Small Magic

By Aaron Polson

I am going to start this review off by saying how awesome flash fiction is, especially in a collection. It’s like a bag of sea salt and pepper chips, you really want to enjoy them individually and let the flavor seep in your mouth… but you’re a pig and devour the whole bag one afternoon.

That’s basically what reading Small Magic was to me- a wicked bag of chips. It’s a collection of a little over seventy quick pieces. All the chapters were interesting, and surprising in some way. My favorites tended to have a subtle layer of horror just peeking out through a dim window. There were also quite a few chapters with interesting ideas on relations and society. Most chapters are horror stories, mixed into that there’s some of magical realism, romance, crime, humor, fantasy and science fiction.

As a warning, there is quite a bit of gore- beautifully written though- that may be a little too much for those of delicate mind. He produces some really image-evoking dark connections, like watering a groove of trees with blood.

I would recommend this to anyone for some intense Halloween short stories.

My favorite stories: Inheritance, Communion, Blue Collar Boys, Man Bites Man, The Date, Crenshaw’s Gift

I was also pleasantly surprised to see an amusing metafiction story about writing horror stories. A nibble from that, “No one likes to bleed in dark crimson rivulets of scarlet gore, and they will feel sympathy for Bob.”

My Rating: 9 out of 10 bloody scarlet apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

A Merman’s Kiss

By Laura Lond

This is a rather short and sweet read about two plain sisters who wish to be wed and gain social status. One sister Leatra is much more adamant about going about this by any means, whereas Ellie is very timid. I liked that the story took on more of a pragmatic tone than romantic{the story is far less romantic than the title suggests}. Both sisters are very plain looking, which made them nice to read about, and they seem off the bat more realistic. Unfortunately the two sisters personalities aren’t flushed out so well, and they come off as flat. On top of that they read very obviously as bad versus good. I would have liked to see both characters less extreme, so that it would be harder to establish who was ‘right’ or entitled to do certain things. Ellie stuck me as the type of character to be content in settling for anything, which made it hard for me to care about her. The side characters were actually more interesting and complex than the sisters. Overall, I liked the idea of the plot. The message behind the story is nice as well, even if not shown in the best light. It also reads rather quickly, in one sitting, and I didn’t find myself bored. Once the story climaxes and a few things are explained, there’s a three year break and then you see the outcome of everything for Ellie. I found this rather dissatisfying as those three years may have shown a more interesting side of Ellie, and developed her further. There’s also no followup on how things ended up with Leatra, and if she changes at all.

I would recommend this story as a fall afternoon read on the porch.

Nibble: “Leatra was so tired of maybes not coming true.”

My Rating: 4 out of 10 plain red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Enchantress of Rurne

By Chris Turner

In this short story a warrior sets out to slay his master’s killers, but is waylaid by a seductress who has her own plans for him. Turner creates rather descriptive scenes for his characters to operate in. He also tends to use very pretty and visual language. The first part of the story has a feeling of impending doom as the tension steadily builds. We’re quickly given a complete-feeling profile of the protagonist, which makes the story easy to jump into. An early inn scene displays some excellent natural dialog, even if the situation is a bit cliche. Suddenly, a flurry of action occurs, and the tension dissipates as the story comes to a close.

I found that the tension dropped off a little too quickly. I would have liked the action scenes, mainly the fight to avenge his master’s killers, to be fleshed out a little more. I also would have liked to see the protagonist develop in some way, or have some reason to empathize with him. I found the seductress a much more interesting character, with a curious backstory.

I would recommend this story to someone wanting to briefly be emerged in a fantasy hero adventure.

Nibble: “Taar’s sudden-spawned desire for her flesh flared again and her seductive aura was a promise of rapture, to which he was drawn like a burning magnet, feeling a lover’s overpowering ache for the warm, inviting woman-ness lurking beneath that soft leather.”

My Rating: 5 out of 10 dark red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

What Would Satan Do?

By Anthony Miller

This book had me chuckling from the beginning to end. I was actually a little skeptical after reading the summary and first fifty pages, as I expected the book to slow down and become monotonous. Happily it doesn’t though, and the story is just packed with humor and creativity. The plot is that Satan has decided against playing his role in Hell, as he knows on Judgement Day he’ll lose. So he goes to Earth as a human with some of his powers, and attempts to stop Judgement Day from ever happening. In the beginning of the book we see him teaching a religion class, which is interesting to say the least. Between the action and the variety of characters, the book is quickly paced, and certainly didn’t feel like an almost four hundred page book. Miller also ends the huge adventure in an interesting and cute way, that surprisingly works well for an Apocalypse story. The story has more than mere humor though, as some social commentary certainly adds something to think about while reading. What I really liked about this book though, was it seemed like Miller had a ton of fun writing it.

As a note, there is a bit of crude language in this book; but I found Miller handled it pretty well, and it came off as natural for the character to be using it.

Nibble: “It’s more like an enraged bull- an enraged bull who’s been poked, prodded, and generally tormented by a matador, and then fed amphetamines and stuffed into a small box.”

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting an amusing break from reality.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 fiery red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Mother Night

Vonnegut plays with shades of gray throughout this novel. Roughly it’s about an American spy who during WWII was an excellent propaganda machine for Germany. There’s excellent tension within the character of Campbell, and throughout the novel I found myself torn between if he was guilty or innocent. All of the characters exist in gray, and for the main supporting characters their good and/or evil title is rather ambiguous. There are a few haunting phrases that pop up multiple times, usually in German, that tie the story together beautifully. Vonnegut’s language is, as usual, gripping and very difficult to put down, even after you’ve finished. On top of that the ideas he shoves in your head are hard to let go of. If someone’s pretending to be evil for a good cause, how much better is that than just being evil? Especially if they have the same exact negative effects?

The only other Vonnegut novel I would put immediately above this one is Cat’s Cradle.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to rethink the definitions of good and evil, in disjunction and conjunction.

Nibble: “It was typical of his schizophrenia as a spy that he should use an institution he so admired for purposes of espionage.”

My Rating: 9 out of 10 tasty but colorless apples


Promissory Payback

By Laurel Dewey

Dewey’s story is based around a detective trying to find out who killed a woman, and each of the suspects seems to have a motive. Dewey does a great job of setting the scene, her descriptions of place and person are rich and tangible. It’s a great quick read as you can immerse yourself for just an hour or two and see the mystery unfold, it reminded me greatly of watching a detective TV show.

There are a few abrasive and uncomfortable views in this story, mainly those of women and victims. Both of these shape the detective, Jane Perry. Personally I did not find her a sympathetic protagonist, although this is the first work of Dewey’s that I’ve read. Regardless I found her character intriguing. I also can imagine coming to root for her once understanding her perspective and past through the series.

One of the drawbacks of this story was how much, and how quickly, Jane pieces together the mystery. I would have liked a little less clarity throughout the story for more suspense.

Nibble: “Vengeance is an odd bedfellow- at once, quietly cunning and then unflinchingly aggressive, fulfilling its duty to destroy that which it sees as a threat.”

I would recommend this story to people looking for an afternoon mystery.

My Rating: 5 out of 10 granny smith apples

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

The Seamstress and the Wind

By Cesar Aira

The central story and fiction in this are fantastic. Aira flits between short scenes, pushing the reader through the race- a short sprint of a little over 100 pages. The story certainly has a foot in realism and a forgotten leg in fantasy. Aira’s language is beautiful, especially in the scenes where the wind, Sir Ventarron, and the seamstress, Delia, interact. It reads like a long adult fairy tale, with interesting twists and turns, and sudden surprises. There’s also a few themes that echo throughout the book, like travel and no-where. The ending was a shade disappointing as Aira ends this crazy world and situation he’s created, rather quickly and quietly.

I could have done without the brief metafiction in the beginning and end, both ran as rather dull and took away from the book’s overall feel.

Nibble: “To think I had to eat what a thieving wind brought me!”

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fantastic journey with lots of shallowly interesting characters.

My rating: 7 out of 10 red delicious apples

Good Omens

By Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

As a light humorous read, Good Omens was fantastic. All of the characters, minus the rag-tag group of 11 year olds, were interesting to read about and developed the plot nicely. The book itself really only takes five days, which is retrospectively surprising for how much happens. The book also has some interesting theological ideas attached to it, although nothing terribly original. Watching Aziraphale, an angel, being not so angelic, and Crowley, a demon, being almost a nice guy, and the two interacting with each other is rather interesting. These two characters certainly made the book for me, although having the anti-christ named Adam was lovely as well. The footnotes are also rather amusing, and add another dimension to the book. The only major downside of this novel was the ending. It ties up a little too neatly and easily, and just isn’t as great as the rest of the novel.

Terry Pratchett is on my to-read list currently as I haven’t read anything just by him. Gaiman on the other hand, I’m rather well acquainted with. I felt that his individual works, like Anansi Boys or the Sandman series, developed protagonists much more fully. As amusing as the Good Omens characters are, they still feel very two dimensional.

Overall I would recommend it as an introduction to either of the authors, or as a fun read on a dark and stormy night.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 shiny red apples

Polishing the Apple

So this is for my basic thoughts/reviews on literature. That’s all it’s trying to be at the moment anyways. I’m trying not to include any major spoilers, although relatively insignificant ones may occur. Feel free to comment for book recommendations, or anything else.

p.s. there’s a magical ‘about me’ page that isn’t showing up on the sidebar for some reason

*Edit* Everything is now apparent on the sidebar, woo-hoo!