Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – A Book Review

I took a chance on this very quick read after a friend recommended it.

Ella Minnow Pea is a unique concept.  The premise is that a small island exists off the coast of South Carolina.  This entire island’s culture is based upon Nevin Nollop, the man responsible for the blessed phrase: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Though a literate, incredibly well-spoken people, the island’s inhabitants are thrown into complete disarray as a statue of Nollop begins to lose letters from the sacred phrase.  They take these jettisoned letters as spiritual intervention, and so they remove each letter from usage as it falls.

Because the book is written as literal correspondence between characters, a dark farce ensues.  The messages begin missing those outlawed letters, and, by book’s end, the notes between characters are nearly incomprehensible.

To make matters worse, the town punishes anyone caught using the banned letters.  Beatings, exile, even death can result as a byproduct of usage.  Things get very bleak very quickly, yet the circumstances continuously remain hilarious.

While the story itself did not make a lasting impact upon me, Mark Dunn’s execution absolutely impressed.  To literally omit those letters banned by the town in the actual story — that’s no easy feat!  I enjoyed the structure, construction, and style of the book immensely, and I would recommend reading it for that experience alone.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Always On the Hunt For Something New To Read?

Are you always on the hunt for something new to read?  I publish short stories every week or two in a variety of genres.  Most of them are between five and ten pages long, and all of them are only ninety-nine cents on both the Nook and Kindle.

You never know what you’re going to get from me.  One story will be an inspirational tear-jerker, the next will keep you up at night in fear.  Some are hilarious, and others are so surreal that they don’t even make total sense to me.  I love to read in all genres–my writing reflects this preference.  I can’t be contained to one format, one style, or one genre.

If you’ll allow presumption on my part: I have certain authors that I adore.  Unfortunately, they are not exactly prolific.  They tend to write great novels … every three or four years.  If you decide you like my writing, you can always look forward to something new within a few weeks.

Visit my website’s homepage HERE for available titles with links to both Nook and Kindle downloads.

Thanks so much for your time.  I hope you’ll take joy in “discovering” me!

 

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – A Book Review

A friend on GoodReads recommended this book to me, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  Honestly, I told him I wanted something really short that I could read quickly.

In that regard, Every Heart a Doorway is a raging success.

The concept of the book is fascinating.  We’ve all heard of those kids in stories who visit other realms, worlds, or dimensions.  This book deals with what happens when they come home … but want to go back.

It also delves into the fabric of each kind of world that exists beyond.  Because the story takes place at a school, there is some explanation as to the general laws and rules of each world the various children have visited.  Again, this is a very cool concept.

My only complaint is that the actual plot did not spark my interest all that much.  I adored the idea of dissatisfied travelers who want nothing more than to go back to their fantasy world.  I also love the idea of trying to categorize each world in an effort to force some semblance of sense upon them.

The story, though, is primarily about a series of grotesque murders occurring on the school grounds.  Something of a mystery ensues revolving around the fact that very specific parts of bodies are being taken from each victim.

Furthermore, there’s plenty of teenage angst in the dialogue.  Lots of feeling shunned and out of place.  During those moments, it became obvious I am not the target audience for this book.

However, I appreciated the quick pace, the vivid descriptions, and the very imaginative concepts.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Cold Turkey: A Thanksgiving Misadventure – My Short Story Of the Week

If you’re in need of a short Thanksgiving story that will elicit a chuckle while warming the heart, look no further.  “Cold Turkey” is about an unapologetic Eddie as he stands fuming outside in the bitter cold while his son, wife, and in-laws sit silently at the dinner table, surrounding a cold turkey.  What caused this set of woeful events to occur?  Click the Kindle or NOOK links to find out!

Cold Turkey

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Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters – A Book Review

If you’re looking for a book that will send your imagination into overdrive, this is the one.  The idea in Underground Airlines is that slavery did not end.  Four states — Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi — did not abolish slavery, namely because the Civil War never occurred.  The Underground Airlines is much like the Underground Railroad in that it is a network established to help slaves escape.  Just as no actual railroads were used to liberate slaves in reality, airplanes are not utilized in this book as a means of emancipation.

Set in our present day, Underground Airlines features a black man named Victor working as a bounty hunter for the government and specializing in tracking down escaped slaves.  I won’t reveal why he pursues this troubling work, but know that he has his reasons.

He soon becomes ensnared in a case that unsettles him.  Nothing about it seems normal compared to his past cases, and when he finds himself embedded with double-agent police officers, uncompromising priests, and government shadow operatives, he loses all sense of whatever self he’d managed to preserve since his horrific childhood.

Winters impressed me on several fronts with this novel, but particularly because he really thought through what the implications would be of a USA that did not do business with four major states in the South.  He created a world very recognizable, but also starkly different.  And though he didn’t go into great detail with the small deviations, it was apparent that he knew exactly the backstory behind every off-brand cigarette, every imported Middle-Eastern car, and every alternate Bill passed by Congress.  He developed a reality in which Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King met very different ends, a world terrifying to imagine.

Yet, at the same time, Winters introduced a world not quite different enough from our own.  Much of the racism and bigotry that is expressed by characters in this book are absolutely touted in our world as well.  If anything, I think this book forces us to hold a mirror up to our own society and ask ourselves if we’ve gone far enough with our Bill of Rights, our Constitution, and the long-term effects of the Emancipation Proclamation.

However, though Underground Airlines touches upon several important social issues, it does not preach, it does not lecture, it does not even necessarily seek to enlighten.  This book is a thriller, through and through.

In fact, it managed to surprise me from start to finish.  Victor proved unpredictable, the story line took several different turns which lead to places I did not anticipate, and it maintained a level of excitement throughout that is very difficult to do.

Of course, in the interest of remaining objective, I must point out a few areas that did not work well for me.  My main complaint is that there are many times when unlikely saves occur.  Just as it seemed Victor had no hope of survival or escape, something always managed to intercede on his behalf.  This is totally in keeping with the genre of the book, but for those looking to it to be something other than a thriller, these moments may be something of a jolt.

Along those lines, while Underground Airlines is quite bold in its premise and obviously intricately contemplated by the author, I would not put too much pressure on the book to be something it isn’t.  There are great societal implications for those looking to find them, but the book should not be labeled as a work aiming to progress social cause — it would not be appropriate for social justice classes, for example.  It’s not written to serve that sort of purpose.

However, if you’re looking for a smart, well-written, page-turner with a complex plot, I highly recommend Underground Airlines.

 

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Stories Of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang – A Book Review

As you know, I loved the film Arrival.  As is my habit after watching a great movie based on a book, I immediately acquired the source material.  It turns out that Stories Of Your Life and Others is actually a short story collection and “Story Of Your Life” is specifically the installment that served as Arrival’s source.  However, there are seven other shorts in this collection by Ted Chiang, and they are all imaginative and thought-provoking.

Chiang trained as a computer scientist, and it shows in his writing.  He is very precise, very analytical, and very scientific.  Yet he also has a great sense of character, pacing, and detail.  I especially appreciate that he seems to know the appropriate time to really delve deeply into scientific jargon, but he also knows the right time to pull back and simply let the story flow.

I would not say that all of his stories are purely science fiction, by the way.  “Tower Of Babylon,” for example, explains the science behind building a structure reaching to the heavens, but I would say it is more commentary about the human spirit than anything.  “Hell Is the Absence Of God,” a story about the physical, spiritual, and emotional consequences following sporadic visits by actual angels, is also far more about what it means to be human than anything else.

In fact, at their root, most of Chiang’s stories in this collection are investigating the plight of the human condition.  He tackles love, greed, beauty, sin, justice, obsession, honesty, and even eternal life, but he does so in extremely smart, original, and imaginative ways hidden within the genres of science fiction, steampunk, and fantasy.

If you enjoy innovative, thought-provoking stories, I highly recommend this collection.  They are all fairly complex reads, but well worth the effort.  You will like some more than others, but each is to be appreciated in its own way.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

“The Miscarried” – This Week’s Short Story

The Miscarried by [Foley, Scott William]

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For some, the miscarried are always remembered … and always loved.  (Family Life/Inspirational)