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Robert Burdock "RobAroundBooks.com" (Fife, UK)
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Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology: v. 3
Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology: v. 3
by Valerie O'Riordan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dont like short stories? This anthology will make you think again, 25 Jun. 2011
Coming with content that always feels fresh and original, this third offering from the Bristol Short Story Prize is about as close to the perfect short story anthology as it gets. There really is something in here for everyone, and I don't just mean one or two of the stories. Sure you're going to like some tales more than others, but whereas most anthologies are a bit hit-and-miss, with the content varying from the really good to the really bad, Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 3 manages to remain consistently above average throughout; something which is rarely seen in most short fiction anthologies of this type, these days.

Favourites? Well, the winning story from the 2010 Prize - `Mum's The Word' by Valerie O'Riordan, is 'punch in the gut' magnificent. O'Riordan demonstrates with exquisite flair that it is possible to create a powerful and memorable story in the restricted confines of the flash fiction form (no easy task).

However, while O'Riordan is the deserved winner of the 2010 Prize, there are other stories in this collection which could have just as easily have taken the title. Ashley Jacob's `Conservation of Angular Momentum' for instance, is about a guy who suddenly finds himself outside of the hot air balloon he was floating in, over the City of Bath. It's a deliciously witty tale, and oh so original.

Then there's Marli Roode's `Spring Tide' which is a powerful and thoughtful contemplation on the inevitability of death and how reminders of our fragility and unavoidable fate are forever around us.

Clare Wallace's `But Then Again, Maybe it is' is another great story, which comes with a brilliantly warm yet hapless main character. One cannot help but feel complete empathy for the poor chap, after he reveals how much he loves his girlfriend and how he caused them to split up.

And what about `The Meek Inherit' by Natasya Parker which tells the sad and sorrowful tale of Mariette, and her barely existing life in the slums of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. This one's not a feel good story by any stretch, but how dull reading would be if every story had a Disney ending.

I could go on but I won't. There are twenty stories in this anthology, which represents great value for money, and even more so when you consider that all have been hand-picked by a panel of quality judges. I said at the outset that all of the stories contained within are above average, and that's down to the skill of these judges. So, if you don't think short stories are your 'thing' then I urge you to think again. Give this one a try because I've a feeling it may well change your mind.


Secret Lives of People in Love, The
Secret Lives of People in Love, The
by Simon Van Booy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A collection that will surely touch your soul, 22 Jun. 2011
The Secret Lives of People in Love is one of the most deeply absorbing and touching story collections I've ever read. Van Booy has an incredible ability to find beauty and insight in almost anything, and the way in which he turns those observations into words is nothing short of startling. He demonstrates that profound ability in this collection to the fullest, and that's why I urge readers (especially those who like their prose a little more on the lyrical side), to rush out and buy a copy. You seriously won't regret it, and you certainly won't forget any of the stories that you will read. I can almost guarantee that.


Kapitoil
Kapitoil
by Teddy Wayne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very readable novel made all the more enjoyable by the presence of a wonderfully realised main character, 14 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Kapitoil (Paperback)
Kapitoil follows the exploits of Qatari financial wizard and software programmer, Karim Issar as he relocates to New York to assist his employer, Schaub Equities, in combating against the Y2K bug which is due to hit in three months. It is not long before Karim develops a software application that looks to be of real value to the company. It's a piece of software that Karim christens `Kapitoil', and it's able to make solid revenue by predicting the future price of oil. It's not long before the `higher ups' begin to get interested in Karim's creation.

Now, I want to allay any fears that Kapitoil is nothing more than a dull `yawnathon' based around American corporations and business jargon. It's nothing of the sort! Although there are episodes when the narrative does turn to more boring aspects such as business talk, software engineering, number crunching and stock market predictions etc. (well the main character Karim Issar is a geeky computer whizz, after all), most of this novel is about one man trying to make sense of the oddities of New York life, while also trying to make himself fit in. It's more of an exploration of how someone gets to grips with an alien environment, and Teddy Wayne plays out this exploration incredibly well, using a character who is every bit as memorable as any you are likely to find, and with a storyline that exalts that character to the max.

The principal character, Karim's main stand out point is the distinctive `voice' and vocabulary that Teddy Wayne has engineered for him. And as Kapitoil is presented in the form of a personal journal - Karim's own personal journal - the reader is continually exposed to this main character's unique vocabulary; a vocabulary that another character in the novel refers to as 'Karim-esque'. How best to describe Karim-esque? Well the bulk of Karim's understanding of the English language comes from his exposure to computers and `business speak' in his native Qatar. And so every time that Karim communicates there's a distinct element of formality and `geek jargon' to his words, and it's accompanied by a strong will to always remain grammatically correct. I know I've probably made it all sound a bit dull, but Karim's unique voice is actually rather endearing and it's a real pleasure to engage with it.


Bequest
Bequest
by A.K. Shevchenko
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as dry as it may frst look, 20 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Bequest (Hardcover)
If you feel in any way underwhelmed by the synopsis for this one, then please be assured. Just like the Ukrainian-born author who wrote it, Bequest is actually rather sophisticated and clever. Interrogation, murder, behind-closed-doors political negotiation, globe-trekking and a little bit of the love thing all feature in the novel. And although some reading effort is required in order to follow the storyline (a storyline which spans a number of time periods and international boundaries), Bequest ends up being rather a very memorable novel - for the right reasons.


Song for Night
Song for Night
by Chris Abani
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story you will remeber for a long time, 23 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Song for Night (Paperback)
Song for Night follows the journey of Nigerian boy soldier My Luck as he endeavours to re-attach himself to his platoon, following the unexpected detonation of a mine. The platoon is a special one, one whose job is focused on reconnaissance and mine clearance, and My Luck's particular role is in the diffusing of mines, a job for which his small stature is particularly suited. My Luck has also been 'adapted' for mine clearance, having his voice cords severed so he is unable to scream should he be blown up and severely wounded.

Narrated in the first-person by My Luck himself, Song for Night follows the boy soldier as he navigates his way across a war-torn landscape full of danger and horror. Pausing at times to reminisce on his time as a boy soldier, My Luck reveals the abominable acts he's been involved in, and the sights which have scarred his soul forever.

Definitely not recommended for the faint of heat, Song for Night offers a vivid a powerful impression of what it may be like to wander a veritable `Hell on Earth', in an African civil war that's left little for salvation. There are threads of hope running through the story which keep the reader on the right side of abject despair, but overall a grim story which reveals the abhorrent consequences of war.

At times My Luck's `visionary interludes' can make things slightly confusing at times, but putting this aside Abani presents a truly praiseworthy piece of literature. Read it and you'll remember it for many years to come. Just be prepared for the shocks.


The Solitude of Prime Numbers
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
by Paolo Giordano
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Literary fiction as it should be, 15 Jun. 2009
Although not wholly triumphant in plot, The Solitude of Prime Numbers takes the ambiguous form that is literary fiction and gives it a clear, precise and glorious definition. Definitely one for the reader who loves to see their characters squirming in a perpetual wrestling match with their inner selves.


Little Roasts
Little Roasts
by Rowena Macdonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good things come in small packages, 11 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Little Roasts (Paperback)
Although none of the four short stories presented in this anthology share a common theme, all have been well considered, making this collection fit the purpose for which the publisher intended i.e. a `great little read', and one which can be digested in a single sitting.

Some may consider the price a bit high, which perhaps it is, but the quality of both the stories and the book's construction goes some way to justifying this.


Broken Glass
Broken Glass
by Alain Mabanckou
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If everywhere in the Congo is like this then I'm definitely visiting, 21 April 2009
This review is from: Broken Glass (Paperback)
In a Nutshell - If one is not too easily offended by explicit material, and one can get past Mabanckou's rebellious flouting of the rules of proper grammar, then what one can look forward to in Broken Glass, is a novel which offers a quite remarkable and wholly memorable reading experience.


Callisto
Callisto
by Torsten Krol
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Odell Deefus may well be the new Forrest Gump!, 11 April 2009
This review is from: Callisto (Paperback)
A delightfully delicious satirical romp around the US hinterland where nationwide paranoia about the threat of terrorism is very much alive and ticking! Callisto truly is a pleasure to read, not least because in the novel's chief protagonist Odell Deefus, is one of modern literature's most memorable and endearing characters. Read it! You'll love it!


A Leap
A Leap
by Anna Enquist
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but reasonably sweet, 9 April 2009
This review is from: A Leap (Paperback)
A worthy 'quick read' that's especially suited to those who enjoy the monologic form. The resonance and theme of some of the monologues in this collection make them slightly more suited to the female reader, but don't let that put off any male readers - this is ideal fodder for anyone wishing to sample Enquist's exquisite literary skills.


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