I have read and reviewed numerous short story collections here at carp(e).  Most of them contain a theme of some sort; occasionally they’re as apparent as having a group of stories about the same characters.  Other times, the common factor is harder to detect – an emotion, for instance, or an exploration on one facet of the human condition.  With “Where The Dog Star Never Glows” by Tara L. Masih, a common thread I discovered was surprisingly a feeling, or a spirit in the story telling.  That beautiful spirit that permeates Masih’s short stories is nothing short of extraordinary.  Truly written from the heart of a poet, her ability to turn a phrase is more than appealing to this particular reviewer.

Each story is set in an unexpected setting;the island of Dominica, Texas on the Mexican border, India.  Every one is filled with imaginative, solid characters that are easy to connect with, difficult to part with by story’s end.  Most of the stories have the characters placed in the midst of change – sometimes headed for the better, sometimes the worst, often with the location playing a major role.  Throughout the book there permeates an unexpected sense of peace, even as characters battle against tough life decisions.  Settings and people alike are brought to life with well-chosen words handled like paint on a canvas, leaving the reader with lucid imagery and a sense of deep reflection.  

When well written, short stories have the ability to leave the reader with strong emotions in a smaller span of time – often within a mere few pages.  Masih’s stories have managed to stay with me days after finishing the book. The final tale in particular, “Delight”, will hold a special place with me for quite some time.

If you’re a lover of the short story, do yourself a favor and check out “Where The Dog Star Never Glows” by Tara L. Masih.  The vivid colors of this collection certainly will glow, and for a long time.

Want to win your own copy?  We’re giving one away!

Multiple Options for Multiple Entries:

1.) Just tell me about a place that changed you.  Maybe it changed you for the better, or maybe it was for the worst. (***You may enter once a day, but please list a new item you like each time.) Remember, leave an interesting comment. If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Blog about, Twitter, and/or Subscribe! Get an extra entry for each of these activities.  This time just leave a separate comment for each (only one time for each extra activity completed), giving me a link to your blog post, your Twitter name, and/or a note saying you’re a subscriber. (Subscribe in the upper right !  

(Psst!  My Twitter name is dkMommy.)

Feel free to do all five to gather multiple entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Wednesday, April 7, 2010, to enter.

Click Here for More Giveaways

Covering some of the best Mexican short story writing, Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction offers an anthology of stories translated from Spanish to English for the first time, all written by some of Mexico’s finest authors born after 1945.  The short fiction ranges from the intellectually stimulating to the humorous with everything in between; but be it serious or funny, it’s all great writing that will keep the reader hooked.  

Part of the Latin American Literature Series published by Dalkey Archive Press, Best of Contemporary Fiction contains both the English translations and the original Spanish; English on the right hand page, Spanish on the left.  If you haven’t read many translated works, translations can sometimes be a little jerky or feel contrived.  I have never experienced that in any of the books published by Dalkey, and I certainly don’t here.  The English versions read smoothly, and Spanish speakers will enjoy reading the stories in the original.  As an English speaker, I’m happy to see the stories of Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction translated, thus reaching a larger audience of enthusiastic readers, of which I am certainly one.

Multiple Options for Entry:

1.) Just tell me why you’d like to read Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction (You may enter once a day.) Remember, leave an interesting comment.  If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Email subscribers get an extra entry for as long as their subscription is active.

     Already a subscriber?  Leave me a separate comment on this post to let me know you’re interested in this giveaway.

     Want to subscribe?  Just enter your email address in the “Subscribe” box on the left. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you do not receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post.  Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post. (If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry – I may have to approve it first.  My blog might think it’s spam but gosh darn, I certainly don’t!)

4.) I’m feeling Twittery.  If you Twitter a link to this giveaway, come back and comment here to let me know your Twitter name for another entry! (I’m dkmommy if you want to follow me.)

Feel free to do all four to gain several entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, to enter.

Check out all current giveaways for both my blogs here.

