Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder – A Book Review

I picked up Voodoo Heart because I admire Snyder’s work on American Vampire.  I was interested to see Snyder’s prose stand alone without a team of artists’ aid.  For the most part, I found myself quite pleased.

Each and every one of Snyder’s stories in this collection is original and very well written.  They all utilize well-rounded characters that instantly attach to the psyche and schema.  My only complaint, however, is that nearly half of them ended with no real sense of resolution.  I don’t necessarily mind vague endings, but several of the works – specifically “Blue Yodel,” “Happy Fish, Plus Coin,” and “About Face” – simply stopped.  I got no real sense of finality and I certainly felt no satisfaction, especially because each of those stories in particular was amazingly engaging.  I wanted so much more because I cared about those characters’ plights in these tales, and I felt cheated without a stronger sense of culmination.

With that being said, as much dissatisfaction as I suffered from the previous stories mentioned, other stories like “Wreck” and “Dumpster Tuesday” left me almost giddy they were so well constructed and resolved.  And, for me, “The Star Attraction of 1919” was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read in quite some time.  These specific three stories truly blew me away they were so good.  In fact, I keep thinking about them even though I finished the collection several days ago.

I realize that others’ opinions about these stories may vary distinctly from mine.  That’s the wonderful thing about literature, isn’t it?  Rest assured, if you read this short story collection, you will experience prose written at its finest and plots that will rivet you.

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link – A Book Review

In a recent interview, Michael Chabon recommended reading Kelly Link.  His suggestion was good enough for me, and so I quickly got a copy of the short story collection Pretty Monsters from my local library.

I think the first thing I need to note is that Pretty Monsters is a young adult novel.  Meaning that, while there is some profanity and adult circumstances, the stories largely focus upon young adult protagonists and largely investigate themes important to young adults.

However, that is not to say that you should turn your nose up at this book if you are an old adult as opposed to a young adult.  (I’m 32, where does that put me?)  Link has one of the most imaginative minds I’ve ever run across.  While her stories dealt with aspects of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, each was completely original and refreshingly weird.  I mean that as a total compliment, by the way.  Oftentimes, I feel like authors aren’t willing to get flat-out weird enough.  I’m not talking perverse—I’m just talking weird in a fun and provocative way.  Link often took her stories in unexpected directions, and if you do manage to predict an outcome to one of her stories, be assured that she meant for you to do so.

My only complaint about Pretty Monsters, though, is the fact that each story tended to end on a rather abrupt, inconclusive note.  Some people really enjoy this, but I personally prefer more decisive endings.  Link charmed me, consequently, when she addressed this issue in—appropriately enough—the final story in the collection.  Somehow the fact that she’s cognizant of her trends makes it less irritating for me.

In particular, I recommend “The Faery Handbag,” “Magic for Beginners,” “Pretty Monsters,” and, by far one of the best short stories I’ve ever read, “The Surfer.”

Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson – A Book Review

Do Not Deny Me is one of those rare short story collections that actually gets better as it progresses.

I must admit that I picked this book up simply because it was a short story collection and, as a short story writer, I try to familiarize myself with successful authors’ styles and subjects.  When I read the author biography and discovered that Thompson only lives fifty miles away from me, well, I automatically wanted to like the book and support a fellow Central Illinoisan.

We got off to a rough start.  The first story in Do Not Deny Me, entitled “Soldiers of Spiritos,” began promisingly enough but then fell flat as it detailed a burnt out professor and an “emo” student.  “Wilderness” was not much of an improvement as it followed the stories of two middle-aged women—friends—and their troubled love lives.  The third story was almost enough to make me put down the book; “Mr. Rat” was the typical jerk at work story focusing upon an egocentric young man.

But then, with the fourth story called “Little Brown Bird,” things markedly improved.   From that moment on, nearly all of the following stories were extremely good.  In particular, I enjoyed “The Woman at the Well,” a story about a female prison Bible study group; “Escape,” a story about an elderly man still suffering from the ramifications of a stroke trying to gain his independence again; “How We Brought the Good News,” a story about a spurned lover discovering amazing art in her workplace and hunting down the artist; and, my absolute favorite, “Treehouse,” a story about a middle-aged man who just doesn’t much see the point of anything anymore, and so he builds himself a tree house as a coping mechanism.

Thompson excels at presenting identifiable, realistic characters that will most certainly remind us of people we know (if not directly ourselves).  While few of her characters are heroic, their idiosyncrasies tended to win me over (though not always), and it’s obvious they were as real to Thompson as the keyboard I’m typing upon is to me.  Her stories are well-plotted and her craftsmanship is faultless.  She succeeds in giving us just enough detail to satisfy our mind’s eye, but she does not overindulge as so many writers are prone to do.

There are five stories in this collection that more than justify the price of this book, and if you’re a fan of character-driven, convincing, adroitly written stories that reveal the hardships of the average person, then I whole-heartedly recommend Do Not Deny Me.

