novella

All posts tagged novella

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Go Deep by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Published September 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Go Deep all about?:

A hallucinatory noir short story from the No.1 bestselling author of the Will Trent novels. (‘Go Deep’ is also available as part of a bundle with ‘Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line’ and ‘Necessary Women’)

Growing up dirt poor, Charlie Lam worked his ass off to make something of himself, no thanks to his deadbeat father or his long-suffering mother. And now a lot of people depend on Charlie: by his last count, sixty-eight employees at his Atlanta auto dealership, eleven shiftless brothers and sisters, an ungrateful wife, a spoiled daughter, a shameless girlfriend. Who could really blame him for wanting a little extra?

The arrangement is simple: Charlie picks up a suit from the dry cleaner’s. In the suit pocket is the name of a very important man. The next day, that man walks into the dealership, drives out in a new car, and Charlie gets a fat envelope full of cash. Everyone’s happy. No one gets hurt. So long as Charlie doesn’t cross his business partner. But with one twist of a knife, the unthinkable happens. And suddenly Charlie is in deeper trouble than he could have possibly imagined.

What did I think?:

Just when I thought Karin Slaughter couldn’t get any more warped and twisted, Go Deep comes along. Ahem, well…I think the name of the novella speaks for itself doesn’t it? Do I really have to go into full, gory detail? I’ll try and keep it relatively clean. Being one of my all time favourite authors, I have high expectations when I come to read Karin’s work, whether it is a novella or one of her full length novels and am rarely disappointed. So why am I still processing how I feel about this particular story? It’s not that it wasn’t compelling, it certainly was and the author definitely has the gift of the shock factor and making you feel slightly uncomfortable but for some reason, I just can’t rate it as high as I have her previous novellas. It wasn’t that it was sexually explicit, it wasn’t the characters – I can’t explain it, something just felt a bit too strange for me personally and I usually love a story with a bit of an edge.

Our protagonist is a middle-aged man called Charlie Lam who hasn’t had the best start in life with a troubled family originating from a very impoverished background. He has managed to change his life around and now owns a successful car company and looks after all his siblings (even though they try to take advantage of him emotionally and financially on a number of occasions). You’d think a character like this sounds all kinds of lovely, right? Wrong. Charlie is a bit of a wrong ‘un. He associates with mob bosses, does dodgy deals and worse of all is a disgusting misogynistic pig. He has both a wife, daughter and girlfriend all of whom he treats with equal derision and takes pleasure in embarrassing women he meets through work on a daily basis. However, when Charlie has a run in (quite literally, using his car) with a homeless man, his life is turned upside down and he may never be the same man again.

Ugh, Charlie as a character really was hideous. I did love to hate him at points and Karin Slaughter did a marvellous job of creating such an unlikeable, despicable individual. Yet (as with many of the authors works) there are multiple twists in the tale that you will not see coming and by the end, you might even end up sympathising with Charlie as he ends up in quite a horrific situation. I can only applaud the author for making me feel this way, seriously, I really did hate this guy at the beginning of the novella! There are strange, almost mystical things going on that give Charlie a taste of his own medicine and whilst you may think that he deserves it, the situations he is placed in are pretty brutal and quite graphic – again, perhaps not one for the easily offended. Once again, she does pull a blinder of an ending and despite my misgivings about the story in general, I have to admit to being desperate to know what would happen next. Hmm, maybe I did enjoy this novella more than I let on?!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

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Manipulated Lives – H.A. Leuschel

Published September 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author Helene Leuschel for providing me with a copy of her series of novellas, Manipulated Lives in exchange for an honest review. I have read some fantastic reviews of this collection around the blogosphere and was really excited to discover the stories for myself. I was slightly concerned that the subject matter would be too difficult for me to read about (having been a victim of emotional manipulation in the past) but in fact, it was quite a cathartic reading experience and I appreciated the way in which the author presented all the possible guises of a narcissistic/manipulative personality.

