Tag: Books: Short Stories


Review: Tales of Accidental Genius

Posted 26 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Tales of Accidental Genius
By: Simon Van Booy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

“She believed it was a gift to never truly know the self. We are not who we think we are, nor how others see us. Long before death, we die a thousand times at the hands of a definition.”

In his first book of short stories since Love Begins in Winter, for which he won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award), bestselling author Simon Van Booy offers a collection of stories highlighting how human genius can emerge through acts of compassion. Through characters including an eccentric film director, an aging Cockney bodyguard, the teenage child of Nigerian immigrants, a divorced amateur magician from New Jersey, and a Beijing street vendor who becomes an overnight billionaire, Tales of Accidental Genius contemplates individuals from different cultures, races—rich and poor, young and old—and reveals how faith and yearning for connection helps us all transcend darkness of fear and misfortune.

Another day, another Simon van Booy novel to review here on the blog 😛 Tales of Accidental Genius is Simon van Booy’s second collection of short stories. Whereas the first collection dealt with love in all forms, this collection has a different angle, which I thought was interesting, not to mention it sounded lie the stories featured characters from all kinds of backgrounds.

Read More

Review: The Secret Lives of People in Love

Posted 23 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Secret Lives of People in Love
By: Simon Van Booy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Since the publication of his critically acclaimed debut collection The Secret Lives of People in Love, Simon Van Booy has been hailed as one of the most exciting and talented short-story writers in Anglo-American fiction. This magnificent collection brings together twenty-four stories by a writer of unparalleled lyricism, generosity and emotional power. Set in a range of locations, from Cornwall, Wales, and New York to Paris and Rome, these stark and beautiful stories are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, isolation and the power of memory are Van Booy’s themes, and in spare, economical prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity, and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.

The two books I’ve read to date by Simon van Booy had been wonderful. He has a way with words that’s very poetic and that touches on those feelings that are difficult to express or to put into words. Some time ago I decided to pick up the remaining books by him that I haven’t read. Aside from full-length novels, he’s also written short stories, which I thought was interesting. This was the first of the two short story collections that I’ve decided to read.

Once again the author’s prose captures much of feelings, fleeting or otherwise, that are often difficult to express–of love and loss, of the sadness and triumph of memory, of resilience and failure. He captures them quite evocatively in those quiet moments when the character isn’t doing much or is in the middle of transition–the moment you wake up, the quiet travel from one location to another. It’s beautiful and quiet and heartbreaking all in its own little way. Some stories were more haunting than others; “Love Begins in Winter” definitely stood out in my mind, not only because it’s a novella compared to the other stories that followed, but just because of the story itself. The only reason this book wasn’t rated any higher was just because some stories didn’t interest me as much or I personally found it boring, my mind wandering.

Nonetheless I’m glad to have read The Secret Lives of People in Love as it once again showcases Simon van Booy’s prose and ability to capture those melancholic emotions and thoughts that are otherwise difficult to describe or express in writing. Definitely worth checking out too if you’re looking to read through his entire bibliography 😀

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Visit the author’s official website || Order this book from The Book Depository

Review: 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution

Posted 11 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution is a collection of literary responses to one of the most cataclysmic events in modern world history, which exposes the immense conflictedness and doubt, conviction and hope, pessimism and optimism which political events provoked among contemporary writers – sometimes at the same time, even in the same person. This dazzling panorama of thought, language and form includes work by authors who are already well known to the English-speaking world (Bulgakov, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Mayakovsky), as well as others, whose work we have the pleasure of encountering here for the very first time in English. Edited by Boris Dralyuk, the acclaimed translator of Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (also published by Pushkin Press), 1917 includes works by some of the best Russian writers – some already famous in the English-speaking world, some published here for the very first time. It is an anthology for everyone: those who are coming to Russian literature for the first time, those who are already experienced students of it, and those who simply want to know how it felt to live through this extreme period in history.

I snatched this book up a few months ago whilst parusing at Book City with friends. Of course anything written by Russian authors would catch my attention, and I thought this was an interesting collection because the works featured here are specifically from the time of the Revolution so there’s that first-hand reaction and creativity stemming from that period. What is also pretty cool about this collection is that it includes works from writers who are not well-known to the English-speaking world: Alexey Kraysky, Zinaida Gippius, Yefim Zozulya. Some authors ring faint bells in my head from my days in grad school and was researching Soviet Russian authors for my own research, but thankfully this collection includes a brief biography about the author prior to their work.

Having said that, I wouldn’t personally recommend this book for those readers approaching Russian literature for the first time (see this post if you’re looking for recommendations there). Unless you’re interested this period of Soviet/Russian history, the works featured here tend to be on the dry side. Again, a personal preference, but it talks a lot about the engineering of a new society, the engineering of a new man, the mechanics of life, the march onward with progress (and trust me, the early years of the Revolution really focused on machines, it feels a bit devoid after a bit, but hey, they loved it). From a historian’s standpoint it’s intriguing because it definitely reflects the ideas that they’re pursuing at the time and the abolition of the old order, but if you’re picking this up for leisurely reading, you may want to consider starting somewhere else instead.

Nonetheless I like the idea of this book being available, the concept is great and is a valuable resource especially for students of Soviet/Russian history and literature.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: Strange Pilgrims

Posted 8 August, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Strange Pilgrims
By: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

In Barcelona, an aging Brazilian prostitute trains her dog to weep at the grave she has chosen for herself. In Vienna, a woman parlays her gift for seeing the future into a fortunetelling position with a wealthy family. In Geneva, an ambulance driver and his wife take in the lonely, apparently dying ex-President of a Caribbean country, only to discover that his political ambition is very much intact.

In these twelve masterly stories about the lives of Latin Americans in Europe, García Márquez conveys the peculiar amalgam of melancholy, tenacity, sorrow, and aspiration that is the émigré experience.

Hehehe, you could say I’m on a bit of a roll getting around to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books (either revisiting or new books altogether). I heard good things about this collection so I decided to pick it up next 😀 Plus, it’s a nice change of pace; I was curious to see how Gabriel Garcia Marquez reads when it comes to short stories.

Well, this was certainly an interesting collection of stories featuring Latin American characters in different parts of the world. The stories can be surprising, sad, hopeful, some with a touch of magical realism, other stories a tale of living in foreign lands and struggling with everyday life. These stories may seem like everyday occurrences but they nonetheless are told with such a wonderful narrative and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ own way of conveying a story. Some stories of course stuck out more than others, like “Bon Voyage, Mr. President”, “Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane” and “‘I Only Came to Use the Phone'” but short or long, each story was wonderful to read.

There’s not much else I could say except they were interesting to check out and definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in reading something by this author for the first time or are already a fan of his works.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: The Summer Book

Posted 4 August, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Book of Summer
By: Tove Jansson
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

In The Summer Book Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. The grandmother is unsentimental and wise, if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a new parent. Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice, write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love. “On an island,” thinks the grandmother, “everything is complete.” In The Summer Book, Jansson creates her own complete world, full of the varied joys and sorrows of life.

I had been eyeing this book for ages (I’ve been saying that a lot with some of these books, but it’s true!). Her Moomin comics are popular but I wanted to read her fiction as the premise of her books sounded quite interesting. Well, I finally got my hands on this book and thought it would make a perfect summer read.

Read More