This collection swells with well-written, thought-provoking narratives of the lives of the everyday characters. Griswold lends captivating language to describe the daily situations both ordinary and out-of-the-ordinary and, in the process, touches on social and political issues.
Each story blends realism and symbolism into a consumable packet and creates a feast of meaningful literature I am so often starving for.
The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories contains five short stories of mainstream fiction. Beginning with a tale of a love affair at a highly selective summer music program, these stories study the whims and follies of human nature. The stories are easy to read and took little time to consume.
I found the stories pedestrian and predictable, akin to reading assignments from a high school creative writing class. The language was flat and the dialogue came out sounding forced and overly planned. Each theme and its progression were telegraphed in the first few lines of the story in a formulaic manner. I was lost in one story, much like its characters, and wondered about the purpose when I suddenly reached the end with no sense of having gotten anywhere on the meandering path. The least predictable and the one with the most potential is “Grandfather’s Gift” – while the main character’s change in outlook was predictable, the path on which he arrived at this change was not.
Bridgman possesses potential for writing interesting pieces of literature. These felt like early works in need of revising and revisiting or like non-fiction essays rather than fictional narratives. They lacked any color and spark that would hold my interest.
Barbara Wood uses meticulous research and elegant writing to create novels with believable characters and realistic settings that transport the reader to exotic countries and far off times. The Dreaming takes us to Australia in the Victorian Era, when Darwin is an upstart scientist and Jules Verne is writing his inspiring novels.
Young Joanna Drury of colonial India has lost both parents within days of each other and has made a promise to her mother to go to Australia in search of answers to the woman’s missing history. On her own and with only a tattered and water-stained deed to guide her, Joanna arrives in Australia looking for an obscure piece of land on a continent that has not yet been completely mapped. She carries with her a few belongings and a haunting set of dreams.
Joanna’s character is one you hope will prevail through a strong sense of sheer will, but I found that it was more the idea of keeping a promise that kept her going despite tremendous obstacles thrown up in her path. She might have given up on her pursuit of finding out her mother’s past if not for the pleading of her dying mother and the pressure of the confusing nightly images.
Each character introduced in this novel is written with purpose, whether it is to further Joanna’s goal, to define the history of Austalia’s native people and its colonists, or to block the young woman from finding the truth. The author’s rendering of character and setting exhibits extensive time and energy to get the details precise. Having recently completed a course on Australian literature, I was not disappointed by the interweaving of Aboriginal beliefs with the invasion of the white man into their lands creating a subtext of cultural destruction.
Sharyn Doolan offers her voice to this audiobook and adds to the enjoyment of the novel with her talented voice.
5 Stars – Elegantly writing and well-researched, a novel that takes you back in time.
From Cherry Hill Publishing and available on Amazon.
The short story “Retail Therapy” watches the decline of a human relationship over a matter of hours from the point of view of household goods in a warehouse store. Each segment anthropomorphizes daily objects – a pepper grinder, a sofa, a toilet brush, a meatball, among others – giving them unique personalities to match each one’s perspective of the world. Covering an array of emotions from start to finish, the story is interlaced with humor, embarrassment, trauma and a sense of awakening, mirrored by the objects and their new owners.
Find the story on Nick’s Blog.
by Ekta R. Garg
Two for the Heart features two novella-length stories with emotional content. The first is romantic in nature and takes the reader on a journey faced by a young woman and the man she married, a marriage set up for convenience. The second examines the toll of emotional trauma on a woman’s life and her struggle to regain lost memories. Both are well-written and will keep you turning the page to find out what happens next.
4 Stars – Intriguing stories with strong emotional elements.
Available on Amazon.
“Life sure could get complicated for a sixth grader.”
Coming of age in the 1960s in Central Texas includes learning about racism and the unfair treatment of people of varying colors and backgrounds. Told from the point of view of an 11-year-old, Shaky Man takes us through the growth and maturing of a young boy growing up in a small town.
Thomas Oliver Parsley, or “Topper” for short, just wants to win the championship baseball game, watch Star Trek, and play basketball with his friends. New in town, he learns by word-of-mouth about Shaky Man, a mysterious recluse who lives alone, his existence tainted by rumors that he killed his own family and that he eats children. Topper takes a chance to discover what the man is really all about. At the same time, he experiences vicariously through his best friend Mickey Jackson, a black kid from Waco, how some people are treated differently just because they look different. Topper comes through both lessons all the richer.
For middle grade readers, this short novel teaches that relying on anecdotal stories about people isn’t always the best way to learn about someone. If a story sounds unbelievable, it’s best to check the facts. If Topper hadn’t taken the time to talk to Shaky Man, also known as Dr. Boone, he never would have learned some fun and valuable skills or have found a mentor willing to explain some of the big problems in life.
“My papa taught me not to let other folks put their malfunctions on me. You shouldn’t, either.” ~Mickey Jackson
Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble