Final Thoughts On Shorts. We have been helping students at University College Cork @UCC #CorkReviews @tspoetry

The final review from our shared short story project with review team member Jenni and her first year English students at University College Cork. You can catch up with the first two posts about this here and here.

Three authors kindly offered their short story collections to the students to help with this project. The books were:

The Shivering Ground And Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Dead Boxes Archive by John F Leonard

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

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The Shivering Ground is a collection of 11 independent short stories by author Sara Barkat. Reading the collection feels like drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, while the heavy rain of a winter night is rapping against the window. Throughout every one of the short stories, Barkat dissects complex human feelings such as the part of childhood when imagination meshes with reality, the intricate relationship between siblings, and never-to-be lovers. The stories follow varied settings: from a little girl exploring her house to post-war prison filled with uneasiness and tragedy. Conditions takes the reader to the house of a scientist who revives animals by electric shocks of energy, The Mannequin is set in a dystopic society where pain can be nullified by surgery.  Noticing is set in a place where time and space do not matter anymore and mysterious entities named “the watchers” take notes of every invention ever made by humankind.

The Shivering Ground is simply splendidly written and reflects through metaphors on the condition of being human and the conflicts in life, and the meaning of feeling and being alive in any society. Reading The Shivering Ground can transport you to a different cosmos, meeting incredible, memorable characters. Barkat’s writing is like combining prose and poetry; she’s a strong new provocative voice and has the power, through this collection of short stories, to make you think and reflect.  The collection is a must-read.

4 STARS. by Zoe M

More Thoughts On Shorts. We have been helping students at University College Cork @UCC #CorkReviews @tspoetry @TerryTyler4

Yesterday I introduced a short story project which we have been helping with. You can read the first post here, which review team member Jenni and her English students at University College Cork have been completing.

Three authors kindly offered their short story collections to the students to help with this project. The books were:

The Shivering Ground And Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Dead Boxes Archive by John F Leonard

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

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‘The Shivering Ground and Other Stories’ was a hypnotic read. A step away from existential horror, it veers into an otherworldly realm far away from whimsical fantasy. These stories span historical to futuristic, the points of view of a child to a mad scientist, first person to second person to third person. Sara Barkat has a multiplicity of writing instruments at her disposal, and she commits to use them all. Her ability to do so as artfully as she does is an impressive feat for a debut collection.

These stories first and foremost focus on people. Barkat uses myriad characters to voice her stories. Her skill in bringing life and purpose to such contrasting characters is impressive. In each story these characters and their relationships stay central, yet we see the edges of the elaborate worldbuilding Barkat has constructed. The hinting at the world surrounding these stories rather than lengthy exposition was something I particularly enjoyed about this collection. Barkat only brings in information when it is relevant and natural to do so. She manages to create a holistic experience where these sometimes implausible, worlds seem as real as the one we are living in. Throughout the collection there is an apocalyptic sense of doom woven into each world. This eerie sense of inevitability echoes hauntingly in each story. It is impossible to escape it no matter which of the wide variety of stories you jump into. The halting, off-kilter rhythm forces the reader to face the horror right in front of them, yet even with the pessimistic outcome of the world around them, these characters continue to exist, and their stories continue to be told. Barkat places importance on the strength and continuity of humanity. She picks up the threads of humanity and shows the reader how true empathy can remain even in violent and desolate landscapes.

The titular story, ‘The Shivering Ground,’ is exemplar of what to expect from Barkat’s other work. It is set in a fantastical universe devastated by war and violence. The focus is on a character weighed down by loneliness and the meaninglessness of their life. Differences between characters are overcome by an inherent human preference for empathy. Even in hopeless situations, human connection forms.

This collection is quiet in its writing. Everything is subdued, but not to the point of disappearing. Each story had a mysterious element, designed to provoke a perhaps unanswerable question. The vast majority of this collection delivers on that. However, in the occasional story, there was a point where the mystery faded into fogginess, where the fog became more disorientating than thought-provoking. Nonetheless, Sara Barkat’s descriptions are immersive to a point past vividness. The descriptions almost evoke synaesthesia at some points. Each sentence was a joy to read in its elaborate and artful construction. Overall, this collection was a delightful and eye-opening read.

I recommend this collection for those who want to experience a deep dive into otherworldly narratives focused on human nature. I can say for definite that I have not been able to stop thinking about this collection. Its haunting nature is one that sticks with you long after you close the book.

Rating: 4/5 By Grace K.

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One of the flat out coolest short story collections I’ve read in a long time, Terry Tyler’s Patient Zero lives somewhere in the cracks between novels, and yet doesn’t feel reliant on them. I’ve read short story one-offs, epilogues, and continuations of novels before, and more frequently than not, those stories are entirely reliant on the parent work. You cannot read those shorter forays into whichever world they live in without also being intimately familiar with the novels they surround, otherwise the reader ends up lost entirely.

Not so with Patient Zero. In a six sentence Introduction, Tyler sets up everything a reader needs to know about her Project Renova series, and then sends them forth to read Patient Zero’s short stories, unfettered by the weight of the novels. And it’s great!

Would the experience be heightened by actually reading the Project Renova novels? Probably. But is it necessary to understand and enjoy the stories of Patient Zero? Nope, not at all. An unstoppable virus is killing people by the truckload and here is a selection of people from all over England and all walks of life, and how they dealt with said virus – get on board and enjoy the ride.

Occasionally triumphant, sometimes ironic, always written with a voice entirely unique to the character narrating that particular story, Tyler’s Patient Zero spans the breadth of human experience in a desperate situation. From the moral dilemma of one of the lucky few vaccinated, to a woman’s search for redemption following a painful confession to a child’s take of apocalypse and a doomsday prepper’s vindication, it’s all here in sharp, fast little bites of stories.

Evocative throughout, though maybe a little closer to home than some people really want in the Year of Our Lord 2021, look out especially for the opening story “Jared: The Spare Vial”, the wit of “Aaron: #NewWorldProblems”, and the distinct, if drifting, voice of “Meg: The Prison Guard’s Wife”.

5/5 (By JDB)

Thoughts On Shorts. We have been helping students at University College Cork @UCC #CorkReviews @tspoetry @john_f_leonard

Here on Rosie Amber’s book blog, I like to encourage reading and reviewing, so when review team member Jenni approached me about a short story project for her first year English students at University College Cork, I was eager to help.

Jenni’s students were asked to put together a mock-up of a new short story literary magazine, and then “pitch” their magazine to a panel of judges. One of the sections that they could include was a review of a collection of short stories.

Three authors kindly offered their short story collections to the students to help with this project. The books were:

The Shivering Ground And Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Dead Boxes Archive by John F Leonard

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

Over the next three days I will post the reviews.

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Sara Barkat’s whirlwind of magnetic short stories in her latest collection The Shivering Ground & Other Stories introduces the reader to tales of past and future, unearthly events, and abnormalities. Written in a short-story format, Barkat intertwines alienated aspects of a futuristic world with reality, awakening feelings of hope and hopelessness, gloom, and purity. The independent short stories pose questions of what can or could be done, the majority poised at the edge of the end of the world.

Each short story is set apart, different from the other, they all meet in the centre of complex human relationships and emotions. The tales are not as straightforward, and one would often be met with confusion and questions at the end. Often the stories are quite melancholic, mind-bending, and nostalgic, which associates nicely with the surreal feel of the collection. Barkat builds unique worlds and situations in which the characters find themselves in. Aspects which seem fictitious to us in today’s world, such as hearts kept safe in a mannequin or aliens evading earth, are brought to life in this collection. Though disturbing, Barkat inserts human emotions into her tales and links the two worlds together. The contrasting settings mix with varying narratives unite the reader with the characters of the stories, whether it be by putting them in the shoes of the character, or shoes of their own.

Brianna is one of the eleven stories of the collection: it follows a sleeping maiden and her prince, Peter. However, Brianna is entrapped by roses and its thorns, and no prince has been able to cross the enchantments that protect her. There is a sense of danger and gloom that surrounds the sleeping maiden, and yet the prince of our story refuses to wander away from his supposed love. He gives her a kiss on the lips, and she wakes. The same sense of gloom continues as the now awaken maiden desperately apologises to the prince, assuring him that he would soon regret that he had woken her up in the first place. His parents try dragging him away from Brianna, claiming that it is not safe to be around her. Just like the other stories in the collection, Barkat encourages the reader the think of the possible messages and morals of the tale. Brianna can be compared to The Sleeping Beauty in some sense, but with a darker perspective. One may also compare it to hopeless relationships, where one person is overtaken by depression, and yet the love interest is convinced that they can take the person out of the pitch-black pit, unaware of the dangers that it might bring to them.

If you wish to analyse these short stories on your own, I encourage you to do so! This is only one example of Sara Barkat’s new short story collection, The Shivering Ground & Other Stories, and there is plenty more that she has to offer! (4/5 stars)

Written by: Nika K

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Words dissemble

Words be quick

Words resemble walking sticks

Plant them they will grow

Watch them waver so

I’ll always be a word man

Better than a bird man

–              Jim Morrison, “Curses, Invocations”

Per his end of collection “Author’s Note” Leonard “believe[s] a story, even a short one, deserves some sort of prelude. Something to ease the reader into what will hopefully be a memorable and enjoyable experience.” Taking my lead from him, this review (short as it is) gets a snippet of Morrison, a personal favourite when it comes to poetry and performance, and a soul that might just be twisted enough to mesh with Leonard’s personal brand of irony and horror. Of course, the above-mentioned author’s note is itself just the prelude to one final entry into The Dead Boxes Archive, one last story about deals struck, promises made, and promises kept in the most perverse ways possible.

                I have a feeling Morrison might have appreciated that too, but let’s not make this a complete digression into dead rockers and the hauntings they left behind.

                John Leonard’s The Dead Boxes Archive is a series of loosely connected stories, most centring on a “dead box”, objects of eldritch power that give and takes with a set of unbalanced scales. Whether the box is stadium shaped, a township that sits just off kilter from our dimension, or a pen that is indeed mightier than the sword, Leonard’s boxes haunt both the owners who hold them and the readers who watch this unfold. Each story is a realm unto itself, but those looking for connective tissue beyond the general theme of cursed objects acting like cursed objects, will find a deeper plot echoing across the background of Leonard’s tormented landscape. Are the end times nigh? Haunted cults and beings from another realm afoot? Or merely a presence from the past lingering well into the here and now? Bate your breath and batten down the hatches, a phone with no guts is ringing and a pen with no ink is writing this story— The Dead Boxes Archive awaits you.

5/5 (Reviewed by JDB)

‘Reading is always a subjective and personal experience’. @OlgaNM7 reviews #ShortStory collection The Shivering Ground And Other Stories by Sara Barkat @tspoetry

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading The Shivering Ground And Other Stories by Sara Barkat

I enjoy short stories, but I rarely read anthologies or collections of them, other than those of authors I already know and whose writing I love. However, although I had never read this author’s work before, there was something compelling and utterly different about this book, and the cover and the title added to the appeal.

Although I’m not sure what I was expecting to read, the stories were surprising and extremely varied. Some seemed to be set in the present (or an alternative version of the present), some in the past (or a possible past), some in a dystopian future, some in parallel universes, and the characters varied from very young children to adults, and from human beings to a variety of “Others”. Some of the stories are very brief, some are long enough to be novellas (or almost), and they are written from all possible points of view: first person, third person (in some cases identified as “they”), and even second person. I usually would try to give an overview of themes and subjects making an appearance in the stories, but that is notably difficult here. The description accompanying the book gives a good indication of what to expect, and if I had to highlight some commonalities between the stories, I would mention, perhaps, the desire and need to connect and communicate with others, in whatever form possible, and to create and express one’s feelings and thoughts, through any medium (music, painting, writing, sewing…),

These short stories are not what many readers have come to expect from the form: a fully developed narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, although usually providing fewer details and not so much character development as we would find in a novel, and often with a surprising twist at the end that can make us reconsider all we have read up to that point. Barkat’s stories are not like that. They rarely have a conventional ending (even when they do, it is open to readers’ interpretations), sometimes there are descriptive passages that we aren’t used to seeing in short narratives, and the plot isn’t always the most important part of the story (if at all). The way the story is told, the style and beauty of the writing, and the impressions and feelings they cause on the reader make them akin to artworks. If reading is always a subjective and personal experience, this is, even more, the case here, and no description can do full justice to this creation.

Despite that, I decided to try to share a few thoughts on each one of the stories, in case it might encourage or help other readers make their own minds up. I’d usually add here that I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but these are not that kind of stories either.

1. The Door at the End of the Path. A wonderful story full of vivid descriptions of a young girl’s imagination, her internal life, and a reflection of the heavy toll the difficult relationship of the parents can have on their children.

2. Conditions. A glimpse into the relationship between a brother and a sister, where the best intentions can have the worst results, set in a world that is half-dystopia, half an alternative present, with more than a slight touch of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

3. The Eternal In-Between. A dystopia set during a pandemic, with plenty of steampunk-like fancies, and an ode to the power of imagination.

4. The Mannequin. A dystopian world epitomized by the willingness of its subjects to undergo quite an extreme and symbolic procedure to keep the status quo in place.

