‘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.

Desc 1

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

‘Stunning and undefined from start to finish.’ @deBieJennifer reviews #shortstories The Shivering Ground And Other Stories by Sara Barkat

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

The Shivering Ground & Other Stories by [Sara Barkat]

Reviewing an anthology is always a tricky thing; because what is there to say that will accurately encompass almost a dozen, wildly different stories? Do you talk about the atmosphere? The characters? The creeping sense of dread? The killing hope? The gothic allusions? The shattering poignancy? The author herself and the incredible fact that this is only her first collection?

Yes, all of it.

Because that is exactly what Barkat’s debut collection, The Shivering Ground and Other Stories, is— all of these and so much more.

Written from such wildly different perspectives as a child in her garden, a nameless guard in a post-apocalyptic prison, and an ageless entity tasked with watching and cataloging the earths’ avian population, this collection covers a vast landscape of narrative possibilities. Beautiful in detail and haunting in execution, this is a collection made stronger for its defiance of categorization or genre. Whether crossing the twisted wasteland of an ending world, or the vastness of a photographer’s studio, Barkat lends weight to all her characters and their journeys, giving texture and color to their fears, hopes, and heartbreaks.

Across the depth and breadth of her collection, Barkat keeps an eye to the climate crisis of today, even as she dabbles with timelessness and universes removed from our own by a few heartbeats and a fingernail. Barkat is a young author with something to say about the mess of a world her generation (my generation too, if that matters) have inherited, but where other authors, poets, and activists howl, Barkat whispers. She edges around the corners of story and consciousness, never blatant but always present.

Always haunting.

The entirety of The Shivering Ground and Other Stories will follow readers for days, if not weeks, but particular standouts for me included the titular “The Shivering Ground”, the hauntingly-Frankensteinian “Conditions”, and the heartache of inevitability in “Noticing”.

Stunning and undefined from start to finish, Barkat is a fierce new voice with a lot to say and a long future ahead of her.


Desc 1

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 (Due to be published on Dec 1st)

The Shivering Ground & Other Stories by [Sara Barkat]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT HISTORICAL STORIES OF BETRAYAL by @JudithArnopp @AnnieWHistory et al.

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here https://suelbavey.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Sue has been reading Histories Of Betrayal by Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Annie Whitehead, Elizabeth St.John

Betrayal: Historical Stories by [Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek  Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy  Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Annie Whitehead, Elizabeth St.John]

5/5 stars

Historical Stories of Betrayal is a collection of twelve short fictional stories set in different periods throughout history, each with the theme of betrayal of one kind or another. The time periods range from post-Roman Britain to a 21st century alternative history and are presented chronologically. Each story has a distinctive flavour, brought to it by each of the author’s distinctive styles. They are each around forty pages long which makes it an easy book to pick up at various points throughout the day.

Learning to trust someone can take a long time and when that trust is betrayed it’s difficult to overcome the associated feelings of anger and disappointment, whatever the type of betrayal. There are many different kinds of betrayal described in this collection – by parents, lovers, friends and historical acts of treachery. There are many familiar historical characters included, such as pirates Ann Bonney and Calico Jack, explorer Francis Drake, Thomas Percy and Margaret Beaufort. My favourite stories were Judith Arnopp’s House Arrest, a tale of  Margaret Beaufort and King Richard III, set in the 15th century, and Annie Whitehead’s Love to Hatred Turn’d, a tale of courtly life and murderous plots, set in the 10th century.

There is also a wealth of authentic historical detail in these stories – these authors clearly know their chosen time periods and have done plenty of research.

I would highly recommend this collection to fans of historical fiction, stories filled with emotion and readers wanting to try out something by these particular authors before choosing to buy their full novels.

Book description

“Loyalty breaks as easily as a silken thread.”

Misplaced trust, power hunger, emotional blackmail, and greed haunt twelve characters from post-Roman Britain to the present day. And betrayal by family, lover, comrade can be even more devastating.

Read twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore these historical yet timeless challenges.

AD455—Roman leader Ambrosius is caught in a whirlpool of shifting allegiances
AD940—Alyeva and cleric Dunstan navigate the dangers of the Anglo Saxon court
1185—Knight Stephan fights for comradeship, duty, and honour. But what about love?
1330—The powerful Edmund of Kent enters a tangled web of intrigue
1403—Thomas Percy must decide whether to betray his sovereign or his family
1457—Estelle is invited to the King of Cyprus’s court, but deception awaits
1483—Has Elysabeth made the right decision to bring Prince Edward to London?
1484—Margaret Beaufort contemplates the path to treason
1577—Francis Drake contends with disloyalty at sea
1650—Can James Hart, Royalist highwayman, stop a nemesis destroying his friend?
1718—Pirate Annie Bonny, her lover Calico Jack, and a pirate hunter. Who will win?
1849/present—Carina must discover her ancestor’s betrayer in Italy or face ruin.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Betrayal: Historical Stories by [Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek  Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy  Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Annie Whitehead, Elizabeth St.John]

Rosie’s #BookReview of Short Story Collection THINGS YOUR HUSBAND TOLD ME by Michelle Keill #TuesdayBookBlog

Things Your Husband Told MeThings Your Husband Told Me by Michelle Keill

View all my reviews on Goodreads

I chose to read this book after reading The Four Women a couple of years ago. Things Your Husband Told Me contains five short stories about relationships. Each has a female narrator and the author used minimal descriptions of the settings, just enough for me to form pictures in my mind without them drawing attention away from the main plot.

