Category Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Book Review: ‘Two Hundred Very Short Stories’ by Helen Keeling-Marston

Title: Two Hundred Very Short Stories

Published: 15th April 2015

Publisher: JMD Media

Author: Helen Keeling-Marston

Twitter: @helenkeeling

 

Synopsis:

Two Hundred Very Short Stories is a collection of stories each so short that the reader can start … and finish … a whole one in one night – some even in a minute! Recognising that many people don’t have enough time for regular reading – and thus can easily lose the thread of a novel – Helen Keeling-Marston set about writing a collection of short stories. Two Hundred Very Short Stories – Helen’s first book – features an eclectic mix of short stories and flash fiction: flash fiction being works of extreme brevity. Similar to a musical mix tape, the collection of stories aims to elicit a range of different emotions from the reader: joy, sadness, amusement, befuddlement, intrigue and fear. Be warned, however, that you’ll need to have your wits about you when reading this book, as Two Hundred Very Short Stories isn’t always a passive experience!

 

Review:

This is an interesting collection of short stories from the simple to the strange. Each one is a little different from the last but there are a lot to get through. I think I liked more of the stories in the first 100 than the last as they have stuck with me a bit more.

Some of the stories are like you are stepping into it halfway through. It helps as it feels like you are diving in with complete characters so are happy to be lead along with what they are doing. The others, at times, are more like spare thoughts thrown in to mix things up. A few lines or a thought isn’t really a story but more of the starting point for creating one. You could almost try to think up ways to complete it yourself, depending on the one you get to.

As you have so many stories within this book it would be hard to write something on them all but on the feel of the book as a whole instead. A few have a poetic feel to them while others give you a pause for thought. Creative thinking throughout and a bit of everything for everyone as nothing is the same. Lots of genres are mixed together so hopefully there will be something you might like. Thought provoking, insightful, quirky, humorous, to name a few. Well there are 200 of them so odds are you will find a few.

I think this book would be best read while dipping in and out of though and not in one go like I did as getting closer to the end I was just getting a bit bored with them. It’s the type of book to read while on your lunchbreak or if you have a few spare minutes throughout the day with these short snappy reads to explore.

It might not be for everyone but is an interesting collection all the same. If you make it to the end, no matter how long it takes you, I’m sure you will find a few that you will like too.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged’ by Pat Patterson

Title: Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged

Published: 30th June 2017

Publisher: Ion Publishers LLC

Author: Pat Patterson

 

Synopsis:

Dining and Driving With Cats – Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life’s hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse’s detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant.

They, along with the cats, dine frequently during a sometimes hilarious but always romantic auto trip across the South. As the miles flip the odometer, we are given insight into how this unusual relationship between the couple came to be, evolved, and gradually, at the end revealed in a secret you didn’t see coming. What, you say? There is a twist in a dining dialogue? Yes! And you’ll just have to read it for yourself–no spoilers here. Dialogue is so natural between the two; you’ll swear he recorded the entire trip. Alice is revealed in the first pages as a real life brainy, successful business woman enjoying life in San Miguel de Allende a small cathedral town high in the Central Mexican foothills. For over thirty years she lived in Washington D.C.. When she was fresh out of grad school and managing her firm’s D.C. office she captured the  heart of a young man who came in from the rain. He fell hard. He pursued her.  She said no –she told him she had cats. What she didn’t tell him was that she also had a secret. Over thirty years have passed since Alice revealed her secret. The young man is no longer young but he still pursues her. She calls him hubby. This is their story of a shared love for travel and history, for food and for their sweet and wily cats Munchie and Tuffy.

You might also say the book is unusual in that it totally engages the reader from the first page without a hint of violence, bloodshed, graphic sex, drugs or language. The author’s main character (besides the two cats) Alice, does say “you bastards” once. Alice is supremely self-confident and comfortable in her own skin as we learn early on when she promises the author a vehicle of his dreams if he will join her in a multi-state road trip from Mexico across the South and help wrangle two cats into restaurants, diners, cafes and hotels. He expects to find a Suburban or maybe an Escalade in the drive. Alice surprises with a Japanese sub-compact – a Honda Fit. She says it’s “flexible”. They drive – Scott La. & the Boudin War.  They dine – New Orleans at Gautreau’s, Clancy’s, and Herbsaint. They laugh – the Carousel Bar.  They cry – tragic death. If you come along on this moveable feast you will find yourself caught up in a romantic love story that involves the Other Woman and a secret that Alice cannot keep. You will dine on scrumptious creations from America’s most acclaimed chefs from Austin and New Orleans to the Procope and Odeon Relais at Buci Market in Paris. Along the way you will laugh at cats stuck in boxes, fight with a Pirate, terrify a US Vice-President, discover cat smuggling, and learn how the Other Woman persuaded Alice to accept the author’s ring. So what’s keeping you? Hop in ‘cause these cats don’t bite. Besides, “The Get In Here and Eat” pop-up food truck is waiting just up the Austin highway.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book with action and adventure in it. Well for the cats anyway! Pat and Alice are on a road trip with a difference. Namely by having two extra travel companions in the form of their cats Munchie and Tuffy. Two laid back girls who can get themselves into quite a pickle at times. They are just a couple of house cats getting ready for a whirlwind adventure.