5. Brianna. A very special retelling of a fairy-tale story that digs dip into the psychological aspects and the effects such events would have over real people, especially if it was a fate repeated generation after generation. One of my favourites.

6. Noticing. A story with a strong ecological theme, a generous dose of fantasy, some beautiful illustrations and eerie pictures, an endorsement of the power of stories, and a strong warning we should heed. Both terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful. Another favourite.

7. Entanglement. A short but compelling story/metaphor of a love affair, and/or the possibility of one.

8. The Day Before Tomorrow. Although set in a very strange and dystopic society, it is a Young Adult story of sorts, and the relationship between the two main characters feels totally natural and everyday, despite the extremely unusual surroundings. Perhaps our stories never change, no matter what might be happening around us. A hopeful story I really enjoyed.

9. It’s Already Too Late. Very brief, very compelling vignette with a very strong ecological message. A call to forget about our excuses and the reasons to carry on doing nothing.

10. The Shivering Ground. A sci-fiction/fantasy/dystopian story that might seem utterly sad and pessimistic, but it is also moving and (I think) hopeful.

11. A Universe Akilter. A wonderful story that kept wrong-footing me, as if the ground the story was set on kept shifting. A Universe Akilter indeed! It starts as the story of the breakup of a romance, seemingly because the man has been caught up cheating, set some time in the past (many of the details and the way the characters behave sound Victorian, but there are small incongruous details that pop up every so often and others that seem to shift), but as the story progresses, it becomes the story of a (possible?) love affair in parallel universes (the universe of our dreams, perhaps), that influences and changes the life of the protagonist, making him discover things about himself and his creativity he would never have considered otherwise. This is the longest story in the book and one that might especially appeal to readers of dual-time or time-travel stories (although it is not that at all).

As usual, I recommend those thinking about reading this collection check a sample of it. The stories are quite different from each other, but it should suffice to provide future readers with a good feel for the writing style.

I could not help but share a few paragraphs from the book, although as I have read an ARC copy, there might be some small changes to the final version.

All the wreckage, all the ruin, and the ground was brilliant red. Every morning, he would wake to more of the world ending, and the earth laid out a scarlet cloak as though waiting for an emperor to arrive.

He wishes, desperately, that he could remember the sound of her voice hen she still knew innocence; that he had thought to fold it in his pocket with the mementos of another life.

Perhaps being a mis-turned wheel in a spinning globe is only as it should be after all, when in the spring, the scent of mint and apple blossoms fills the acres behind you.

But, surely, I wondered, interpretability only goes so far. To go further would be to strike out onto one’s own adventure, breaking the mass of the art’s finished illusion.

I wouldn’t say I “understood” all the stories, or I got the meaning the author intended (if she had a specific design for each one of her stories), but I don’t think that is what this collection is about. Like in an exhibition of artworks, the important thing is what each one of them makes us feel, what thoughts and reflections they set in motion, and how much of an impression they leave on us.

I don’t recommend this book to readers looking for traditionally told short stories, with a clear beginning and end, and a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, readers seeking for something outside the norm and happy to: explore new worlds, try new experiences, ponder about meanings and possibilities, and get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of the words, should read this collection. It’s too beautiful to miss.

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The Shivering Ground blends future and past, earth and otherworldliness, in a magnetic collection that shimmers with art, philosophy, dance, film, and music at its heart.

A haunting medieval song in the mouth of a guard, an 1800s greatcoat on the shoulders of a playwright experiencing a quantum love affair, alien worlds both elsewhere and in the ruined water at our feet: these stories startle us with the richness and emptiness of what we absolutely know and simultaneously cannot pin into place.

In the tender emotions, hidden ecological or relational choices, and the sheer weight of a compelling voice, readers “hear” each story, endlessly together and apart.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Guess the historical figures or famous people from the clues. @OlgaNM7 reviews Backstories by @SimonVdVwriter

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

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I enjoy short stories, but recently I have not read as many as I used to, preferring to read novels that build up more slowly and give you the opportunity to get to know the characters and see how they evolve over time. So this was a bit of an unusual choice for me, but I kept reading intriguing reviews of this book, and after checking it out, I had to read the whole thing. And it was worth it.

I had never read anything by the author, although he has been writing for a while and his short-stories have earned him a variety of awards and accolades, but I suspect this won’t be the last of his books I read, and he is already preparing a second volume of Backstories for publication.

It is a bit difficult to talk about this book in any detail without giving too much away. The author explains his goals and what the book is about quite clearly in his description, so I won’t go over it again. I am not sure that I would describe it as a collection of short-stories. Some are biographical vignettes, moments in somebody’s life (or their backstories, if we like), where something momentous happened, or is about to happen (in some cases), while others fit in more easily with the standard understanding of a short story containing a full narrative. In some ways, I guess it is the reader’s job to complete the story, by guessing who the protagonist is and understanding how that snippet fits in with the rest of the person’s life, how significant or important it might be, and how much it reveals of what we know happened next to the person.

In some cases, we see a famous person (some are musicians, some important historical figures, some sports personalities, some less-than-savoury characters…) as children or very young adults, and the author cleverly creates a picture of who they were and how that relates to who they will become. Sometimes, we see somebody on the verge of doing something that would change things forever, and at others, we get an inkling of what things might have been like if something hadn’t happened or circumstances had been different. One of the stories illustrated perfectly a quandary I’ve had for years about a historical figure, as if the author had read my mind, but I’ll keep my peace about it as well.

There are 14 stories, tightly written, some in the first and some in the third person, and they move quickly, the style of writing easy but at the same time adapted to the personality, the era, and the location of the individual portrayed by each. Most of them are told from the point of view of the famous person, although there are some in which we see them reflected through somebody else’s eyes. It is very difficult to stop reading the stories, especially if you enjoy guessing games or quizzes, as one gets gripped by what is happening at the time and also hooked on trying to find who the person is. If you want to know how well I got on, yes, I guessed all of them (although in one of the cases I had only a passing acquaintance with the character, and I ended up checking to make sure), and some had me scratching my head until the very end or changing my mind several times as I read, while others I suspected from early on.

I enjoyed them all, in different ways (some because I felt the build up of the situation, others because the story itself was moving and/or inspiring, some because I loved the protagonists, and some because they chilled me to the bone), and I think most readers will find some that work better for them than others, particularly if they admire some of the protagonists, but there isn’t a bad one in the lot. These are not sanitized and clean stories, and readers must be warned that they will find all kinds of violence, abuse, prejudice… depicted in its pages. The author has explained his reasoning behind his choices, and a percentage of the book’s earnings will go to good causes, so this is more than justified, in my opinion. I recommend this highly enjoyable collection to anybody who loves quizzes, who has ever wondered what happened before historical figures or famous people became who they are, and particularly to those who prefer their reading short, crisp, and based on facts rather than fancy. And, if you like the formula, don’t forget that there is a second book coming your way soon.

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These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60s and 70s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice – but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them – leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstories Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

Today’s team review is from Georgia. She blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

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Backstories is a great idea. Take famous people from history, ancient or more recent, and write a short backstory about them allowing the reader to uncover who they are as the story progresses. I enjoyed reading the stories in this book.

There were 14 in all. I knew 12 of them and by swapping notes with another review team member I found out who the others were. It might have been helpful to have had a list of the answers at the back. I found that some of them were very clearly signposted, others, not so much. For me, however, the best bit was that I enjoyed the writing throughout all of the stories very much and don’t hesitate in recommending this book to all who like well-written short stories with a small mystery to solve.

4 stars

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Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth? These are people you know, but not as you know them.Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstories Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

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3.5 stars


This is a novel idea – a series of easy-read short stories, each one an imagined snapshot of the early years of well-known person, but ‘the reveal’ doesn’t come until the end, so you can have a good time guessing the identity of the main character as you read.  


They’re clearly well-researched; I guessed all of them except one (Past Time), which was about someone I’d heard of without knowing anything about their life; however, I was able to do ‘swapsies’ with another member of the review team, as I knew a couple that she didn’t!  


Slight downsides – I found some were made too obvious; I’d have an idea who it was, then instead of there being a more telling hint at the end, it was given away too early or spelled out in black and white, and then underlined (metaphorically).  Not all of them, just some.  Also, the nature of the theme does rather tempt one to rush through to spot the clues, rather than just reading the story at a normal pace.  They’re all nicely written but, for me, lacked that ‘X’ factor.  This is, of course, only down to personal taste.


My favourites were The Blank Face, Preserved in Amber and Tonight’s The Night.

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Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth? These are people you know, but not as you know them.Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #ShortStories Penny Pinching For The Morally Bankrupt by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Georgia. She blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Penny Pinching For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall.