Manipulated Lives is a collection of five different novellas, all involving a character that has been manipulated in some manner. Covering both sexes, differing sexual preferences and across a broad age range this versatile collection of stories includes an old woman called Tess who almost lost her family because of the manipulation of her lover, a coming of age story about a teenage girl called Holly who is falling in love for the first time with entirely the wrong sort of boy, a woman called Lisa who realises (perhaps, too late?) the type of son that she has raised and the story of Sophie who begins a relationship with a man and his son only for things to become incredibly intense very quickly. My favourite story in the collection has to be The Narcissist where we get a fascinating insight into the personality of an expert manipulator as we learn more about his life and how he ended up in the hospital bed where he now finds himself, confused and completely alone.

Normally when you read a short story/novella collection, there are those stories that you don’t necessarily warm to that much but I can definitely say, hand on heart, this wasn’t the case with Helene’s collection. I may have liked some of the tales slightly more than others but there wasn’t one story in the bunch that I disliked, a rare thing indeed and proof of the author’s wonderful ability for story-telling. Some of the things she wrote, especially when she was describing the personality of a manipulative individual were so spot on I found myself nodding along, instantly transported back to the past when I had the misfortune to be involved with such a person but the good luck to find a way out of it. I loved the variety of characters and situations that were explored and found it so easy to read this collection in one sitting, instantly compelled to read “just one more story,” until the collection was complete. If you’re looking for a gripping read with a psychological edge that can be enjoyed bit by bit or all in one go, I highly recommend Helene Leuschel’s writing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Monte Verità by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories.

Published September 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Monte Verità all about?:

The second story in Daphne du Maurier’s collection focuses on a mysterious mountain cult who are promised immortality but there is a price to pay.

What did I think?:

Oh my goodness, that was a slog and a half. Let’s get this straight, Daphne du Maurier is one of my all time favourite authors but with Monte Verità, she might have just proved to me that you’re not necessarily going to love everything that your favourite author writes! The second story in this collection is more like a novella, it’s about sixty pages long and, to be honest, I could feel every single one of those pages dragging along. It started off promisingly enough and I was quite excited to see where the author was going to take it but I was sorely disappointed by the end. It felt more like an epic saga of a story – which, I would normally be well up for but something just didn’t sit right with me. Perhaps it was the length, perhaps it was a bit too airy-fairy for me who can say? All I do know is that I was quite relieved when I (eventually) came to the end.

There is a lot going on in this story, a huge amount and I don’t want to go into the plot too much for fear of my review turning into as much of an rigmarole as the story itself! Basically, it involves a strange mountain in Europe (we are not told exactly where) called Monte Verità that hosts on its very summit, a perplexing cult that the surrounding villages are terrified of. This is because once their daughters hit the age of thirteen they have the potential to be “called” to the mountain where they are never seen again.

The narrative follows our unnamed narrator, his friend Victor and his new wife Anna and their dealings with the mountain. Anna has always seemed to have a certain kind of stillness, serenity and restlessness, almost like she is continually looking for something. Well, when she deigns to climb Monte Verità with her keen mountaineer husband Victor, she finds out exactly what she is looking for and that is to join the cult at the summit. The story follows our narrator as he listens to what has happened from Victor whom in the middle of a nervous breakdown and then our narrator attempts to ascend the mountain and get some answers for himself.

Sounds brilliant right? Just the sort of intriguing premise to pull you in? Not for me, unfortunately. I was fascinated at the start mind you, and was thoroughly enjoying it until Anna went up the mountain. After that, everything just fell slightly flat for me. I don’t think we found out enough about the people who lived at the summit i.e. how they lived, what they believed in and the secret of their apparent immortality and the story-line in general from this point just got slightly wishy-washy and vague which irritated me to no end! I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first starting reading the story but I certainly didn’t get it and am quite surprised about this as I think it had the potential to be taken in a more darker direction which may have swayed my opinion to a more positive review. I’m sure there’s people out there that would still love this story, this is simply my personal opinion but Daphne, it wasn’t one of your best!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Heart Goes Last (Positron, Episode Four) by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Published August 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The internationally bestselling diva of dystopias is back with a new installment of Positron, her darkly comic Byliner Serial about life in a Big Brother America of the near future.