Don’t Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill – A Book Review

In Don’t Cry, Mary Gaitskill presents ten short stories that are sometimes literally connected and sometimes thematically related.  Some of these stories are firmly entrenched within the real world, and some, while taking place within the real world, dabble with the metaphorical and metaphysical plane as well.  Each of them investigates complex human emotions and Gaitskill proves she is not afraid to tackle any issue.

Gaitskill is a very skilled writer; I have no doubt of that.  Her stories were finely written and she delighted me with her rapid shifts in time and perspective (sometimes within the same paragraph).  However, by and large, I simply could not invest in her tales on a personal level.  I can’t believe I am writing this because it sounds so horribly obtuse, but her work in this collection is distinctly female, so much so that I felt alienated by much of it.  By no means am I calling her a feminist (though if she is, that’s not a bad thing), but generally speaking her stories seemed aimed at women in particular (again, this is not a bad thing).

Now allow me to contradict myself.  Two of her works that absolutely held my full attention and thrilled me were “The Arms and Legs of the Lake” and “Don’t Cry.”

“The Arms and Legs of the Lake” takes place within a train where the point of view shifts from several different people as they interact with one another.  It’s a very interesting technique and, as a veteran from Iraq is the focal point, I also found it particularly significant.

“Don’t Cry” is far more traditional in its execution, but as a new father, this tale depicting a woman trying to adapt a child in Ethiopia during political unrest had me on the edge of my seat and I truly could not put it down until I’d finished it.  Even now, it still haunts me.

So while Gaitskill is a talented and skilled writer unafraid to take risks and investigate sophisticated themes, most of her subject matter simply failed to resonant with me.  However, even with that being said, the two aforementioned stories were fantastic and made the time spent reading Don’t Cry worthwhile.

Come See Me At Hometown Comics On Saturday, May 2nd

I’m so pleased to announce that Hometown Comics in Edwardsville, IL, has invited me to be among their special guests during Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 2nd!

Free Comic Book Day is a nationwide promotional event put together by the comic book publishers and shops to try to reach new readers.  Many of the publishers submit exclusive comic books for this specific day and they are totally free.  All you have to do is come in and grab one.  Some of the comic books are geared towards adults (not pornographic, just mature themes), but many of them are also aimed at young children.  For a list of what comic books will be available that day, visit this link:  http://www.freecomicbookday.com/comics.asp

Hometown Comics is in downtown Edwardsville, IL, at 110 E. Vandalia Street.  They plan to have local artists drawing sketches for children, a custom motorcycle designed to look like Ghost Rider’s, and are inviting people to show up dressed as their favorite character.  Call Doug at 618-655-0707 for more information and visit their MySpace page here:  http://www.myspace.com/hometowncomics

The shop opens at 10:00 A.M. and I’ll be there at that time.  All three of my books will be for sale and I’m currently trying to decide which of my superhero shirts I’ll wear that day.  I hope you’ll come out to Hometown Comics on Saturday, May 2nd, grab a free comic for you or your child, take part in the festivities, and say hi.

If you have any questions, email me at ScottWilliamFoley@gmail.com.

The Book of The Unknown Tales Of the Thirty-Six by Jonathon Keats – A Book Review

This book originally drew me in because it is a collection of short stories following a particular theme.  These stories are based upon Jewish folklore, and while I don’t know the first thing about Jewish folklore, customs, or religion, my ignorance in no way hampered my ability to enjoy this book.

Jonathan Keats, the real writer, uses a fabricated author named Jay Katz to lend the twelve stories in this collection authenticity.  I won’t spoil any plot points, but I thought Keats used a creative way to set up the short stories in an important, and entertaining, context.  He even leaves open the possibility of a revisit since there are thirty-six stories in all that need to be told.

The stories themselves are largely addictive.  With more hits than misses, Keats delivers tales of saints so saintly they don’t even realize they’re saints, thus retaining the capacity to sin advantageously for their fellow man.  Most of them are inviting, lively tales that subtly offer a lesson in morality and have no shortage of good humor.  However, a few of them fell a little flat for me; but, even with that being said, I’d recommend this book due to a majority of well-written, absorbing tales.

Economy Got You Down? Need Some Affordable Entertainment?

If you’re like me, you’re currently looking for all kinds of ways to save money. I just wanted to remind everyone that this month my two short story collections and novel are each on sale for only $10.00 with FREE shipping if within the USA.

My novel, Souls Triumphant, regularly $15.95, is a story about two people that meet on the street and experience love at first sight. However, before long demons attack them and they learn they were once angels of the Kingdom. When the devil himself appears, they need a little help from above in a man named Buddy. This story has true love, flaming swords, sizzling demons, international adventure, intangible mentors, and even a grilled cheese.

In my two short story collections, The Imagination’s Provocation: Volumes I and II, you’ll experiece horror, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, action/adventure, historical fiction, and even a little romance. If you love a wide variety of genres, these collections are for you!

Click the banners to read reviews and buy!

<

Best Wishes,
Scott