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Goodness… where to start with my review of Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt. This is probably the most diverse book of short stories I’ve come across, and with such a range of eclectic stories, among the 43 in this volume, there’s bound to be something in there for everyone. There are some longer pieces while others are very short, only a page or two.

I loved Libby Marshalls writing style, it’s lean, punchy and very good, and her sense of humour, which is quick and darkly mischievous. Her ideas are highly original and Marshall writes what many of us may think but hesitate to express.

Did I love every story? No. But I loved, or liked, the majority, and certainly enough that when I finished I went to Marshall’s website to see what else I could find to read on there.

Despite what the title, and cover, may have you believe this is most definitely a work of fiction. If you’re looking to save money, look elsewhere, this is not for you, unless, of course, you happen to be morally bankrupt, in which case…

Addictive page turning has meant I got through this book of unique gems quickly and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to all those who don’t mind the occasional sexual reference and F word and who long to read something that little bit different.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories PENNY PINCHING TIPS FOR THE MORALLY BANKRUPT by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Penny Pinching Tips For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall

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This is probably the first collection of short stories I’ve ever read, and I had such a good experience that I will definitely be doing it again in the future. Libby Marshall has a seriously twisted sense of humour, and I loved it. The stories themselves were very short, with the longest being maybe twenty pages, and the majority being about five.

I couldn’t possibly cover all the stories in this review, but some of my favourite were: Act Of God, where a recently homeless woman has a morbid, yet uplifting conversation with a Sears employee about buying a fridge; Signs, in which a woman has become dependant on a sign that tells her what her current emotion is; 90 Day Fiance: Dracula (the title really speaks for itself). 

One of the key draws of this collection was its black humour. Its ironic, sarcastic and sometimes snide nature lined up well with the type of book I enjoy reading. I felt that it would probably be best enjoyed by a young, liberal audience.

The nature of reading short stories means that you will inevitably enjoy some of them more than others, and it was no different for me. There were a handful of the 43 stories that I didn’t like very much, and a number that I thought were mediocre or didn’t fully grasp. However, that’s the beauty of an anthology: the next one is a fresh start. Moreover, the extremely varied nature of the stories means that there is a significant chance you will find ones that you enjoy.

The stories themselves were very imaginative and out there. On multiple occasions I was astounded by just how strange the premise of one was. However, there were also plenty that were beautifully simplistic, although no less poignant. They covered a wide range of themes, with jokes on almost every topic relevant to the current social climate.

Due to just how short the stories were, the characters were often quite archetypal, although in some ways that was good. Playing into such stereotypes allowed the humour to be punchier and sharper, I thought. The dialogue was excellently constructed to give a sense of the character in the shortest space possible. However, a few of the characters were a bit deeper in some of the longer stories, which again was nice for the sake of variety.

Overall, I’d give the collection a 5.5 out of 7. There were plenty of stories that I liked and a few that I loved. The experimental ones that didn’t quite work for me were easily overlooked. If you haven’t read a short story anthology, this is a really easy place to start.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories PENNY PINCHING TIPS FOR THE MORALLY BANKRUPT by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Sherry. She blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Sherry has been reading Penny Pinching Tips For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall

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Let me first say, I think I would love to spend a day with this author. She has a very vivid imagination, a clear love for Cold Stone Creamery, and a disturbing way of looking at many regular occurrences in all of our lives.  And I don’t say that in a bad way. 

This book is a collection of short stories and some even shorter views of things we all experience, but certainly don’t think about in strange ways. At least not until they’re pointed out by Libby Marshall.  Then it’s so obvious that she observes events and normality in a different way than most of us.

Some of the stories are poignant and some are really funny in a twisted way. I won’t say which I felt was which lest I be judged for my giggles.  

I enjoyed these little tales and vignettes during my lunch hour and on small breaks from work. They are just short enough to fill in gaps in the day when you need a little smile….or a bit of melodrama.

Some of my favorites—by no means an exhaustive list—are “Witnesses of Historic Moments Who Missed the Point; 90 Day Fiancé: Dracula; A Man Goes on His First Date Since His Wife was Hanged for Witchcraft; Please Continue this Conversation as Normal or I’ll Be Forced to Assume it was About me; Yes, of Course I’m satisfied by just the Tip of this Piece of Cheesecake; and Yelp Reviews of the Chuck E. Cheese Haunted by the Spirit of Princess Diana.

There are so many more awesome little tales in this book. I recommend it highly for its sense of fun as well as the author’s sense of humor and her appreciation for the ridiculous. I really enjoyed this one.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

56483715. sy475