Wonderful collection of unique short stories

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We Love Anderson Cooper by R.L. Maizes

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A young girl’s father dies and her mother gives her a parakeet to cheer her up but that only worsens her feelings of loss.  A young boy decides to use his bar mitzvah as the time to come out about being gay.  A struggling artist turns to doing tattoos which are more real than usual.  A Jewish man struggles with his jealousy of his cat’s affections for his Christian girlfriend and her desire to celebrate Christmas.  A cat named Grievous makes a profound impact on her family.  A therapist finds a couch for her office that does a better job than she does.  Petal and Tanner are two dogs that are sorely missed by their owner.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with these wonderful, unique short stories.  Many of the stories have pets as a focal point.  The author uses these conflicts caused by pets as a fascinating way of exploring grief, loss and jealousy.  Another theme the author uses in these stories is that of being an outsider.  Some of these stories are humorous, some are tragic and some are pure magic.  The last line of the last story, “Ghost Dogs”, quite literally tore my heart in two.  I just sat there stunned.  This isn’t a book I requested but it found its way to me anyway and I’m so glad it appeared one day.  Thank you, Celadon Books, for sending me this lovely book.  I will treasure it always.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Poetical masterpiece

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Tell Me Who We Were: Stories – Kate McQuade

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Mr. Arcilla, a language teacher at an all-girls boarding school, has drowned and it has sent his young students spinning.  Lilith, Claire, Romy, Grace, Evie and Nellie struggle to find understanding of this loss as Mr. Arcilla was their first true love.  They learn that Mr. Arcilla was nude when he was found and that leads them to believe he had been with his lover that evening and they try to work out who that would have been.  This defining moment in their young lives will have an effect on them their entire lives.

This is a series of interconnected short stories following the lives of these young girls.  The stories are inspired by myths about women.  This author is a fearless one and she has her finger on the pulse of what being a woman is all about.  Although these women may have led different lives from mine, I recognized each of them in a deep way.  She covers all areas of women’s lives – their young girlhoods, their loves, their marriages, their desire and fear of having children, their losses and even a bit of their afterlife.

There is such beauty and magic in this book that I don’t even want to start another book for a few days.  I just want this one to sit simmering in my heart for awhile.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

 

A master short-story author

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Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star review

The first story, “The Woman in the Window”, opens with a naked woman sitting in a window waiting for her married lover.  Is there still love in her heart for this man or has it turned to hatred?  Have her feelings for her remained the same?

In “The Long-Legged Girl”, a woman has decided to play Russian roulette with poisoned tea with her husband’s beautiful dance student.

“Sign of the Beast” is a disturbing tale of a young boy who Sunday School teacher shows him unwanted attention.

In “Walking Wounded”, a man working on a well-known author’s posthumous work keeps finding erotic references that seem to reflect what’s happening in his own life.

The title story, “Night-Gaunts”, explores the damnation of heredity is such a frightening way.

If I had to pick a favorite out of all of these unique stories, it would be “The Experimental Subject”.  This is a nightmarish story about a lab technician who lures a naïve, unattractive young woman to be the unknowing recipient of a chimpanzee’s sperm in the hopes that she will give birth to the first “Humanzee”.

I have never been disappointed by the work of Joyce Carol Oates and she certainly doesn’t let her readers down with this selection of short stories.  They are some of the most unusual, creative, horrific stories I’ve ever read.  If you like your stories all neatly tied up at the end, these won’t be your cup of tea.  Most of the stories leave the reader hanging but I actually enjoy wondering what happened and letting my imagination fill in the blanks.  This is an excellent selection of horror tales from an author who just keeps improving.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Will leave you teetering on the edge of the abyss

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Things We Lost in the Fire – Mariana Enriquez

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

These 12 short stories are all set in Argentina. Be warned – these stories often involve violence, sometimes towards children, and are often quite grotesque.  But if you enjoy stories that leave you off balance and that are completely unique and unpredictable, then you’ll like this collection.  The stories are very well written and are quite chilling.  The first story, “The Dirty Kid”, literally made the hair on my arms stand up.

What I liked most about these stories was that she left many of the endings up to your imagination. Of course, you knew where she was heading with her tales and our imaginations don’t have to go too far in order to envision what happened.  I think this made the stories seem more realistic.  The world of Mariana Enriquez is a dark, violent one and I’m very glad I only visited it through her stories.  And since it’s only through her stories, I’m hoping that more of her work will be translated to English.  She’s a very talented author and has created a fictitious Argentinian world that highlights both its beauty and poverty and the hauntings left there by some of its tragic history.

Recommended to those who enjoy dark horror.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

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Author Bio

A literary event

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The Last Bell by Johannes Urzidil

Book Review:  4 out of 5 stars

Johannes Urzidil belonged to the literary circle in Prague that included both Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel and Max Brod. When Czechoslovakia was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939, he came to the United States.  He was living in the US in the 50’s and 60’s when these short stories were written.  He was awarded quite a few literary prizes during his career.  The asteroid 70679 Urzidil was named after him.  Although his books were published in many other countries, his work has been overlooked here.  This is the first publication of The Last Bell in the United States so it’s quite a literary event.  The stories are mostly about the outcome of ordinary events when something unexpected happens.

 

“The Last Bell”

Marska is a fortunate maid. Her Jewish master and mistress have fled the Nazis and have left all of their belongings and money to her.  However, her fortune takes a turn when she invites her sister Joska to live with her and her fortune becomes a hinderance.  This tale is the saddest in the book, although it’s written in a light manner and humorous manner.  The author’s humor makes the horror of this story all that more real.

 

“The Duchess of Albanera”

This is a fantastical story of the theft of a painting and the precarious slip of his sanity as the thief falls in love with the painting.

 

“Siegelmann’s Journey”

This is a moralistic tale of a travel agent who has never traveled himself but can spin a complicated web of lies that he gets tangled in.

 

“Borderland”

Ottilie is a gifted young girl who finds it difficult to conform to ordinary life. She witnesses an event that plunges her into despair.  This magical tale is my favorite in the book.

 

“Where the Valley Ends”

A tale of how discord among neighbors over a stolen cheesecake can lead to war. Such a small incident grows completely out of proportion.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Four unnerving tales

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Evil Eye:  Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong by Joyce Carol Oates

Book Review:  5 star rating

As the sub-title says, these are four novellas of love gone wrong. The first novella, “Evil Eye”, focuses on a nazar, which is a talisman used to ward off the evil eye.  Mariana is a shy, timid young woman who is the newly wedded fourth wife of Austin Mohr.  Austin is 25 years old than Mariana and his adoration of her seems to be wearing off and his impatience growing.  He announces that his first wife, Ines, will be coming to visit.  Austin and Ines have a terrible secret that Ines wishes to confide to Mariana.  Can their marriage survive this revelation?

The second novella, “So Near Anytime Always”, involves another shy young woman, Lizbeth, this one a teenager who falls for a new young man in the area, Desmond. But Desmond has a dark side that Lizbeth isn’t at first aware of.

In “The Execution”, college student Bert Hansen has taken too many wrong turns during his life. He blames his father for never being supportive and now his mother also seems to have given up on him.  Bert plots his evil revenge on both his hated father and his loving mother.

The last novella is “The Flatbed”. Cecilia has never been able to have a normal sexual relationship due to the abuse she sustained as a child.  The new man in her life thinks revenge will give the help that Cecilia needs to overcome her issues.

Joyce Carol Oates has long been a favorite author of mine. She’s an expert at pulling her readers in right at the start of her stories and then gradually leading them up to the point where you start to realize that something is horribly wrong.  She would have been such a wonderful writer for the old TV series, “The Twilight Zone”.  I had chills through all four of these tales and highly recommend them.