Back about a decade ago, I worked at Borders Books & Music. In general, the staff of the store loved their jobs (we were mostly readers, and got aBack about a decade ago, I worked at Borders Books & Music. In general, the staff of the store loved their jobs (we were mostly readers, and got along very well; plus, we used to get a gift card once a month to spend on the awesome things we sold). So yes, retail, with all of its pitfalls, but a better experience than most. Before I left (moving on to try something new, which turned out to be somewhat awful), Ramsey Campbell released the book The Overnight, a horror story set in a bookstore, with a staff that stays overnight to complete inventory. Borders actually did these inventory overnights, and the rumor was that Campbell had stayed overnight at one of our stores as research for the book. I didn't actually read that book (one of my co-workers did, and her response was pretty much, "meh"), but when I came across Horrorstör in my local library, the premise reminded me of those long ago days.
Horrorstör chronicles the odd day and night in the lives of employees that stay overnight in an IKEA-like store to determine the source of some strange goings-on (poo left on couches, etc.). Hendrix goes one step further than Campbell did with The Overnight, making the entire novel look like a combination between a store catalog, employee manual, and employee review sheets with text in between. It really is quite an ingenious setup, even if the story itself seems like one in hundreds of horror movies that you see (with a few new ideas thrown in here and there).
Horrorstör is a very short book, so I can't say much without giving away key plot points, but it is worth the read if you've ever worked in retail anywhere, or if you enjoy new styles of books. There are a handful of truly horrific scenes, but overall it is really mostly about retail ennui and co-worker relations that you'll recognize if you've spent any time in that world....more
Finis. tells the tale of Elsa, an unremarkable person in a world where, in large part, people develop a preternatural "animal affinity." Because of he
Finis. tells the tale of Elsa, an unremarkable person in a world where, in large part, people develop a preternatural "animal affinity." Because of her lack of animalistic tendencies, she has a raging boss who is increasingly cruel to her, family members who are cold to her at best, and to make matters worse, roaming gangs are targeting those who are older and yet still have not produced an affinity. Elsa worries that rather than being a late bloomer, she will never gain an animal affinity at all and remain ostracized or even menaced for the rest of her life. Will some odd physical occurrences turn into a full-blown affinity, or is Elsa doomed to be an outcast?
Finis. was my first free-standing novella - not provided as part of a collection of short stories. Prior to this, novellas seemed to me to be either short stories that were in dire need of editing, or novels that needed to be fleshed out, and so I tended to avoid them. After Finis however, that opinion has changed. Jamail's work is lovely in that it is the perfect amount of text. There is nothing extraneous here; every sentence is one that furthers the story. And yet despite the quick read I wasn't left feeling as though I had missed something. The story is full - the reader has a strong sense of Elsa's life. We see her struggle through varying waves of animosity and pity from acquaintances and friends, feel her bounce from ennui to despair to grim determination, and hear her inner strength wax and wane. Honestly, this is some of the most intimate knowledge of a main character that I have ever read.
Though the story was complete in and of itself, I do wish that Jamail would revisit the world she's created for a longer-length novel. Such a novel would not need to be about Elsa (as I said, this story is fully realized and does not necessarily need to be revisited), but there are a lot of interesting aspects to work with here. The world of animal affinities - how did it begin? Are these mutations? How did the youths running in the gangs end up with an almost Nazi-like attitude towards individuals who did not develop an affinity? Might there be communities of non-animalistic individuals living out their days in hiding, and what would those communities look like? What are the strongest affinities, and do they inevitably end up in positions of power? I had a plethora of ideas about this world, which just goes to show the work Jamail put into developing a complete concept in a short amount of pages.
On the whole, I would recommend Finis. to any reader who enjoys magical realism, fantasy, short stories, or well-drawn portraits of inner turmoil with a slight nod to wit every now and then. Jamail is a poet, apparently, and poetry is not generally my cup of tea (with a few noted exceptions). However, if she writes another novella or novel, I will be sure to make space for it on my to-read shelf.
A beautiful book, at first - a fantasy that was cozy in all the right ways, and extrememly well-written. All of that came to a grinding halt about 3/4A beautiful book, at first - a fantasy that was cozy in all the right ways, and extrememly well-written. All of that came to a grinding halt about 3/4 of the way into the book. An abrupt shift, and suddenly everything the story had been working towards was abandoned. Pages from the end, I simply didn't care enough to finish. This is a real shame...the majority of the book was astoundingly good....more
London, 1912. Frankie, a semi out-of-place lady journalist, is tasked with interviewing and photographing Ebony Diamond, an elusive trapeze artist andLondon, 1912. Frankie, a semi out-of-place lady journalist, is tasked with interviewing and photographing Ebony Diamond, an elusive trapeze artist and suffragette who does not wish to comply with Frankie's request. Her determination to break the story anyway causes Frankie to cross paths with a case simultaneously being investigated by Frederick Primrose, a London inspector. When Frankie's quarry mysteriously disappears, both she and Primrose are on a race to find out what really happened to Ebony Diamond.