I liked the quotes at the beginning because they are so true. British author Sir Terry Pratchett “In ancient times, cats were treated as gods; they have not forgotten this.” And another from unidentified person “Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.” Love it and every cat owner will understand it too. We are their staff/servants to pander to them whenever the need arises.

So this is a journey book as well as trips down memory lane for Pat and Alice. Needing a trip of some kind as feeling a bit antsy at home in San Miguel they decide to go on a road trip. The plan is to make their way to see their new grandchild but the long route rather than a flying visit. For the plan of action they need a route, places to see and eat and a car the handle their entire load, including two people and two cats. A fun way to decide on places to stop at, mainly food related, was when they put up their plan ‘Dining and Driving with cats’ in the local paper to see if they could get some suggestions. I’d say a few hundred is a good place to start. So Alice was to look after the food and sleeping part and Pat to look after the route and driving. With plan sorted its off they go.

The antics that the cats get into while on route will have you chuckling along with them. Especially if you own cats, as you will constantly be saying, “yes mine has done that too!” Well maybe not everything, as Tuffy gets a little too happy at one point when ingesting something she shouldn’t have. Panicked for a moment there, then soon went into a fit of giggles. You’ll know the part when you get to it. The trick they have to get in and out of the car without said cats escaping was amusing. Not so sure I would have let mine roam around in the back while driving but they seemed to behave most of the time. Was funny to read about them in new hotel rooms, claiming the bed right away. Whether you had room to get in as well was not really their concern. I have heard of dog-friendly restaurants but cats, now that was something new. Would be a bit strange to suddenly hear a cat meow loudly while eating. You’d just be thinking where the hell did that come from.

Now cat treasures aside you get interesting facts about the places they saw while on the trip as well as lists and recipes of some of the food ordered. You might not want to read while hungry as might make you want to get a snack. All making this a fun, light, quirky read that will have you wondering what will happen next on this cat inspired road trip – can only go places where they are welcome. You might want to try taking your cat to a restaurant near you to see how they’d cope. As long as mine got some food he might be ok but would much prefer to chill out at home – well they do did their catnaps!

4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Cotton Candy and Tangerines’ by MR Chevalier

Title: Cotton Candy and Tangerines

Published: 7th December 2016

Publisher: Cyber Rose Design

Author: MR Chevalier

 

Synopsis:

The great lover, Casanova, once remarked that he loved a multitude of women, not for the experience alone, but in a genuine effort to find the one woman who was truly worth loving.

Pierre White’s primary desire had always been to embark on a quest to find an intelligent, passionate woman to love and adore, a soul mate, a Guinevere. His very own Guinevere, even if it meant that Pierre would have to search the entire world for her.

From the elegant restaurants of Soho to the glittering hotels lining the Rive Gauche, Pierre searches for the one thing that will make his life complete. His soul mate. Life doesn’t hand him that wish, but instead gives him the opportunity to search for it. His travels take him from the arms of one beautiful woman to the next. Will he find himself looking into a lover’s eyes and seeing forever in their depths or will the search continue, one exquisite passionate exploration at a time?

This book is intended for mature audiences.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book with food in the title. Come meet Pierre, the Casanova of the skies with being a first officer pilot. He may be looking for the one but that doesn’t mean he isn’t having fun along the way. Here we follow his sexual escapades, though a pattern is soon seen.

Emotions and passions are flying high when Pierre meets Kirsten for the first time. Just when he thinks he has missed his chance with a beautiful stranger she all but lands in his path twice in one day. He thinks it’s a happy coincidence that she is a flight attendant on his plane. Could she be someone for keeps or for fun? As she’s the first you know it won’t go smoothly. A chance encounter puts the breaks on this hot fling. Could it have been more? Time will tell. The one he really wanted but a random meet with a stranger puts a stop to that.