Click Here for More Giveaways

Real enough to make you wonder how the author could have lived so many lives, sad enough to hope he didn’t, Down to a Sunless Sea is a collection of short stories in varied shades of humanity.  Author Mathias B. Freese writes in a wide range of convincing voices.  One thing I like to see in a short story collection is an array of different voices.  As a character actor shapeshifts and reinvents himself from one part to the next, every one of Freese’s stories has a completely different perspective.  It’s as if the bus stops and the reader gets off and hails a taxi for the next “ride” on another point of view.  Much more enticing to a reader, I believe, than feeding the same tone over and over, changing only a scenario, as oftentimes happens in the short story collection.

The one common thread throughout the book is a sort of psychological look into each main character and a darkness that seems to permeate each life.  It wasn’t until I’d finished the book that I read on the back cover that Mathias Freese is in fact a clinical social worker and psychotherapist.  His 25 years experience in these fields has richly added to his fine capacity to tell a riveting short story; the overall impression is one of well-written human observation.

Want to win your own copy of this award-winning collection?  We’ve got one to give away!

Rules for Entry:

1.) Just tell me why you’d like to read Down to a Sunless Sea.  (You may enter once a day – following entries don’t require you to answer the question.) Remember, leave an interesting comment.  If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Email subscribers get an extra entry for as long as their subscription is active.

     Already a subscriber?  Leave me a separate comment on this post to let me know you’re interested in this giveaway.

     Want to subscribe?  Just enter your email address in the “Subscribe” box on the left. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you do not receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post.  Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post. (If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry – I may have to approve it first.  My blog might think it’s spam but gosh darn, I certainly don’t!)

4.) I’m feeling Twittery.  If you Twitter a link to this giveaway, come back and comment here to let me know your Twitter name for another entry! (I’m dkmommy if you want to follow me.)

Feel free to do all four to gain several entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, to enter.

Check out all current giveaways for both my blogs here.

09. December 2008 · Comments Off on The End of the Straight and Narrow – David McGlynn · Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction, Short Stories · Tags: ,

Like most avid readers, I tend to seek out books with a unique voice.  When you read several books a month, it’s easy to find commonalities in books that others might not see.  For instance, there are certain themes that tend to crop up in short story collections again and again.  But I’m happy to tell you The End Of The Straight And Narrow dispensed with all those similarities that can have many active readers yawning in their shirtsleeves.  

The End of the Straight and Narrow manages to be unique without being outlandish or unrelatable.  The subject matter of author David McGlynn’s stories often focuses on the lives and difficulties of people who happen to be Christians.  I say “happen to be” because it’s nether in-your-face proselytizing, nor is it an exercise in faith-bashing, but a true-to-life look at how people really are, flaws and all.  Most of the stories link together having the same characters emerge; new plots, different viewpoints, a different slot of time.  But each story can easily stand on its own two feet.

At first I even hesitated to mention the Christian aspect because I didn’t want anyone to view this book as Christian fiction.  But I can’t imagine skipping over it.  Depth of faith has such a hold on these stories, and in such a fresh way, that any reviewer would be remiss to brush past it.  I’ve often wondered why authors incorporating faith into their stories wouldn’t take an approach such as McGlynn did.  Too often writers either glamorize or tear apart their faith-filled characters, trying to make either a sainted or an ugly example of them whether they be Christian, Jew, Muslim or other.  Personally I find it refreshing to see believing people be believable.  So thanks to David McGlynn.  My brain, as well as my soul, enjoyed the ride to The End Of The Straight And Narrow.

Published by Southern Methodist University Press.

It is true – I received this book a few months ago.  Usually it doesn’t take me so long to review a book, but things have been hopping around here.  (Check out my new venture.) I haven’t had as much time as usual to really sink my teeth into a book, but I’m very happy to have had ParaSpheres: Extending Beyond the Spheres of Literary and Genre Fiction: Fabulist and New Wave Fabulist Stories along for the ride.  At over 600 pages, this meaty collection of stories may seem overwhelming at first blush, but for the short story reader it’s a blessing between two paperback covers.  ParaSpheres, published by Omnidawn, gives readers such as myself such an escape from the normal, the humdrum, the darkening skies of November that make me grit my teeth until the porcelain begins to shatter, that I’ve been only too happy to bury my nose in nothing but this for the timebeing.

If you’re looking to give your favorite bookworm something unusual and unique this year for Christmas, you can’t go wrong with ParaSpheres.  There’s something in it for everyone, even literary snobs who are afraid to step away from the Classics section.  (I know from whence I speak – been there, read that.) It even includes a work from a carp(e) libris favorite, Justin Courter, plus a bit of his novel Skunk.  As usual for me, Courter did not disappoint.  

As you may suspect from the title, ParaSpheres is filled with the unusual, the hard to categorize, the “fabulist”.  If this sounds like the book for you, or if you want to impress a big reader at Christmas with a weighty tome beneath ye ol’ tannenbaum, I’ve got an extra copy to give away.  Can anyone say “Thank God for Media Mail rates”?  Yes, but in the end it’s worth it and you’ll come back to thank me later.

4 Ways to Win:

1.) Tell me a bizarre two- or three-sentence story or event.  It doesn’t have to be wordy or true or feasible.  Maybe aliens ate your lunch, I don’t care.  I just like to be entertained. (You may enter once a day – following entries don’t require you to answer the question.) Remember, leave an interesting comment.  If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Email subscribers get an extra entry for as long as their subscription is active. 

Already a subscriber?  Leave me a separate comment on this post to let me know you’re interested in this giveaway. 

Want to subscribe? Just plunk your email address in the little white box to the right.  (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you do not receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

4.) I’m feeling Twittery.  If you Twitter a link to this giveaway, come back and comment here to let me know your Twitter name for another entry!

Do all four, and you’ve got four entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Saturday, November 27, 2008, to enter.

Silent Girl brilliantly takes the short story and adds a Shakespearian twist. Each short, written by Tricia Dower, is based on a work of Shakespeare; but if you’re not well versed in this most famous of writers, you’ll not miss out on enjoying some talented writing. If you do enjoy Shakespeare, then you’re in for a special treat when you pick up Silent Girl. Each story is written with plays such as The Tempest and Hamlet in mind, but it’s done in a subtle manner and in an entirely different setting than the play upon which the story is based. For instance, imagine a sort of Taming of the Shrew set in Kyrgyzstan. Or Twelfth Night set in Minnesota. Shakespeare fans will enjoy searching for the similarities, but those who’ve never studied his work will simply enjoy short stories that are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes humorous, but always well executed.

For the book club, Silent Girl is a perfect choice due to its many layers. In fact, the book comes with a study guide to help book clubs along, whether or not they’re Shakespeare readers. If you’d like to read Silent Girl for yourself, I have one autographed copy. So grab your reading group and enter here for your own copy.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me if you’ve read Shakespeare. What did you think? Have fun with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Sunday, September 28, 2008, to enter.

Published by Inanna Publications.


Ana María Moix, one of Spain’s most well-known writers today, gives us a wonderful collection of short stories, translated by Sandra Kingery. Of My Real Life I Know Nothing is a series of shorts, each containing stories of heartfelt meaning that catches the reader by surprise at each and every ending. For me, nothing gives a short story more to remember it by than a great explanation-point finish, something substantial to catch you offguard.

Moix’s latest collection seems to start out in a more serious tone, with scenes of a tragic nature. As the book progresses, the stories take on more humor while still holding onto the introspective look at human failings. By the time the final story is reached, Mere Puppets, the reader will enjoy an outright humorous look at the varying personalities in a tour group in Italy. Mere Puppets, as funny as it is, continues to deliver the deep undercurrents of human nature one learns to expect, and looks forward to finding, in Moix’s work throughout Of My Real Life I Know Nothing.

If you’re as intrigued by the premise of this collection as I was, I have an extra copy to give away to one of you.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me whether or not you’ve read any translated works lately. What would draw you to a translated work? (Be creative – while winners are drawn randomly, if the original winner doesn’t claim their prize, a new winner is chosen by originality of the comment.)

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Sunday, July 27, 2008, to enter.

Published by Latin American Literary Review/Press.


