Things That Fall From The Sky

All posts tagged Things That Fall From The Sky

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The House At The End Of The World by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Published January 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The House At The End Of The World all about?:

The House At The End Of The World follows a father and daughter who are surviving in the wilderness after the end of civilisation.

What did I think?:

For those of you who have read my previous reviews of the stories in this collection you might appreciate I had mixed feelings on reading and finishing the final story in Things That Fall From The Sky. Generally, I’ve had quite varied thoughts about the stories within – sometimes, they have been excellent and I cannot fault them, sometimes I’ve just shrugged and not thought very much of the story either way and others, well….one in particular was one of the worst short stories I’ve ever read. As a result, I came to The House At The End Of The World with quite an open mind, thinking I could either love it, hate it or be completely indifferent. I did end up enjoying it BUT the story-line reminded me very much of one of my favourite novels and I couldn’t treat it as a narrative in its own right because of this unfortunately.

The story follows Holly, four years old when we first meet her and describes her life with her father as they live out in the forest in a house made completely by her father’s hands, hunt and forage for food and even grow their own vegetables in a make-shift garden near to their home. We are not told what has happened to the rest of civilisation but we get the impression that Holly and her father are two of the very few people left in the world and, as a result, must survive accordingly. This story follows their beautiful relationship, daily life and also their struggles when Holly’s father manages to break his arm and Holly is forced to learn more about their way of life and do much more for herself and her father in order to pull them both through.

I don’t really want to say too much more as there is an event that happens that could be described as being quite unexpected and perhaps an alternative direction from where the reader thought the narrative may be leading. For me, I didn’t exactly expect it but as soon as it happened I was instantly reminded of one of my favourite novels as I mentioned earlier. However, I’m very hesitant to even mention the name of that novel because just by saying it, if you have read it, gives away a considerable spoiler about parts of this story and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone. “The event” was the major sticking point for me with this tale. Although I loved it in the novel, I didn’t particularly want to read about it again in a different story by a different author. That’s not the fault of the author, both of them just happened to come up with similar ideas and wrote a narrative around them. Personally, it just didn’t feel fresh enough for me because I felt like I had read it before.

Saying all this, if I put that novel to one side and had never read it, I would say this story is completely beautiful, in the language the author uses and in the execution of the plot. I loved the relationship between Holly and her father and the descriptions of the environment around them were simply stunning – you could almost believe they were the only two people on the Earth and I found myself as a reader really rooting for them.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Which Reminded Her, Later by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Part One

Published January 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aniapps.shortstories

Hello everyone and welcome to the first part of my Short Stories Challenge for 2018. In part five of my challenge in 2017, like many of the other parts, I had some absolutely fantastic finds like Seeing Double by Sara Maitland, Unplugged by Dianne Gray and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King. However, I also had some that I wasn’t particularly fussed about, like The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood and Freaks by Tess Gerritsen, both of which were huge disappointments. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for the first few months of 2018:

The House At The End Of The World by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Which Reminded Her, Later by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

Books And Roses by Helen Oyeyemi from the collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.

The Apple Tree by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories.

The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.

Dibblespin by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories.

Remmy Rothstein Toes The Line by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

Why The Yew Tree Lives So Long by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

A Child’s Problem by Reggie Oliver from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Light Through The Window by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Light Through The Window all about?:

The Light Through The Window is about a lonely window cleaner who watches people behind the windows of a high rise building and mourns the loss of his own family.

What did I think?:

I think it’s fair to say that some of the stories in this collection have been really hit and miss for me. Some of them are absolutely beautiful – namely The Ceiling, but others such as The Passenger and The Jesus Stories I’ve found myself getting quite frustrated with. I’m afraid The Light Through The Window was another one of those stories where I don’t really have any strong emotions for or against it and I finished it feeling rather apathetic about the whole reading experience and to be honest, quite worried about writing a review as I have a feeling I’m going to be struggling for things to say.

Our unnamed protagonist for the story is a male window cleaner who diligently cleans the windows of a high rise building every day without fail. He has never married or had children and from time to time, fantasises about the people behind the windows that he cleans in that he is part of their family. He doesn’t have any family of his own still alive but reminisces constantly about his mother, father and grandfather who were a big part of his life. Actually, he often imagines that he sees them all when he is working and looks forward to this experience and the intense connection that he still feels he has with them even though they have all passed away. He attempts to start a relationship with a woman behind one of the windows but unfortunately his efforts are not really fruitful and he remains alone but with the knowledge that he can always see his family any time he wants with the power of his own mind.

So, yes….gosh – what can I say? Of course, as with all Kevin Brockmeier’s stories, the writing is truly stunning and the imagery and vocabulary he uses to tell his tale is masterful. I always enjoy reading his prose, even if I don’t care very much for the story, he is a true artist with words and it’s always lovely to experience. He did succeed in making me feel terribly sad for his window cleaner, especially when he tried (and failed miserably) to form a connection with one of the women in the building but that was the only part of the story which I felt any real emotion or enjoyment. I felt that nothing really happened which sometimes isn’t a bad thing if the story focuses purely on character development. However, I don’t feel that this was really explored in the way it could have been either. Gorgeous words, fairly interesting premise but I’m afraid this was just a bit of a letdown for me.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Vessel by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Three

Published July 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from https://www.standoutbooks.com/how-publish-short-story/

Hello everyone and welcome to Part Three of my Short Stories Challenge this year. Part Two was again, very interesting with some really memorable stories read, namely The Birds by Daphne du Maurier and Gallowberries by Angela Slatter which were both fantastic and HIGHLY recommended. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Three!

An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Hot Dog Stand by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

Possum by Matthew Holness from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

The Heart Goes Last: Positron, Episode Four by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone).

The White Doe by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

The Light Through The Window by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Published April 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Passenger all about?:

The Passenger follows a man who has spent his whole life on an airplane in a strange, dystopian world where a whole civilisation are born, fall in love, reproduce and die all on the plane.

What did I think?:

You know how short story collections are sometimes a bit hit and miss? There’s those stories that you absolutely love and you could wax on for ages about how talented the author is? Then there’s those stories that make you hang your head, shake it a little and wonder if somehow you might be missing something? Well, The Passenger falls somewhere in between for me. I would never compare it to The Jesus Stories, (which I might have disliked a little bit!) but at the same time, there’s better stories in this collection, for example The Ceiling, which was a magnificent piece of writing.

So where do I start? Okay, there are lots of positive things about this story, especially the premise. We are inside the mind of one male passenger on an airplane and he is talking about his mother’s death and how her body was dealt with after she died (by dropping it out of the plane of course!). I was completely confused and it wasn’t until a couple of pages in that I realised that this story was about a strange new world where all the passengers of this particular plane live out their whole lives on that plane. They don’t land, pick up new passengers etc so any new life has to be initiated by passengers currently on the plane getting it on.

Absolutely fascinating premise and there was so much potential for this story to do amazing things….however….it just ended up as a bit of a damp squib for me. Our male protagonist mentions an encounter with the woman in the seat in front of him that leads to a sexual experience and his belief that she is currently carrying his child, even if she has not spoke to him or even deigned to make eye contact since the experience occurred. What irked me about the story was that it didn’t seem to go anywhere. There were bucket-loads of questions that I wanted answered and I left it feeling so unsatisfied and disappointed. For example, how did they end up in this situation? Was there an incident on land that led to flying in a plane being the safest option? Is this incident still going on and they are doomed to fly for all eternity? How on earth do they manage to fly around without refuelling? And what about food/water supplies?

Questions like these may not matter to some people and they might be able to enjoy the wonder and mystery of it all but I really needed a reason to keep reading. I was interested for sure but then cursed myself for being so interested as I never got the answers to what I needed to know! The beauty of Kevin Brockmeier’s writing is undeniable and it was a brilliant idea for a story BUT… am I missing something? I’d love to know if you’ve read this short story and got something out of it that I didn’t. I was slightly tempted to read it again to see if I’d missed a trick somewhere but to be honest, I didn’t want to get cross with it all again! I must urge that the author is a fantastic writer – maybe this story was just too much for me.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY CHALLENGE: Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

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 Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Published August 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Space all about?:

Space is told from the perspective of a widower who is not only struggling with his own grief but trying to deal with his son’s grief also.

What did I think?:

Well, this story was quite a welcome surprise after the horrors of the previous story in this collection – The Jesus Stories which I gave I believe, my lowest rating ever. Shocking! Space was a really sad little tale that left me feeling quite choked up and a little despondent, told from a male character’s point of view as he comes to terms with losing his wife. He narrates the story as if he is talking to his wife, Della, which you get the feeling he does quite a lot and gets some comfort from.

The couple have a son, Eric, of indeterminate age (but old enough to have stubble, as the author tells us) and this is where our narrator is struggling the most. Ever since the funeral, he hasn’t been able to communicate with Eric about his mother in the way he would like and often ends up angering him instead. It is not until one night, when they have a power cut and there is nothing left to do but talk, that father and son have an initially wary heart-to-heart that leads to tenuous bridges beginning to be built. Eric confides in his father that he likes to watch television as a bit of a distraction from what he is feeling inside and that it takes very little effort, whilst his father confides in him some things about his mother that he had previously not known.

Kevin Brockmeier’s beautiful way with prose sets an evocative scene of a house without electricity, where the two inhabitants are forced together to share their feelings and become closer as a result. It was painfully sad to read and quite heart-breaking at points, especially when our narrator becomes desperately worried that he will eventually forget things about his wife as time goes on. It’s definitely a return to form after the disaster that I found The Jesus Stories and I’m now eager to read the next story in the collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You