Let me start with what was wonderful. Ribchester made sure she did her research; there was a plethora of facts strewn about the book without it coming across as a history lecture. One of the bits of praise festooned on the cover for The Hourglass Factory was this gem from The Independent:
Fine flourishes from historical incidents in its prologue and epilogue make for a memorable start and finish.
I couldn't agree more. Throughout the novel in fact, the reader is enlightened with the ins and outs of daily life as London moved from the turn of the century to the years prior to WWI. We see suffragettes breaking windows with hammers, men's clubs, the construction of theater props and costumes, the oddities of beauty regimes, and the big news headlines of the day. Not an aspect of research was neglected. From this perspective, the world of 1912 really comes alive with Ribchester's writing.
Side characters are also richly drawn and wonderful, even if they appear for only a handful of pages in the novel. I really wanted to spend an afternoon with Twinkle, the aging glamour girl who Frankie normally wrote a column for. It is rare to find an author who puts so much into the appearance of tertiary characters and this, too, led to some great world development.
However - and this could really be down to my own personal pickiness when it comes to mystery novels - I found myself with an increasing restlessness the further I read. To me, chapters seemed to end quite abruptly - the equivalent of cutting to commercial mid-scene in a television show. The practice interrupted the action in odd ways on more than one occasion. Likewise, the movements of Frankie were frequently back and forth between locations with little learned by either her characters or the reader, leading to some amount of frustration on my part. The reader also sees far less of Primrose than they do of Frankie, which impeded some amount of character development for a major player in the novel, even as side characters were fully explored. By the time I was halfway through I found myself losing interest.
Nevertheless, I do believe that my hangups with the book are just that - my hangups. I would recommend The Hourglass Factory to fans of historical fiction, mystery novels, and fans of books with strong female characters that the author hasn't made annoying in a misplaced attempt to make them strong. I would also say that as this is a first effort by the author, it is a promising indicator of novels yet to come. ...more
I read Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and was blown away by Lawson's ability to turn a phrase and make me laugh (out loud, something that rarely happens when I read). So of course I was pleased as punch when I won a copy of Furiously Happy. And I liked the book quite a bit. It was equal parts hilarious and poignant.
In Furiously Happy, Lawson takes the reader into her very private world of mental disorders and physical ailments in a highly comical way that would likely also be highly inappropriate coming from anyone else. She returns a bit to the land of taxidermied animals (you don't need to read her first memoir to understand this book, but it may help for background), illuminates a koala-filled trip to Australia, and shows the reader some very dark and painful moments. By the end, you feel like you've met a new pal for a drink and had the longest, strangest conversation you've ever encountered, but you feel like a better person for it.
So while I didn't like Furiously Happy quite as well as Let's Pretend This Never Happened, I would certainly recommend this book to any reader who would like an honest (and hilarious) look at a life dealing with anxiety, depression, R.A., and hodophobia....more
Largely billed as an "erotic" novel, and often given a cover that alludes to an entirely risque plot, I was often curious about Fear of Flying but gavLargely billed as an "erotic" novel, and often given a cover that alludes to an entirely risque plot, I was often curious about Fear of Flying but gave it a pass. No judgment on my part for people who enjoy erotic novels, but generally, I need more of a plot besides...well, yeah...
Luckily, Fear of Flying is mostly an odd, late-in-life coming of age story. At the start of the novel we find Isadora, the terribly confused protagonist who often daydreams about the perfect anonymous tryst, as she attends a psychoanalyst conference with her stoic second husband, Bennett. She is already uncertain of Bennett when she meets Adrian, a presenter, and despite the obvious failings of Adrian's utter narcissism and overbearing personality, she finds herself drawn to him.
About a third of the book details the relationship woes that Isadora has in this unfortunate triangle. But, the rest of the novel is a dissection of Isadora's past - a look at why making a decision is so difficult for her. As Isadora describes the life path that has led her to her current conundrum, the reader meets her unique and domineering mother, her previous lovers, and the poetry career that she has begun, but neglected. It becomes apparent that Isadora has likely never made a decision for herself in her entire life, instead shifting from situation to situation largely based on the opinion of whomever is the strong personality in her life at the moment.
So Fear of Flying is more of a frank exploration of purpose and self than an erotic novel. Sure, there are a few sex scenes, but they become beside the point very quickly, and only a couple are described in detail. The book is a snapshot of a married woman going through her quarter-life crisis in a time period when there was no name for such a thing. And parts of it are very, very funny (though I suspect I would have to have grown up in New York in the 1960s to understand some aspects of the humor).
Of course I will not recommend this to anyone who is opposed to sex scenes, because they do exist in the book. Otherwise, I think Fear of Flying is a good read....more