In the seemingly well-adjusted world of Consilience, it’s dawning on the residents that they’ve thrown away the keys to more than their ragged former lives outside the high walls of their gated community. When they volunteered for this new social experiment, they also gave away the keys to their destinies, even their hearts.

Ask Charmaine and she’ll tell you her husband is a dead man. Sure, marriage can be murder, but when Charmaine plunged a deadly hypodermic needle into Stan, because it was part of her job–dispatching undesirables in Positron Prison–Stan survived. His former jailer, a libidinous security chief named Jocelyn, had switched out the death drugs for knockout drugs and drafted him into a plot to undo the increasingly sinister social scheme. In so doing, she promoted him from her sexual plaything to full-blown subversive. The underground is housed in a manufacturing plant of one of Consilience’s most successful products: sexbots, made to order.

Love, however, is not made to order, and despite a Darwinian labyrinth of betrayal after betrayal, including wild extramarital encounters and, yes, murder, Stan can’t stop thinking about Charmaine. Not only because someone has requested a sexbot replica of her but because, well, she’s home in a world without homes. In The Heart Goes Last, one of Atwood’s darkest and most deviously entertaining inventions yet, the human heart proves more resilient and true than any mail-order machine.

What did I think?:

Hopefully this isn’t going to be too difficult to explain…Margaret Atwood’s Positron series is now available as a complete novel called The Heart Goes Last, however the series originally appeared as a number of “episodes,” each available separately as an e-book. This is the way I first came across them although now I do feel slightly cheated as the fifth (and I think final?) episode has been taken off the Amazon UK website and I will now only know the ending to the story if I choose to purchase the full length novel which also goes under the name The Heart Goes Last. Did that make any sense? If you haven’t read this series before, this shortened episode is definitely not the best place to start, you’re probably better off buying the entire novel and reading from the start. Also, I did find myself quite disappointed with this section of the story and feel there’s better parts of it I’ve already reviewed that I can recommend. (Please see my previous posts I’m Starved For You, Choke Collar and Erase Me).

Margaret Atwood chooses to set this story in a strange, dystopian world in a new society known as Positron. Briefly, it involves couples signing up and being fully committed to the programme, given free housing and employment but every alternate month they have to enter the prison system and work for the good of society as an alternate couple pairing takes their places in their house. Sounds good, right? Well, of course, as you might have expected from an Atwood narrative, this society is a hell of a lot darker than first made out. Although you are guaranteed a job and security for life, there are a lot murkier things going on in this world and our main characters, Charmaine and Stan become embroiled in this underworld when they are manipulated into a situation they are not prepared for.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot for fear of spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t come across this work before. I do want to say that it’s not for the easily offended. It’s one of the most sexual things that I’ve seen Margaret Atwood write and she definitely doesn’t hold back with the seedier side of Positron including in this episode, specialised “sexbots” for the pleasure of both men and women. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t as impressed with this episode compared to the others in the series. I loved the snide humour throughout and didn’t mind some of the more shocking moments but, by this point in the narrative, I didn’t feel like she had enough to say that compelled me in the way I usually feel when reading her novels. If it wasn’t for the fact that I am incredibly intrigued to see how it all ends, I might not even bother to finish the story. As it is, I don’t think I’ll be rushing to complete it, especially if it involves reading an entire novels worth just to get to the same point in the story that I am at the moment.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The White Doe by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Published May 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Thorn In My Side all about?:

It could have been just any night, and they could have just been any two brothers — but it wasn’t, and they weren’t. The scene is an Atlanta bar. The music is loud and the dance floor is packed. The good-looking brother picks up a girl. But when dark deeds ensue out in the parking lot, what happens next can only be described in two words: vintage Slaughter.

What did I think?:

Okay, so I think regular visitors to my blog are aware that Karin Slaughter can’t do much wrong in my eyes and I always get a little bit excited when one of her short stories rolls around on my Short Stories Challenge. As the synopsis suggests, “vintage Slaughter,” is perfect terminology to use as what happens during this story is shocking, compelling and disturbing, everything I’ve come to expect from the author and yet she still manages to surprise me, every single time.

This very dark, twisted little tale involves two brothers who have a very interesting relationship with each other and a are a bit different from the norm. I do want to veer away from spoilers as I really enjoyed the surprise myself when the reader finds out what makes them special but it might make writing this review quite tough, apologies for any vagueness! The brothers are called Kirk and Wayne and are as different as chalk and cheese. Kirk is the more confident, wise-cracking, brash brother that has a bit of an eye for the ladies and Wayne is the softer, more unassuming, shy brother of the two which causes its own problems for Kirk for reasons I simply cannot divulge. However, one night they pay a prostitute to ahem… service Kirk in the back of their van at a club and things go very badly. This is the tale of the relationship between a very unique set of brothers that has been simmering just below boiling point for so long, but one catastrophic set of events tips things right over the edge and changes both brothers lives forever.

Doesn’t sound too very shocking in the grand scheme of things? Think again. There’s a lot of things I’m not able to say in this review for fear of ruining the shock factor that I myself felt when I realised the direction Slaughter was taking the narrative. She has a fantastic way of writing the most loathsome characters, like Kirk, the self-assured yet incredibly dangerous brother who I loved reading about but made my skin crawl with his actions and the decisions he makes. The author describes it herself on GoodReads as a bit of a departure story for her from what she usually writes and there are a couple of lower starred reviews that may reflect this. For me however, I thought it was a disturbing yet intriguing read with many of her classic trademarks that I appreciated. Maybe it’s not a story for everyone sure, especially the more sensitive or easily offended but personally, I think she’s knocked it out of the park once again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Published March 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Erase Me all about?:

In the latest edge-of-your-seat episode of “Positron,” the Byliner Serial by renowned author Margaret Atwood, the dystopian dark comedy takes its darkest turn yet, pitting husband against wife and the human impulse to love against the animal instinct to survive.

Stan and Charmaine should have known better when they signed up for Consilience, a social experiment in which it’s the lawful who are locked up, while, beyond the gates, criminals wander the wasted streets of America.

The couple understand that to break the rules in so strictly regimented a place is dangerous; but, driven by boredom and lust, they do it anyway and betray each other and the system. As comeuppance, Stan finds himself the sexual plaything of a subversive member of the Consilience security team and in no time is made a pawn in a shadowy scheme to bring Consilience crashing down.

Meanwhile, his wife, Charmaine, is being held indefinitely at Positron Prison for her own sins. How far she’ll go to regain her good name and position is anyone’s guess, especially Stan’s. When he winds up paralyzed and tied to a gurney in the prison wing where Charmaine works, injecting toxic cocktails of drugs into troublesome Consilience citizens, will she save his neck or her own? Will she “erase” him permanently?

In “Erase Me,” it’s every man–and woman–for him or herself. Erotically charged, morally complex, wickedly funny, and hailed as “shockingly believable” by “The Globe and Mail,” Atwood’s “Positron” stories remind us that when a totalitarian state gets its grip on the human heart, marriage can be murder.

What did I think?:

If you’re familiar with my blog and my reading tastes, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood. She’s one of the authors where I am desperate to read all of her back catalogue and certainly intend to do so in the not so distant future. She has a talent for writing kooky, dystopian worlds that feel startlingly familiar combined with controversy and her trademark black humour. I was lucky enough to see Margaret speak when she came to the U.K. to promote her book, Hag-Seed, a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and long-listed for this years Baileys Prize For Women’s Fiction. I’m delighted to tell you that she was just as witty and intelligent as I had hoped for and it was fascinating to hear her speak.

But, I digress! Back to Erase Me. This is the third in Margaret Atwood’s Positron series which were released serially but have now been re-vamped in a novel by the author called The Heart Goes Last. I downloaded them as e-books when they were released one by one so I’m happy to continue reading them this way and then, of course, they count towards my Short Stories Challenge! If you haven’t come across this series before, you may want to check it out – the first is I’m Starved For You and the second, Choke Collar but I’ll try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible.

It follows Stan and Charmaine, husband and wife who sign up for a revolutionary new programme that involves two communities – a town Consilience and a prison Positron. By entering the programme they agree to spend some of their time in prison (with a paid job and relative comfort) and alternately in a home in the community, again with a paid job and guaranteed happiness. However, this programme is not all it seems. In Erase Me, we see husband and wife pitted against each other and their marriage and loyalty to Positron tested in the worst possible way. Neither Stan or Charmaine are able to contact each other and are completely unaware what the other is doing, thinks, etc so have to rely on a rogue element/double agent who are fighting to overturn the system and bring back democracy. Of course, they want the couple to be a part of it. But can Stan and Charmaine be brave enough to risk everything and return to a life that they were unhappy about in the first place? Especially as when they signed up for this experiment they were told unequivocally that there was no going back.

Okay, I have to admit when I first started this series of novellas I really didn’t know what to think! It was brash, funny, erotic in places (oo-er!) and I hadn’t the foggiest what was going on. By the end of Choke Collar however, I was fully invested in the story. The eroticism has been toned down, I must say if that’s not really your bag and I’m kind of relieved as the story seems to focus more on the characters and the system that they are involved in, which of course is what interested me and made me pick up the series in the first place! We don’t really see too much of Stan and Charmaine as a couple for one reason or another but I actually enjoy this more as we get to see their lives, thoughts and aspirations as separate individuals. Once again, Margaret Atwood comes up with a cracker of an ending and I am definitely intrigued now to see what is going to happen in the last part of the series – The Heart Goes Last (don’t be confused, it is the same title as the novel that has come out under her name!).

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Assassin’s Blade (Throne Of Glass 0.1-0.5) – Sarah J. Maas

Published October 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

18243700

What’s it all about?:

Contains all five novellas.

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

What did I think?:

I’m holding my hands up to unashamedly admit that I am a die-hard Thrones Of Glass super fan! Seriously. This series is all kinds of awesome and when I heard that a prequel was coming out that would tell Celaena’s story before she becomes the King’s Assassin, I instantly knew that it was a must-read for me. Here’s the facts though. It’s not a prequel novel but five separate novellas: The Assassin And The Pirate Lord, The Assassin And The Healer, The Assassin And The Desert, The Assassin And The Underworld and The Assassin And The Empire. Some people may shy away from this idea but trust me, it brings a whole new dimension to the twisted (and so often heart-breaking) world of Celaena Sardothien and may make you look at her a whole lot differently.

So, I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t started the Thrones Of Glass series yet, I do hate spoilers myself! I’m not even sure whether to recommend reading this book first or indeed after the first book in the series. I came to it later myself after I had read a couple of books in the series and I found it a brilliant introduction to a character I had already professed myself to love. But…I can see why reading this book FIRST could be very advantageous as there is a spoiler referred to in the first book about something that happens in Celaena’s past and The Assassin’s Blade explains how this incident came to pass.

During these five novellas, which seem to merge into each other almost like a complete novel with only very short gaps in time between stories, Celaena makes both enemies and allies, is trained to the highest standard with The Mute Assassin in the desert, encounters betrayal and friendship in the unlikeliest of places and experiences the first giddy throes of love. We learn what events (good and bad) transpired to make her the character she is today, a bit about her strengths and where she is potentially weakest and just why she ends up as a prisoner in the salt-mines of Endovier.

If you weren’t the biggest fan of Celaena before The Assassin’s Blade, dare I suggest that you might change your mind after this? Personally, I’ve always loved her kick-ass, kind of cold but also occasionally vulnerable attitude but you realise so much more about her as a person that explains a lot about her thoughts and actions that follow both during and post Throne Of Glass. As with all the books in the series that I’ve read so far, it’s just as action-packed, just as heart-breaking and always compelling and difficult to put down. I’m only sad that after six books, this series will come to an inevitable end. I know, I know, it has to end sometime, but with a story like this I just want it to run and run and run.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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