Seems our Pierre likes a woman in uniform and a Navy one ticks a lot of boxes. Lust at first sight seems to be more of his style. This crazy connection is leading to hot sex and a fabulous five-day holiday. He knows how to spoil a girl. He just thinks he needs a little fun after his disaster of a ‘would be’ romance with Kirsten.

After a Navy uniform he just wants to go back to what he knows best – flight attendants and perhaps even a pilot. He does like dipping his toe in the office ink so to speak. Get ready for a string of them and each with a slightly different reaction to the last. Some might be more but others just want to have fun.

A spark of attraction for some but again Pierre may see too much into what is in front of him. Some appear to be looking for a night of fun, nothing more. You then have one bold enough to bring him a drink to his hotel room on their layover, getting a nice reward for doing so. Could the reason for doing so be really what it seems? Even crazy flights don’t seem to put a dampener on his style with his layovers ending in the same way.

A chance encounter at his hotel sees him bumping into Jessica, someone in the business but this time corporate flight attendant instead. He might be offering to show her around Harrods to be a nice guy but you know he wants something more. She resists him for a while but a late night knock on the door changes it all. Could this one be ‘the one’? They both seem to be falling for each other this time and he could really help her out career wise. A spanking good time for both it seems, but will it last?

Seems he then wants to go up in the world – pun I know – this time with setting his sights on the Captain of a flight. She may be older but he doesn’t seem to mind. It doesn’t stop his lightning fast attraction he seems to get with most women he meets. This time his wayward thoughts might be all he’s going to get. He gets quite creative with his thoughts, which wouldn’t be so bad, if he wasn’t flying a plane when having them. Spacing out is not a good idea.

He likes to play with fire and closer to the end just kind of comes off as a womanizer and a bit of a hypocrite who doesn’t really care other than getting himself off. He does tend to think with his dick no matter how many times he says he’s looking for love. Seems to be that his heart was lost a while ago to someone he shouldn’t have let go of. Can another chance meeting put him back with her or will he just play the field forever?

Funny how he always seems to miss or mess up the first chance meeting with someone new but second times always the charm. His luck or fate might be holding. Is it love or lust at first sight? When it repeats over and over he may need to rethink his views on finding the one. Just because a woman sleeps with him shouldn’t mean he goes a hundred miles per hour in thinking on what their life could be. Some of these women are relationship material while others just want fun. He is a bit of a Casanova but longs to find his forever girl. With the amount of sex he’s been having he’s not very concerned with contraception though. It seems to slip his mind or not even register until after the fact. It’s a wonder accidents haven’t happened.

Interesting fun read but did get a little repetitive with his antics with any attractive woman he sees. Namely on his flights so he has someone to be with on his layovers. A few relationships along the way but you always knew which one he really wanted to be with. Whether he can keep her is another thing entirely.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Thread and Other Stories’ by Eric Halpenny

Title: Thread and Other Stories

Published: 13th July 2018

Publisher: Bookbaby

Author: Eric Halpenny

Facebook: www.facebook.com/halpennyauthor

Twitter: @dragonswordbook

 

Synopsis:

Thread and Other Stories is a multi-genre collection of short stories (single author) that includes science fiction, fantasy, urban fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, and espionage. There are seven stories in the collection.

Prudence and her older brother Yannick face extreme poverty and hardship in Thread. They live day to day on the wages they earn at low paying, difficult jobs. They face hardships that seem insurmountable for two young children. Isidore, an impoverished boy trying to survive on his own, enters their lives with even greater needs than Prudence and Yannick. They integrate him into their family life even as their world begins to crumble around them. But, there is an ominous backdrop to these events as strange entities take a keen interest in the lives of the three children.

A military psychologist evaluates a Vietnam war veteran who has experienced psychological damage in Shrink. The veteran’s fellow soldiers and friends must support him as the psychologist attempts to uncover the reasons behind his trauma.

Emil, Annie, and their three children—Zona, Owen, and Abner—struggle to stay safe in a steampunk-inspired fantasy world in Chance. Abner finds himself in trouble as a powerful magical being terrorizes the family farm. Only Zona’s quick thinking along with her parents’ knowledge of magic will give them a chance against the dark sorcery of the enemy.

John and Greg, bound by friendship, embark on a journey of trial and tragedy in Conflict, a 20th Century historical fiction. They must deal with death, loss, and grief as compatriots fall in battle during this poignant snapshot of the Canadian military in World War I. John and Greg show a contrast in the ways that these soldiers adapted to the psychological effects of war.

