Tag Archives: Fantasy

They Spill from your Shelves, They Sprawl by your Bed: Worlds from the Word’s End by Joanna Walsh

I’ve been feeling so restless and scattered lately with my reading (and maybe my life?)  Nothing seems to hold my attention for very long.   After I finished Effi Briest, which book I loved, I ordered more Fontane and while I was waiting for those books to arrive in the mail, I started a few others (well, more than a few).  Since it is the centenary of the Russian Revolution in October, I pulled off of my shelves several books of Russian history and literature that I had every intention of reading this month.  I managed to get about 60 pages into Gulag Letters by Arsenii Formakov and 20 pages into China Mievelle’s book October.  I also set aside 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution and Russian Émigré Short Stories, which have yet to make it off of my coffee table.

But I was craving more fiction so I read two short books, The Year of the Drought by Roland Buti which I enjoyed, but didn’t take much time to read, and Annie Ernaux’s A Man’s Place which I thought was interesting but not fantastic.  (I’ve ordered a few more of her books to see if any other of her titles resonate more with me than this first one I read.)  After staring at the three stacks of books sitting on my coffee table, wandering into the book room and staring at my shelves, flipping through the books on my bedside table, and consulting literary Twitter, I thought Joanna Walsh’s new collection of short fiction might be just the thing for me.  And I was right, sort of…

Walsh’s second story in Worlds from the Word’s End entitled “Bookshelves” begins by describing a bibliophile’s collection of books.  I felt right at home in her story, among her books:

They spill from your shelves.  They sprawl by your bed, luxurious, splayed sometimes and discarded at an early page,  broken by your attentions.  On your shelf more books you would like to read are waiting, books you have ordered, their white bodies fat with potential.

But the author acknowledges that sometimes being surrounded by this number of books is overwhelming, one can’t possibly read all of them because “there are just so many to conquer.”  Walsh then asks us to open our minds and imagine, “Something you never thought might happen”:   A being who crawls out of your bookshelf who has read all of your neglected books!  Imagine stumbling upon this being sitting at your table, smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee.  This being has actually read all of your discarded, half-read books, anything that was sitting in a bag for the charity shop, including “ill-judged gifts from well-meaning relatives” and “gardening manuals” and even the  “memoirs of politicians.”  I began to feel better about the stacks of books sitting neglected on my own shelves and a little less guilty about the dozens of books I’ve sent to the charity shop.  I especially like the ending when the narrator realizes that this poor being has read some really lousy books and she feels grateful and even superior for her own literary discretion.

It is fitting that I didn’t actually finish all of the stories in Walsh’s collection, abandoning the book just before I made it through the last few stories.  My attention was diverted by the arrival of Thomas Bernhard’s Collected Poems and Music & Literature No. 8.   So I was hoping that one night, very late, when I can’t sleep that I will stumble into my kitchen and encounter one of my cats, sitting at the table, with a cigarette in one paw, a book in the other, and a glass of wine/whiskey in front of him, who will describe to me the rest of Walsh’s book.

Meanwhile, my other Fontane books arrived in the post and I’ve started Irretrievable.  So I guess I will stick with German Lit. for a while, but then again…

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Filed under British Literature

Review: Corven and the Krow by Jacob K. Webber

I received an advanced review copy of this novella from the author.  I don’t normally review fantasy titles, but I made an exception for this author because I know him personally.  He is one of my advanced Latin students.

My Review:
Corven and the KrowAs I have noted above I don’t usually read or review books in the fantasy genre.  It’s just not something that usually catches my attention, but when Mr. Webber sent me an e-mail to request a review how could I possibly say no?  He is one of the best students of Latin I have and, in fact, he is one of the most talented students I have ever had in my classes, so I was intrigued to see his writings.

Corven and the Krow is set in a pre-industrial, rural, agrarian society that one might encounter in The Lord of the Rings or, for those who are familiar with fantasy video games, in Skyrim.  The novella consists of a series of shorter stories which are all interconnected.  I was immediately drawn in by the set-up of the novella which describes a young girl sitting in a wagon being driven by an old man who has a large book out of which she reads this collection of stories.  We have no idea what the relationship is between these two or where they are going.  But is appears that these stories are meant to teach her some life lessons.

One of the figures that looms large and menacing over the entire story is the King Drevlyn, to whom we are introduced in the first story.  It is this cruel and powerful king around whom all of the stories revolve.  We learn that he defeated his predecessor in a bloody battle and has no mercy for anyone who did not take his side.  He demands loyalty and tribute even from the lowest members of his realm, including poor farmers.  If they don’t comply with the King’s demands then the punishment is swift and brutal.

The true talent of this author lies in his ability to create and fully describe an entire new world.  It is an amazing feat for an author to write a story set in the here and now, the contemporary world.  But I truly admire an author who can create an original world and convey the minute details about that world to others.  The world of Corven and the King and the Krow have objects and settings familiar to us, but they are crafted within the text in such a way as to encompass an entirely new and different world.

Finally, I have to mention the author’s obvious appreciation for and knowledge of the classical world.  The final story in the collection, Vita est Flumen (Life is a River), is an obvious nod to his classical education, but there are much deeper thoughts that are taken from Stoic philosophy.  All of life is constantly in flux;  life is oftentimes not fair and circumstances do not work out how we would wish.  What is important in this life is our reaction to events that are out of our control.  We must, essentially, go with the flow.

The author also designed his own cover art, which gives us a small preview of this fantasy world.  Please check out the author’s page on Amazon for more information: https://www.amazon.com/Corven-Krow-Jacob-K-Webber-ebook/dp/B01EIVWJ7S?ie=UTF8&keywords=jacob%20k.%20webber&qid=1464550195&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

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Filed under Novella

Review and Giveaway: Cauchemar by Alexandra Grigorescu

I received an advanced review copy of this book from ECW Press.

My Review:
CauchemarHannah lives in a house at the edge of a Louisiana swamp with her adopted mother Mae.  When Mae suddenly dies, Hannah is left completely alone at the age of 20, never having experienced very much of the world outside of their house on the swamp.

When Hannah has a funeral service for Mae, she meets a kind musician named Callum.  They become romantically involved and Callum seems to take the place of Mae as Hannah’s protector.  But what does Hannah need protecting from?

Throughout the course of the story we learn that Hannah’s biological mother, Christobelle, is a witch who is rumored to be able to communicate with the dead.  The townspeople shun Hannah because of her mother’s reputation, even though Hannah has never had anything to do with her biological mother and was raised by Mae.

The contrast between Christobelle and Mae are developed by the author throughout the book.  Whereas Mae is a care-giver and healer, Christobelle is selfish and drains the energy out of people she encounters, especially men.  Mae likes to heal and nourish people through food and Hannah also learns cooking skills from Mae.  The culinary aspects of the book are given a great amount of detail and the recipes are explained well enough for readers to try them in their own kitchens.

Hannah and Callum move into the house on the swamp together and strange things start happening.  Plagues of cicadas, snakes and frogs begin popping up, the house makes strange noises and Hannah and Callum have bizarre dreams.  The book is part romance, as Hannah and Callum become closer and are trying to decide how serious their relationship is, and part mystery as they are trying to figure out the strange phenomena they are encountering on the swamp.

I do not read many books in the mystery/fantasy genre, but I really enjoyed CAUCHEMAR.  It is well-written with just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader guessing what will happen to the characters until the very last page.

Giveaway:

I have one paperback copy of the book to give away to anyone in the U.S. or Canada.  To enter please leave a comment below letting me know that you want to win!  It’s that simple!  Giveaway ends on March 18th.  The winner will receive an e-mail and have 48 hours to respond with a valid mailing address.

 

About The Author:
A. GregoriescuAlexandra Grigorescu is the author of Cauchemar (ECW Press, 2015). She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto.

She’s worked as a freelance writer/editor for various Toronto magazines and websites.

Her writing has previously been published in Echolocation, Acta Victoriana, and the Hart House Review.

She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and a little black cat.

Blog Tour:
This is the complete list of stops on the blog tour:

March 1: The Book Binder’s Daughter, Review + Giveaway

March 2: Bibliotica, Review + Guest Post (the use of food to enhance the story)

March 3: Bella’s Bookshelves, Review + Excerpt (Ch. 1)

March 4: Write All The Words!, Guest post for International Women’s Week feature

March 5: Editorial Eyes, Interview + Excerpt (Ch. 2)

March 7: Lavendar Lines, Review

March 9: Svetlana’s Reads, Review

March 10: The Book Stylist, Review + Interview

March 11: Booking It With Hayley G., Review + Guest Post + Giveaway

March 12: Dear Teen Me, Guest post (letter to teen self)

March 13: The Book Bratz, Review + Giveaway

March 14: Feisty Little Woman, Interview + Excerpt (Ch. 3)

 

 

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Filed under Mystery/Thriller