‘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.

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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…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories Of Reality And Dream by Loredano Cafaro

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

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Of Reality And Dream: Tales Of Underground by Loredano Cafaro

Of Reality and Dream: Tales for Underground by [Loredano Cafaro]

This book is made up of short stories and flash fiction written by the author somewhere between high school and his mid-twenties. This is a tricky review to write because there were parts of this book I liked and some that I didn’t really get. The book was also originally written in Italian and has been translated and I found some of it difficult to read, I assume, because of that.

I’ll pick out the bits that I enjoyed, and that made it an okay read for me. The Book, the opening story, was really interesting and I enjoyed the premise of it. When Angels Die, I wasn’t sure I was going to get but the ending made it come together.

The Rain, seemed a little odd but then again the ending made it clear what was going on. On the Loch Ness – short but sweet. Untitled – a very interesting take on being given a second chance. Quasi-human demigods would not have been my usual choice of read but it was short and had an unexpected ending that I liked. The Mortal and the Eternal and The Lament were both good and again the endings made them.

Okay, so when I came to write this review and flipped through the book again I found I liked far more than I struggled with so that’s great. It’s also clear this author does endings well because in a world where we’re so often used to our stories ending the right way, for our characters to step up and be heroes this is a series of stories that go against the grain. I found it a challenging read but that is helped by the fact the stories are short and I’d encourage anyone who fancies something different to give it a try.

Book description

“If life were a movie, the soundtrack would be enough to inform us what is about to happen and, who knows, maybe we could even lull the conviction that we choose the music ourselves. Did I ever tell you about the illusion of free will?”

“Of Reality and Dream” is a collection of flash fiction and short stories suspended between the real and the imaginary, in which different atmospheres and genres share the absence of answers, heroes or winners; an introspective narration that unfolds in a dreamlike dimension, at times ironic, with predominantly dark tones. It was first introduced to the public in 1997 through an independent label that promoted the works of debutant authors on a stall in the historic Via Garibaldi in Turin, obtaining an appreciable acclaim. Part of the collection is re-edited in 2018, when some of the stories are included in the web app “Tales for Underground”, a project by Osmotica. Supplemented by “The illusion of Free Will”, an unpublished novella in seventeen cinematic-style scenes, in December 2018 this selection was published on Amazon in Kindle format, keeping the title of the original collection from 1997. In May 2019 it was translated into English.

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Of Reality and Dream: Tales for Underground by [Loredano Cafaro]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories More Glimpses by @HughRoberts05

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

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading More Glimpses by Hugh Roberts

More Glimpses is Hugh W Robert’s second collection of short stories and what a varied assortment they are. Some are long, some short and they are in a variety of genres covering drama, fantasy, horror, science fiction, action/adventure, comedy, murder/mystery, paranormal and rom com – seriously, something for everyone.

There were moving longer length pieces like The Whistle to mini-sagas such as the grisly Honeymoon.

My favourites were; the beautiful Floral HallThe Right Choice (just how extreme can gameshows get!), I loved the horrifying ending in the time travelling tale, Fast Forward and the dangers of being nosy in The Door.

This collection is well work further investigation if you are a lover of short stories.

Book description

Do you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden? Or know the real truth about what lurks inside every mobile phone? Would you steal items from a blind person, or send your neighbours on a time travelling adventure fraught with danger and menace to save the human race from a bug? How about staying in a sleepy village where many murders have taken place or coming to the aid of royalty while out shopping?

These are just some of the subjects covered in the second collection of short stories and flash fiction from author and writer, Hugh W. Roberts.

‘More Glimpses’ gives the reader an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of normal, everyday people whose lives are all on a path full of twists, turns and unexpected endings. However, it’s not only about the humans; nothing escapes the extraordinary journeys Hugh has planned for you. If you are a lover of shows such as ‘Black Mirror’ or ‘The Twilight Zone’ then you’re in for another exciting trip in this second collection from Hugh. Come and meet the characters who had no idea their lives were about to be turned upside-down. Enjoy the ride!

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstory Collection More Glimpses by @HughRoberts05

Today’s team review is from Teri, she blogs here https://teripolen.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Teri has been reading More Glimpses by Hugh Roberts

What an eclectic collection of short stories!  There’s something for everyone – horror, comedy, science fiction, mystery, paranormal.  Some are a scant few paragraphs, while others span several pages.  My reactions to these stories ran the gamut – laughter, shock, sadness, surprise.  The author has quite an imagination, and uses human nature and tendencies and our dependence on modern technology in clever ways.

All are a delight to read, but some that stuck with me are The Tunnel – such an unexpected ending, and I laughed out loud; Floral Hall – so sweet and melancholy; The Right Choice – words can have different, and sometimes very literal, meanings; The Hole – karma occasionally delivers in the most divine ways; and Easter Bunny Cake – I’ll never look at carrot cake the same way again.

Whatever your preferred genre, you’ll find it in this compilation of chilling, humorous, and unpredictable tales.

I received a copy of this novel from the author through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Book description

Do you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden? Or know the real truth about what lurks inside every mobile phone? Would you steal items from a blind person, or send your neighbours on a time travelling adventure fraught with danger and menace to save the human race from a bug? How about staying in a sleepy village where many murders have taken place or coming to the aid of royalty while out shopping?

These are just some of the subjects covered in the second collection of short stories and flash fiction from author and writer, Hugh W. Roberts.

‘More Glimpses’ gives the reader an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of normal, everyday people whose lives are all on a path full of twists, turns and unexpected endings. However, it’s not only about the humans; nothing escapes the extraordinary journeys Hugh has planned for you. If you are a lover of shows such as ‘Black Mirror’ or ‘The Twilight Zone’ then you’re in for another exciting trip in this second collection from Hugh. Come and meet the characters who had no idea their lives were about to be turned upside-down. Enjoy the ride!

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstory Collection The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

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3.5 stars 

As is usual with short story collections, these vary.  I very much liked the first one, On the Seventh Day, set on board ship, and hoped it set the scene for the quality of the rest of them.  

The ideas behind the stories were entertaining; Mr Demmer creates atmosphere well, and has a good sense of suspense and timing, so although there were no dropped-jaw-worthy twists or denouements, I still enjoyed reading most of them.  Some hinted at a larger story, which was artfully carried off.

What weakened the collection, for me, was the dialogue, which was often unrealistic; I kept thinking, ‘but people don’t talk like that’.  Not in all of the stories, just some.  I thought some of them were a little over-written, too, and unnecessarily wordy; sometimes, ‘stink’ works better than ‘pungent aroma’; knowing when to be spare with prose is one of the arts of great storytelling.

Others that stood out were the title story, The Sea was a Fair Master, The Snake, or the Humans?, and the last one, Sea Ate Nine.  

I think if the author spends more time on his dialogue and perhaps thinking up some really good twists in the tale now and again, to make them more memorable, he could do very well in this genre; he certainly has talent.  And if he ever turns his hand to longer fiction, it should definitely be set at sea.

Book description

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.

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