Veera, an astrophysicist, begins to experience recurring déjà vu, the source of which she cannot determine in Oversight, a science fiction adventure. She is unknowingly set on a collision course with Misha, who challenges Veera’s perception of the world as she struggles to determine what is real and what isn’t. Misha must deal with his own psychological demons as he tries to salvage a failing mission that will either end in glory or in his own death.

Dmitry is a hardened spy in the Cold War who has no mercy for his adversary Olyesa in the espionage thriller Deception. Olyesa and Dmitry navigate their way through the murky waters of agents and double agents while simultaneously struggling against each other for survival. When their divergent plans collide, it threatens to destroy them both.

Explore a metaphysical debate in the literary short story Conversation, which is woven between each of the short stories in this collection. An unnamed protagonist and an unidentified and secretive entity discuss the metaphysical and spiritual meaning behind science and what it means to gain knowledge.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A collection of short stories. All are very different but each have a certain something to keep you intrigued to continue on to the next. Nice style of writing with this collection of shorts.

THREAD

A story connected by conscious thoughts of others perhaps? The main one itself is a trying tale of children living in poverty and having to work just to eat. The mines are for the boys and it’s cleaning for girls. They never feel hope for they can’t see a way out of the cycle they are part of. Work, eat, sleep and repeat. With the eating part sometimes being hard to come by. Yannick protects his sister Prudence but is still a child himself. A saying being you can’t look out for others, as you don’t have enough for yourselves. That’s Yannick’s way of thinking when Isidore comes into their lives. He’s younger than both of them but needs to work to stay alive too. Hardships become them and dangers of the world around them, work included, causes tragic results. Seems conscious minds might be merging to feel something new, hope might be born into their dark lives bringing some light and a connection thread to join them.

SHRINK

The perils of coming back from war and having to live with the consequences of what happened when you were there. A shrink to help the army vets before they go home but sometimes they are too far-gone to come back from the darkness. They need their crew and family to try to bring them round but is that enough?

CHANCE

Well what starts out as an everyday farmers family working life turns into something completely unexpected. Interesting twist with its’ direction and how the story evolves from there. Young minds are inquisitive ones so you should be careful to teach them to understand what’s at stake and not leave books around they might not understand. Creating a doll is one thing but this one had a mind of its own.

CONFLICT

Tales told of the Great War focusing on the Canadians fighting, all showing how and why different people would have signed up. What were they fighting for? Was it King, country, honour, family, friends or perhaps just a mixture of them all? Showing the day-to-day life of the battlefield slowly pulling them under. Two different men’s views on how they see the battle to be won. Who are the lucky ones? Those who go home physically injured, mentally injured, don’t go home at all or the ones who never got called in the first place? The letters or quotes from people who were really there mixing with the story were interesting. Gives you a little insight to what they really experienced.

OVERSIGHT

Two scientists following through with an 18-month task sending and tracking satellites – a link to the Mars project but also a new Jupiter one. Their project is failing and they know they need to go back through notes to find where they went wrong. This is where things get a little strange, as it seems they aren’t the only ones testing something, or should that be someone? Are you the tester or subject and can you tell the difference between the two? Quirky read that will have you questioning what could be out there and who or what everyone really is. Who is controlling whom? Maybe not knowing is the point.

DECEPTION

Spy masters at extracting information out of people. The top of a very select few that needs to stay hidden. Dmitry is one of them and believes he is the one always in control. He gets his pleasure out of tormenting others whether for work or fun. There seems to be no difference for him. He might think he is the one controlling the game but is he the one being played in a complex game of spy vs. spy. Cards are about to fall in a different way and he might not like where they land.

CONVERSATION

A need to have someone to talk to, but are they really there or just in your head? They say they will wait until you are ready to talk. Let’s hope it’s true. For someone to help do you need to be face to face or can they help you from afar? This story is broken up and interlinked between all the others. It gives the impression of time passing between the one who wants to talk but isn’t really ready to as they keep putting up barriers (I must meet you and you’re wrong) and the one who is willing to wait for however long until they are. A philosophical conversation with someone or something – do you really need to see them to talk?

4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Talon’ by Carian Cole

Title: Talon (Ashes & Embers Book 4)

Published: 22nd November 2015

Author: Carian Cole

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cariancoleauthor

Twitter: @CarianCole

 

Synopsis:

A relationship experiment that lets experts find your perfect spouse? Sign me up. Sounds great, right? I thought so, too…until I saw a rock star waiting at the altar for me. 

DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL PARTNER:
Caring. Hard-working. A devoted family man, loves kids.
Clean cut, funny, smart, quiet, but a good communicator.
~ Asia Jenson

DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL PARTNER:
Independent. Tall, blonde, sexy. Outgoing. Intelligent, neat. Unslutty. Confident. Loves to travel. Committed.
~ Talon Valentine

A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT.
The concept was scary but exciting…
Marry a total stranger.
Live together for six months.
Journal everything. (Feelings. Fights. All of it.)
After six months, we each get $50K in trade for our journals, whether we stay married or not. But the goal is to commit to the experience and see if the relationship experts could put together the perfect matches.
I have never been lucky in love. This was my chance to find my soulmate.
I couldn’t wait to meet the man the experts felt was perfect for me.
My hopes were immediately dashed when I saw him at the altar.
Shit. I married my worst nightmare.
Right?!

** This story is not a reality show. It’s a serious social experiment run by a psychologist and it’s all discrete. The characters are not on TV or followed around with cameras. They are alone. This story is a lot more than it seems **

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book over 400 pages. I loved every one of them. So this book revolves around a social experiment to see if relationship experts and psychologists can be used to find someone the perfect partner. Married at first sight to a stranger, what could possibly go wrong? Or maybe that should be so right? Once married you have to live as couple for the next six months, writing and video chatting with the professionals about your experiences along the way. At the end of the experiment you have a choice, you can stay married or divorce. It also comes with a 50k compensation bonus for each at the end no matter what you decide. Four couples are matched and have very different results. So let’s see how Talon and Asia match up and if theirs can be the one made for life.

Describing what you think your perfect partner should be and getting it are two very different things. Talon might be used to having women fall at his feet – the beginning kind of gives that away – but he is about to get a shock from his new wife who not only has no idea who he is but also states that he’s not really her type, well not yet anyway. She’s not his either, to start with that is, but this experiment goes deeper than superficial looks and it seems the ones in charge got it right with Talon and Asia. You might not have put them together to start with but sure do they go. Let’s see if they make it through the wedding night to see what comes next.

Asia is very unsure of herself to start with so keeps thinking that their marriage has a sell by date from day one. Which is something that really starts to piss off Talon. They are married now and he has every intention of making it work or at least giving all he can get. He just needs her to trust him so she can feel the same. He has a few vices that she has strong views on though – alcohol and getting high top of the list – that might cause some issues. Her past also has a strong impact on her present and only when she starts to open up do they connect on a deeper level.

This time round it wasn’t an insta love situation as intimacy is definitely not at the top of Asia’s mind with her new husband. She needs to trust first before going further so they can grow as a couple and Talon needs to learn how to win her over in a different way. It’s what he wanted; it’s just a bit harder than he thought. The hook ups were getting old and he just wanted someone to want to be with him rather than the idea of him from the band. The whole #cocksure band tag being something he wanted to change. His new wife might not be who he would have picked but he isn’t going to let this chance slip through his fingers without trying. She’s his now and the longer they are together the more he sees his true future – one she is very much a part of. Loved the connection that slowly grows between them as you can see them creating a base to start something on. Love the nicknames Tally and jelly bean, think they really loved them too.

Now Asia might have thought her new husband wasn’t her type – tattoos, strong build and long hair – but the longer they are together the more tempted she is to want to touch. Well he is her husband so she is allowed. More so after catching him in the shower where it seems he was using her as inspiration to get a happy ending. Seems the stories about size might need a recount as far as she’s concerned. It’s like he is teasing her with what she could have but not rushing her. She holds back to start with but only when she lets go and claims him as her own does she get the connection they were both chasing. Hot, hot, hotter when things finally get going, shame they don’t run smoothly for long with his part in the band coming into play. Seems he forgot to mention, or rather just forgot in general, that they would be away on tour for a month, right after only being married for two, and partners aren’t invited. After finally connecting to be separated so soon is hard for both of them. She knows there are women who might throw themselves at him but needs to learn that she is all he wants now. Knowing and believing are two different things.

Her past comes back to cause tension in their bubble of pleasure and calm. It doesn’t help when trouble starts brewing for Talon too. With what happens you feel so much for him and what he goes through with how he copes/doesn’t cope. Seems Talon was quick to judge on the basis of something he shouldn’t have seen and Asia needs to fight through barriers put up that would keep her back if she wants to keep what’s hers.

Learned a little more about Asher and his life but not much, enough to want you to delve more. Need a book with him now I think, though I do love catching up with the other guys, especially Storm and Lukas. All the books seem to revolve around each other so it’s fun to see different sides and points of views of similar events. I also like the animal aspect that seems to run along with these books and the little cat Princess Pixie was perfect. Who knew cats and rock stars would be an online hit.

5 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Give Me Books for my honest review.

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