Book Review | The King is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

king is always above the people coverSet to be released this halloween, The King is Always Above the People is a well-written collection of ten short stories. They introduce the reader to various characters dealing with some sort of problem. One piece describes a man inheriting the house of his blind uncle upon his death from walking off a bridge. Another follows a boy who gets a job as a blind beggar’s assistant. A gang member is the focus of another story.

Alarcón’s voice and writing style are very appealing. Coupled with stories that flowed at a decent pace, they provided a readable book. On the other hand, I found some of the stories and/or characters to be somewhat average, flat and/or unmemorable. This said, I would certainly read more of Alarcón’s works because the writing itself was such a draw. The physical volume is also nice, with a smooth jacket and pages that stay open for you. Watch for this book to come out at a library near you!

I received an advance copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The King is Always Above the People, you may be interested in Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).

Advertisements

Book Review | A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

IMG_0753.JPGThis collection of short stories, each previously published by The New Yorker, deals with Indian characters, mostly involved in love or interpersonal social issues. The eight included stories share common themes including love, physical relationships, arranged marriage, sickness and other threads of daily life.

These stories of varying lengths are direct and the writing easy to follow. The subject matter is best suited for adults, though scenes of intercourse are brief. Despite being a fairly quick read, I did not find this book to be very enjoyable. The dark humor I was hoping for seemed quite sparse. Certain reader’s may also find some of the female character’s situations to be depressing. That said, the book could serve to increase Indian cultural knowledge for an outsider. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Life of Adventure and Delight, you may be interested in Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino (2016).

Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).

Book Review | Brussels Noir edited by Michel Dufranne

What a fun, quick read this book turned out to be!

Brussels Noir is comprised of 13 short stories divided into three categories. Stories range in length from about 15-30 pages each with varying themes and styles. While reading them, I found myself laughing and crying as the authors really have done a great job here.

As for the noir title, I’d say it’s best not to go in with too many expectations. More than typically noir, I found the stories to simply focus on some of the darker aspects of life. The surreal section of stories was especially impressive and would certainly appeal to fans of magical realism.

I’d definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy short stories with a slightly macabre leaning, fans of Haruki Murakami and readers looking for a travel-themed read. Check it out from your local library.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the authors/editor/publisher for participating.

Book Review | Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino

malafemmena

Malafemmena is a collection of Ermelino’s short stories, some previously published, focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations. The sixteen pieces are of varying lengths and take place at different times, on different continents, over the past few decades. From women crossing borders abroad, to drug fueled relaxeés on permanent holiday, to the delusional and victimized, Ermelino has incorporated tales for all depraved readers to relate to.

Ermelino’s distinctive writing style is both easy to read and picturesque. The reader will be able to envision two naked women described sharing a bed in a rented room in India and other scenes. Tastefully written, some of these stories are particularly thought provoking. Though sex, drugs and violence are incorporated into the stories, none of them are overdone. Some of the character’s delusions are quite impressive, and some of the stories are much better than others. This book is a quick read, great for commute or travel. Check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | Mexico : stories by Josh Barkan

mexico stories josh barkan.jpgMexico is a collection of twelve short stories by Josh Barkan. The book’s characters come from various backgrounds and the stories are not connected other than that they all take place in Mexico. Protagonists include US expats and Mexicans, ranging in age from children to older adults. Themes dealt with include religion, interpersonal relations, gang violence, power struggle, cancer and corruption, among others. While some characters are coming of age, others are changing their ways after a life’s work.

This book is well-written and started out strong, but petered out a little as it continued. That said, each story is thought provoking and works well on its own. The themes and perspectives offered were interesting, but something to pull the reader in and keep his attention was lacking. Because of the format, some characters were not as well developed and harder to relate to. Barkan has incorporated violence tastefully into these stories, which range in length and make the book easy to pick up or put down. This book would appeal to those interested in experiencing a slice of life in another culture from various points of view. Released in January 2017, you should be able to check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | The Mermaid Girl by Erika Swyler

IMG_6921.JPGThe Mermaid Girl is a short story about a lady who was the mermaid in the tank at the circus. She grew up traveling from town to town until a man fell in love with that underwater girl. She suffers from terrible headaches after leaving the circus and starting a life on the east coast with her partner and two young children.

This book was much shorter than I had expected, just 36 pages. For a short story, it was decent. Mermaid Paulina is fairly well developed, however the other characters are flat. While the writing style is clear, the text breaks often and shifts time frames without much notice, making it seem disjointed. Perhaps this story will be of much more interest to readers of Swyler’s 2015 novel The Book of Speculation, as this is the prequel. While it’s unlikely that you will be able to find this book at your local library, you can buy a copy here for 99 cents.

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.