If you’ve ever enjoyed a story that seems impossible to categorize, unique and one-of-a-kind, slipping through the cracks of conventional labels, then Interfictions is waiting for you. One imaginative short story after another gives the reader a break from the humdrum, feeding the brain on the real merged with the surreal. Interfictions is filled with characters who hobnob with unlikely individuals, such as talking cats, ghosts obsessed with buttons, and creatures I can’t even begin to explain here.

An interesting feature in this collection occurs after each story when authors share a couple paragraphs, explaining where they came up with the story line, why they write in the manner they do, and other insightful tidbits. If you love writing as much as reading, you’ll find these added paragraphs just as fascinating as the stories they follow.

If you’re looking to stretch your literary mind with some truly inventive writing, enjoying the ride all the way, then give Interfictions a look. You’re sure to find several new authors to track down. I, for one, found a few that bear researching further, because for me, their short stories just whetted my appetite for the interstitial.

Don’t be an interstick-in-the-mud. Enter to win a copy of Interfictions from carp(e) libris reviews; the winner will be drawn at random on Thursday, July 10, 2008.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me something about your short story reading habits. Is it easier for you to get some creative food with a short story? Or is there something else that draws you to them? (Be creative–if I don’t hear from the randomly chosen winner, #2 is chosen by their comment.)

2.) Subscribers are automatically entered into this and all future giveaways. Just enter your email address in the little white box on the upper part of the right hand column. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back.

If you do all three, you have three entries to win.

Published by Small Beer Press.

 


Ever since space exploration first became a real possibility, the people of America have been looking towards the skies with hopeful wonderment. Finally, there is something more mysterious for humans to focus on than our own complicated lives. Susan Woodring’s collection of short stories,Springtime on Mars, captures this sense of the unknown, in regards to all that has been America’s pulse from the 1950’s to today. 

The assassination of John F. Kennedy, walking on the moon, the Vietnam War, and UFO’s are all backdrops to Woodring’s stories as the characters try to understand their own universes of death, disappointment, and fear. If this book has one overall theme, I’d have to say it is fear of the unknown. By placing the stories in various time periods rich with American history, Woodring has managed to bring out the best in each plot, giving a wonderful contrast and lending much more to the flavor of each. 

One thing that impresses me about any book or story, no matter the length, is a good ending. Most tend to peter out after the climax, and while they may tie up loose ends and give the reader a sense of closure, very few leave me with a sigh of good old fashioned readerly satisfaction. But I believe I got that sigh out of every one of Woodling’s stories. I actually found myself putting the book down to say, “Now, that was a good one,” before picking it up to start the next. Combine that with a constant shifting of time periods, most of which any reader will remember and hold a sentimental attachment to, and you have a great combination for staying on Mars straight through to summer.

Note: Published by Press 53.  If you buy from their site, you even have the opportunity to buy a book for a soldier.  They really appreciate reading materials!
10. June 2008 · Comments Off on Walking on Air by Muriel Spark – Book Review · Categories: Book Reviews, Chapbooks, Poetry, Short Stories · Tags: , , , ,


Muriel Spark’s work can be found in every corner of the literary world: Novels, short stories, poetry, reviews, and many other written forms, best known for her novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Walking on Air, Cahier 2 of The Cahier Series published by Sylph Editions, was brought into being shortly after Spark’s death. These collected works of both poetry and prose were organized by Dan Gunn, some of them being published for the first time. Gunn’s process of pulling the pieces together for a cahier is what he hopes is its own sort of translation, and I must agree.

Walking on Air
features a few images of the author’s handwritten pages, complete with scribblings and rewrites, which was of particular interest to me. Most of my reviews and other writings are first handwritten (as is this one) with many such scratched out and reworded phrases. To see the written notes of someone of Spark’s caliber is certainly fascinating to any writerly mind.

The reader will also enjoy a few journal entries in which Spark discusses ideas for short stories and tidbits about her daily writing life. These entries are followed by a wonderful short story called The Ormolu Clock, which was discussed in the preceding journal entries.

Walking on Air wraps up with a few more pieces by Spark, including a short work on artist Piero della Francesca. Overall, this collection gives a unique look into the life of a great writer, leaving the reader with a sense of having had a personal encounter with Muriel Spark herself.