In the first story, Rearview Mirror, a women is running away; she’s reckless and carefree, but this is a façade. Each person that she meets on her journey is important, and just how important is revealed at the end.

Next, Maggie meets Joe in The Chemistry Section. She’s very open about her belief that he’s being dishonest to his wife when he asks her out for a drink. Their friendship continues but Maggie always tries to push Joe away, testing his patience until it becomes clear that she believes that she’s unworthy of love.

The third story, Roller Coaster, is about an office affair, with all the high and low emotions which Katie went through during her secret love match with Jim, her boss. She knew it wouldn’t last, that he’d never leave his wife, but the giddy delight she felt from the secrecy overwhelmed her sensibility.

In Just For Tonight, the relationship turns out to be much more than one night. A politician meets a woman in a bar and they have an affair. She is unnamed and it becomes a kind of test for her; she doesn’t like his public profile, and she goes to lengths to persuade herself that when he is with her, he is a different man. This was a women who was always trying to convince herself differently.

The last story Things Your Husband Told Me, sees Erin looking back on her life. Set in New York, Erin  met Jack through work. He was from the mid-west and his mannerisms made him stand out. Although Erin was attracted to Jack, she tried to change him; his clothes, his apartment, his love for his hometown. I thought that this story was about regret.

Each of the stories dealt with different struggles that these women went through in their lives and particularly in relationships with men. I liked the author’s style and how she made each story different, especially how the emotions and journeys through life felt so real. I thought the stories were an excellent example of how to write about the complexities of human relationships in the short story format.

Book description

In this candid and stirring collection, five women tell tales of chance encounters that changed their lives forever.

They share stories of love found, forbidden, and forsaken. They speak of abandoning control, of flashes of chemistry, and of losing the irreplaceable. Escaping the past and running headlong into the future, they break hearts, they break free, and ignite sparks of desire and inspiration.

As they embark upon their journeys of self-discovery, and of self-destruction, they bravely explore the furthest reaches of their deepest emotions and boldly reveal the things they learn along the way…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Rusticles by @rlgransden #Shortstory collection

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs at http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Rusticles by Rebecca Gransden


My Review:

I am unfamiliar with this author’s work so the first time I read each story two thoughts struck me: they are unique in that they are written in an oblique style difficult to grasp initially; much is implied within phrases and partial , seemingly unfinished dialogue. And secondly, that  these tales are almost poetic prose. I say almost, because for me, they stopped just short of creating flowing images; the pictures they create are elusive. And this, I think, is what Rebecca Gransden is aiming for in Rusticles; that tenuousness grasp of understanding. So that the readers is forced to interpret each story in their own way. This place, Hilligoss, is filled with characters that tell a tale, a moment in their time, of their lives, through an individualistic, idiosyncratic point of view. I suppose there is no right or wrong way for the reader to decode what they are reading.

I liked the cover; the blending of the colours, the vague images. The way the eye is led to the light. The rust shades that reflect the title. Said aloud the title rolls of the tongue. I had to look up the meaning of the word. The interpretation is as follows:

A rusticle is a formation of rust similar to an icicle or stalactite in appearance that occurs underwater when wrought iron oxidizes. They may be familiar from underwater photographs of shipwrecks, such as the RMS Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck. Rusticles are created by microbes that consume iron.

So it’s a clever title. I just wasn’t sure of the stories. They weren’t really to my taste as a reader. But I may be missing the whole point of this book. I’d be interested to see what other readers think.

Book Description

In Hilligoss, a tired man searches for a son, a flamingo enthrals the night, and fireworks light up the lost. In these stories and more, Rusticles offers a meandering tour through backroads bathed in half light, where shadows play along the verges and whispers of the past assault daydreams of the present. Walk the worn pathways of Hilligoss.

About the author

Rebecca Gransden

This author has always lived by the sea.

She tends to write about the edges of things so if you inhabit the fringes you may find something to like.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Magic Fishing Panties by @KimDalferes

Today’s team book review comes from Judith, she blogs at http://judithbarrowblog.com/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Judith chose to read and review Magic Fishing Panties by Kimberly Dalferes


I gave Magic Fishing Panties 4* out of 5

First of all I’d like to thank Rosie Amber and  Kimberly J. Dalferes  for giving me this opportunity to review this book

I need to say nothing more than I loved he Magic Fishing Panties by Kim Dalferes. But, of course I will, because I want more people to read this fabulous collection of short stories and essays. I read it one sitting, ignoring all the ‘to-do’ tasks that were indelibly printed on my brain until I picked up this book and started reading. It’s a long time since I indulged myself like this and I’m not sorry. The author’s voice shines through in each story, whether it’s one that makes you laugh out loud, sigh with nostalgis or weep (which one or two did to me!) And there are a few that make you sit back and think, perhaps shake your head in amazement at the obtuse, insensitive attitude of some people, and then wonder at  Kim Dalferes’ ability to retain a sense of humour.. And be able to craft a story about  it with such skill.

Picture the scene: The school bus, too early to pick up the children on the other side of an intersection (crossroads for UK readers) parked right in the middle until the driver decides it’s the correct time and blocking all traffic.

Enter Kim Dalferes …

“‘Did any other adult offer assistance? Nada. Not a single one…I soon found myself juggling leash, tugging dog, and blue plastic poop bag precariously with my right hand, my coffee mug in the left, and directing traffic through the intersection while simultaneously shooing children out of the road …”

It’s just part of one of many hilarious passages. Kim Dalferes interweaves reality, poignancy, honesty (at whatever cost to herself) and comedy. I can heartily recommend the Magic Fishing Panties .

Find her book here: