Oft-wonderful narrative voice takes over this novella, so that I was surprised and gripped by the diptych of climactic scenes...even though one showed...moreOft-wonderful narrative voice takes over this novella, so that I was surprised and gripped by the diptych of climactic scenes...even though one showed the entire work to be a retelling of a fable, and the other was a journalistic snapshot of historical realism. My compliments to the author that, even though this was a relatively short novella, she found the time and ability to have me lulled (but I never thought the story dawdled). Deborah's sharpness and her sister's impulsive younger-sibling attributes ("Sense and Sensibility" informs some of the interactions here) are brought to life masterfully, and the other characters handled just about as well. Though I can readily see that those who attach themselves to books based on length will wonder why "Burning Girls" wasn't a novel, I thought it worked fine as a novella.
A variation on Orpheus-and-Eurydice, featuring a post-punk teen heroine.
Actually, the majority of this book is the Orpheus variant. Early on, it seeme...moreA variation on Orpheus-and-Eurydice, featuring a post-punk teen heroine.
Actually, the majority of this book is the Orpheus variant. Early on, it seemed to be more Faustian...but also ready to head in other directions. The final direction--that is, what takes up more than half of the book--is a protracted and convoluted chase sequence in an underworld that is the way-station of departed souls. And it drags in multiple places.
The initial setup, with introduction of the heroine and her family (including a dream figure, which added a little but not enough to justify his page-space), struggles on the verge of poverty, the alienation of being in a new school/life environment, and then a mystical record-store owner who has a tantalyzing offer...this was great stuff! If only these stayed in prominence after the one-third point, but they lessened in the focus, and the chase through the horrible underworld began.
Know what? Torturing characters who are already dead just deadens the impact. Likewise, a heroine who's in cussing denial of her own feelings isn't the best sounding board to investigate the unfairness that can be brought upon lost souls. She's fine during the early scenes, though...Yes, that's the word: nothing too wrong with the story as a whole, but it was going someplace unique and imaginative at first (I was thinking it would be like Charles Beaumont gone modern and savage) but its second half turned into a just-good-enough quest novella.(less)
Only some of the "surprises" really were. The wrap-up/last quarter seemed a bit haphazard and arbitrary. Katniss' adolescence-meet-PTSD symptoms got r...moreOnly some of the "surprises" really were. The wrap-up/last quarter seemed a bit haphazard and arbitrary. Katniss' adolescence-meet-PTSD symptoms got repetitive as this book goes along. That said, as trilogy wrap-ups go, it had me hanging on and flipping through pages with enthusiasm and curiosity--so this just barely hangs on to its fourth star in my rating. Collins seemed to want to play more with variety of pacing here compared with the earlier volumes--and she often did this well. That may be the key to how she maintained my interest (which often slides so much that I don't often finish trilogies/series).(less)
Erotic horror focusing on teens who are their own worst enemies when it comes to entertaining themselves and respecting each other. The novelette buil...moreErotic horror focusing on teens who are their own worst enemies when it comes to entertaining themselves and respecting each other. The novelette builds to a pair of climactic scenes that are relentless (in a good way--i.e., effective). The character development is subdued to an appropriate degree, although the quality of those moments are still a bit thin for my taste. I was disappointed in particular by the old man who makes them a tempting offer; I was expecting a more revealing compare-and-contrast between his failures and those of the teens.(less)
This collection offers four pieces--novelettes and a short novella--reflecting the "Four Ages of Man." Tone and direction and style vary greatly here,...moreThis collection offers four pieces--novelettes and a short novella--reflecting the "Four Ages of Man." Tone and direction and style vary greatly here, so this book is best approached by a reader ready for anything.
Malon Edwards' contribution seems equal parts steampunk, urban fantasy, and bizarre surrealism. My favorite genre is not on that list--and yet I found this piece very compelling. He's made a complete world and is very comfortable with sharing its extremes with the reader. But as much as he surprisingly won me over, I expect in subsequent reads I'll enjoy this author most in short doses.
The other three contributions are more traditionally grounded--but each author adds plenty of individual flavor. "Gully Gods" by Edward Erdalac somehow succeeds in maintaining the voice of a 17-year-old street thug. The story takes a while to get going but its momentum strengthens as it goes along. In contrast, "Queen" by Lincoln Crisler seems busy for the sake of busyness. There are a lot of plot elements that distracted from each other, even though some of the short scenes worked well at deepening character. "Cenotaph" by Tim Marquitz has some action-thriller elements pick up and resolve a morose setup that's written with great brio.
This volume is quite affecting at times. I'll be considering more from all of these authors in the future.(less)
Picked up at the library, on a whim--and glad I did. The editing is brilliant for the target audience (teens, but also reaching to hook precocious mid...morePicked up at the library, on a whim--and glad I did. The editing is brilliant for the target audience (teens, but also reaching to hook precocious middle-schoolers). The "anecdote plus a twist" material meant for the youngest range of the audience was over swiftly, so no harm done. A couple of pieces were a bit toothless or obvious. But the majority of the stories made for gripping light reads. A classic mix of talent: Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, John Collier, Henry Slesar. The idea of a "nasty ending" suggests thrillers shading into pure horror--but there was a minor thread (perhaps purposefully kept toward the back of the volume) of hardboiled and crime-fiction material. Best of all was the opening: a Roald Dahl tale wherein an accrual of individually harmless details leads to subtly increasing chills for the reader. Then, as follow-through, a perfectly paced short story of claustrophobic gruesomeness, courtesy of Ramsey Campbell. I wish more publishers and anthologists would try something like this.(less)
Like many people, I have at one time or another had my dream-life taken over by an extraordinary chase. Being chased through a variety of terrains--st...moreLike many people, I have at one time or another had my dream-life taken over by an extraordinary chase. Being chased through a variety of terrains--starting with extrapolations on the familiar but gradually becoming bizarre. Life and death are at stake, but as in most dreams, the specifics are more fluid than what would be encountered in the day-to-day on solid ground.
Brick Marlin understands the dream very well. The through-the-dark-night chase is the basis for this book--in fact, the plot structure is taken over by the chase. Marlin draws the chase out creatively, with just a little bit of homage to Dante's "Purgatorio" but more of a road-trip log where a bureaucratic portrait of sin-cleansing has been corrupted and our heroes have no reasonable option but to run for the sake of their bodies and souls.
The pacing is very good. The potentially thorny spiritual concerns are handled gingerly but without falling into a lot of the potential pitfalls. There are a couple of times when the apparent attempt at mixing in some extended character interactions is dragged down with tired dialogue (which is also unfortunately similar in voice between the very dissimilar souls on the run). These, plus some regional phrases and grammatical oddities, point to how a fresh eye in the editing process would've improved "Blue Lights in a Jar" quite a bit. But Marlin has succeeded at his Big Game--getting the reader involved in a guileless protagonist being thrown into rapidly changing scenes and oft-suspenseful levels of disturbance and danger. (less)
I just read the obituary for author Waber--but the delights of his classic live on. This was one of the major books of my just-starting-school years:...moreI just read the obituary for author Waber--but the delights of his classic live on. This was one of the major books of my just-starting-school years: the tale of the crocodile found in the bathtub (Lyle, for those poor souls who haven't been introduced) fully earns a place right beside "Where the Wild Things Are."(less)
Someone just mentioned this series of books. I had maybe three of them. As soon I saw the cover of this one, I remember it clearly. I like when books...moreSomeone just mentioned this series of books. I had maybe three of them. As soon I saw the cover of this one, I remember it clearly. I like when books from long ago, in the fringes of memory pop up in the mind, so that I can say Thank You to the people who generously gifted me with something so special and appropriate.(less)
An extremely satisfying book about displacement, immigration, the social costs of economic upheavals in Africa, and how little incidents that cross cu...moreAn extremely satisfying book about displacement, immigration, the social costs of economic upheavals in Africa, and how little incidents that cross cultures can have large personal impacts. The best facet of this book is Cleave's mastery of his two point-of-view voices: a middle-class English widow and an African refugee young girl. When Little Bee has to negotiate the British bureaucracy in hopes of finding sanctuary, it's heart-rending but also has some well-handled dry humor. Cleave does not milk every opportunity for tear-jerking in this slightly-more-sad-than-hopeful story, and for this I applaud the author...but this is probably the root cause for why the pacing seems haphazard at times (i.e., some rushed sections). It's a minor quibble, though, in a significant novel that regularly engages both heart and mind.(less)
Dame Antonia is hardly capable of failing to give readers something very interesting, no matter the project. Her second-hand retelling of the Twilight...moreDame Antonia is hardly capable of failing to give readers something very interesting, no matter the project. Her second-hand retelling of the Twilight of the Gods seems so concerned with preserving the essence of myth that it ends up as a lesser volume.
The more-or-less narrative frame of a blitz-escaping London child comparing her situation to both the Asgardian myths and her Christian teachings leads to evocation but no revelations (pardon the pun). As explained in the essay following this novella, Byatt had additional and alternative directions and subtexts that she considered bringing into play (and no one plays on the page like this author). She refused to bring these extra facets into the pages of her Ragnarok--and so I admire her for sticking to her decision, but found the results to fall short of the full-on enlightening and entertaining adventure into mythmaking that I'd anticipated.
Note: this book had me running to the dictionary at regular intervals. I'm not complaining about that at all! The precision of language is merited when describing complete worlds in mere handfuls of printed page, as was done here.(less)