  Carol’s life has always been busy and full of people and even when she and her husband Gerald move to Florida her son’s family moves near them as well.  Now that Gerald has passed and her son is occupied with his own wife and children, Carol can’t quite figure out what to do everyday to make herself feel useful.  To make matters worse, she is dealing with a serious bout of insomnia so she has to endure feeling alone day and night.  The ending to this story is abrupt and clever.  Of all the stories in the collection, I enjoyed this one the most.

One of my favorite ways to get to know an author is to read his or her short stories.  Short stories are not a big time investment and if you decide that you like the stories, then you can move on to an author’s other, longer works.  After reading Flings, I am definitely interested in exploring Justin Taylor’s other writing.

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About The Author:

Justin-TaylorJustin Taylor is the author of the novel “The Gospel of Anarchy” and the story collection “Everything Here Is The Best Thing Ever.”

The Millions called “The Gospel of Anarchy” a “bold casserole of sensual encounter and deranged proclamation… Loudly, even rapturously, Taylor succeeds in making the clamoring passion of his characters real, their raw, mercurial yearning a cry for ‘a world newly established.’ In terms of acts of God, “The Gospel of Anarchy” is a tornado, tearing up the hill where rock ‘n roll and cult meet.”

The New York Times raved that “Everything Here Is The Best Thing Ever ” is a “spare, sharp book” which “documents a deep authority on the unavoidable confusion of being young, disaffected and human. … [T]he most affecting stories in … are as unpredictable as a careening drunk. They leave us with the heavy residue of an unsettling strangeness, and a new voice that readers — and writers, too — might be seeking out for decades to come.”

His stories have been published in many top literary journals, and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, BookForum and The Believer, among other publications.

He lives in New York.  To learn more about Justin visit his website: http://www.justindtaylor.net/.

Giveaway:

The publisher and TLC tours are giving away one copy of Flings to someone in the US or Canada.  All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me you want to win!  Giveaway ends 9/17 and the winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.

To see the complete list of stops on the Flings blog tour click on the TLC picture below:

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*New reviews and giveaways are posted every week on my site.  Subscribe by email so that you don’t miss a post or giveaway.  Just enter your email in the sidebar and hit “subscribe.”  Thanks so much for stopping by!

 

 

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Filed under Short Stories

Review and Giveaway: East India by Colin Falconer

04_East India_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Today I welcome Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours back to the Book Binder’s Daughter with another great historical fiction novel, East India by Colin Falconer.  Please read my review, learn a bit about the author, enter the giveaway (paper copy for US, e-book for International) and see the full list of blogs on the tour.

Book Synopsis:

02_East India

In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.

My Review:

East India is the grown up version of Lord of The Flies.  The Utrecht sets sail from Holland on a seven month voyage to India, laden with gold, silver and other treasures from the Dutch East India Company.  This unlucky ship becomes a place of misery for all of its passengers.  Of its 300 passengers, some are soldiers who are forced to spend most of the voyage below deck in darkness, some are regular Dutch citizens who are on their way to join loved ones in India, and some are the crew that are employed by the East India Company to sail the ship.  The first third of the book describes the wretched conditions of this long voyage when everyone on board experiences sea sickness, cramped quarters, rotten food and stale water.  The ship becomes a volatile atmosphere ripe for a mutiny.

The captain of the ship, Ambroise, keeps falling ill with a fever and his absence gives the mutineers plenty of time for plotting.  This gang of nasty men also knows that the captain has a weak spot and it is Cornelia Noorstrandt, a beautiful noblewoman who is sailing to India to meet her husband.  The fact that the captain and Cornelia have spent a lot of time together on the ship has not escaped anyone’s notice.

Just when they thought their situation couldn’t get any worse, the skipper steers the ship directly into a reef which slowly breaks the ship apart.  The passengers, in a fit of chaos and panic, take rafts to a nearby island where they can only hope and pray that someone will save them.  It is on the island where the “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere breaks out.  The undermerchant, who was the leader of the mutiny while they were still on board the ship, makes himself a sort of tyrannical king of the island and slowly starts to murder some of the other passengers.

The heroes on the island actually turn out to be the soldiers who especially come to the rescue of the women on the island who are being abused and brutalized by the undermerchant and his band of thugs.  I will warn you that there is a fair amount of violence in this book that might not be to everyone’s liking.

The greatest strength of the narrative is the descriptions of what it would have been like to spend months on end in a ship while traveling the rough and dangerous high seas.  Today we take for granted the fact that we can easily board a plane and go from one continent from another in a matter of hours.  Imagine having to sail on a ship in the 17th century under deplorable circumstance.

It was evident Colin Falconer did a lot of research about this famous shipwreck.  If you like historical fiction about ships, sailing, mutinies and shipwreck then this is the book to add to your “to-read” list.

Giveaway:

This Giveaway is for one hardcopy book (US only) and one e-book (International).  Winners will be chosen on 9/19 and will be notified via email. There are TWO easy steps to enter:

1. Please follow The Book Binder’s Daughter in ONE of the following ways:

  • Like My Facebook Page
  • Follow Me On Twitter
  • Subscribe to The Book Binder’s Daughter blog via e-mail (to the right)
  • Follow me on Google+
  • Follow me on Bloglovin (button to the right)

2. Fill out this Google Docs Form with some basic information:

Thanks so much to everyone that entered!  The winners are:

E-book: Mary P.

Paperback: Sharon B.

About the Author:

03_Colin FalconerBorn in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer’s website. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

 

East India Blog Tour Schedule:

Visit the other blogs on this tour-

Monday, July 28
Review at History & Women

Tuesday, July 29
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, July 30
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, August 5
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, August 7
Review at Bibliotica

Monday, August 11
Review at A Library of My Own

Friday, August 15
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, August 18
Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, August 21
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews

Monday, August 25
Review at Casual Readers

Saturday, August 30
Review at Book by Book

Wednesday, September 3
Review at Unshelfish

Tuesday, September 9
Review at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, September 10
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, September 19
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

 

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Filed under Giveaways, Historical Fiction

Review: Collected Stories by Frank O’Connor

I was thrilled when Open Road Integrated Media gave me an advanced review copy of Collected Stories by Frank O’Connor.  O’Conner (1903-1966) was an Irish author best known for his short stories and memoirs. For more information on this prolific author, visit the  Frank O’Connor Research Website.

 

Frank O'ConnorThe first story in the collection, “Guests of the Nation”, is arguably one of his most famous.  Four men are sitting around a cottage playing cards, talking and relaxing with each other and their hostess who is a kind old lady.  It becomes apparent from the story that two of the men are English and are actually being held as captive by the other two characters in the story who are presumably IRA soldiers.  The juxtaposition of the slow-paced and calm first part of the story and the fast moving climax in the second half of the story is a testament to O’Connor’s writing genius.

In “The Bridal Night,” a mother tells the story of how her shy son’s love for a local school teacher has driven him mad and now the son lives out his days in an asylum.  This is a tragic story and the reader feels the pain of the mother and son, but there is a surprising twist at the end when the woman with whom the young man is in love does him a kindness that no one expects.

I was very glad to see a story in this collection that was loosely tied to World War I since I have been reviewing so many World War I historical fiction books.  In “My Oedipus Complex”, a young boy, Larry, is used to his mother’s undivided attention while his father is away fighting in World War I.  But when the war is over, the boy’s father comes home and now the boy must share his mother’s attention.  I found it fascinating to see this story from the child’s point of view.  As adults we are oftentimes so caught up with our own problems, we tend to minimize and ignore the complaints of children, which to them seem like the end of the world.  There is also a humorous change of fortunes at the end of this story when the father and his son are compelled to become allies instead of sworn enemies.

Overall, this is an impressive collection of short stories and even though I have only highlighted a few of my favorites, I enjoyed all of the stories in this volume.  Do you like to read short stories?  I would love to have some short story recommendations from my readers in the comments.

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Filed under Classics, Short Stories

Review: J.D. Salinger Three Early Stories

J.D. Salinger CoverI was recently reading an article in Publishers Weekly about an Indie publishing company, The Devault-Graves Agency, that is reissuing lost literary classics as e-books.  I was thrilled when they kindly agreed to send me a copy of J.D. Salinger’s collection of three short stories.

Most people know about The Catcher in the Rye when author J.D. Salinger is mentioned.  But he wrote quite a few short stories, including the three from this collection.  They have not been published since 1940’s and the Devault-Graves company has rescued this collection from literary obscurity.  In “The Young Folks”, Salinger puts us in the setting of a party where we feel the immediate awkwardness that ensues when a man and a woman are introduced by a mutual friend. They try to have a forced conversation and we continually are told my the young man that he should really be leaving the party to write a theme for one of his college classes.

The relationship between a sister and a protective brother is explored in “Go See Eddie.”  The brother is worried that his sister’s amorous affairs are gaining her an unfortunate reputation. He tries to continually steer his sister towards applying for a job that she doesn’t want any part of.  The ending of this story was clever and entertaining.

Finally, in “Once a Week Won’t Kill You” a man is packing to leave his wife to join the army.  He says goodbye to an aunt who has raised him as her own son.  It is amazing how many details are subtly conveyed to us about this young man’s life through his brief goodbye with his aunt.

If you are eager to read some Salinger but want something a little different from his most famous novel, then I highly recommend giving these short stories a try.  They are a quick and entertaining read.  Please check out the Devault-Graves Agency for their full list of publications, which also include some Jack Kerouac publications.

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Filed under Classics, Short Stories

Review: The True and Spendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

Harristown SistersWho knew that hair could make a compelling and interesting storyline?  The story of the Swiney sisters begins in rural Ireland in the 19th century during the famine.  Like many others during that time, the 7 Swiney sisters live in abject poverty with their mother and they have never met their father.  The first part of the book chronicles their lives as they scrape out a bare existence, attend school, and have typical and sometimes not-so-typical sibling fights.

Their most prominent feature is their extremely long and thick hair and the eldest sister, Darcy, realizes that they can make some money by performing a variety show with singing, dancing and skits.  At the end of each show the sisters walk on stage and unravel their hair for all to see.  Men are especially attracted to the site of unbound hair which, in the 19th century, is usually only allowed to be displayed in the intimacy of the bedroom.

As the shows and the reputation of the sisters’ hair grows in popularity, the sisters take on two business partners, Rainfleury and Stoker, who make them rich beyond their wildest imaginations.  But, as is evident from the beginning of their acquaintances with these gentlemen, they are taking advantages of the sisters and exploiting them.  The story comes full-circle when, in the end, they become almost as poor as they were when they were children.

This book is a wonderful and heart-wrenching story of the survival of these sisters during a time when all of Ireland is suffering.  Despite their numerous trials and tribulations, the Swineys always stay together as a family, experiencing marriages, deaths, births, betrayals, affairs, and more.  The author’s greatest strength is the ability to weave a tale as long, elaborate and unique as the Swiney sisters’ hair.

My only complaint about the book is that there were parts of the story which were belabored over a bit too much.  For example, the fighting and sibling rivalry could have been portrayed just as poignantly in about 20 fewer pages.  The drawn out affair between one of the sisters, Manticory and an artist named Alexander also felt very drawn out at times.

Overall, this was an entertaining read and I highly recommend it for readers that love historical fiction set in 19th Century Ireland.  This is a  unique storyline and book.

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Filed under Historical Fiction