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Train Shots

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  84 ratings  ·  25 reviews
A single mother rents a fundamentalist preacher’s carriage house. A pop star contemplates suicide in the hotel where Janis Joplin died. A philandering ex-pat doctor gets hooked on morphine while reeling from his wife’s death. And in the title story, a train engineer, after running over a young girl on his tracks, grapples with the pervasive question—what propels a life tow ...more
Paperback, 1st, 175 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Burrow Press (first published February 18th 2014)
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  84 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Thing Two
Vanessa Blakeslee asked me to review this short story collection of hers. Something about needing 50 Amazon reviews to make it to the next marketing level. I dragged my feet. I hate that feeling of having to say something nice about a book, just because you happen to know the author. Okay, I don't have to say something nice about Train Shots: Stories. I want to say something nice about it. I want you to go right out and buy yourself a copy of this excellent collection of short stories! It's that ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In "Train Shots" and other stories in this elegantly written collection, narrators and protagonists struggle with life-altering decisions, trying personal circumstances, and complicated loved ones. Readers who relate to stories that capture the emotional travails of contemporary life will find themselves reflecting on (and reflected in) Vanessa Blakeslee's short fiction.
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredible collection. Each one of these stories drew me into its world and characters so deeply. Stunning writing and powerful insight into beautiful and screwed up humans.
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Another fine collection of short stories, a bit short at only 144 pages. Can't complain since I'm a library guy, but if I were buying I'd go for the Kindle version. Blakeslee is certainly an author to watch. I predict she will be writing a best selling novel before long. She's great on research, settings, action and all the other essentials. Not all of her characters are lovable, but most of them feel original. I liked the title story best, even though I grew up in a railroad town and had a rail ...more
Valerie Rose
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This collection arouses our emotions throughout the varied circumstances of each character, drawing us into the conflicts that swallow them up. The writer is able to put you in the shoes of every day people with their life struggles. For instance, for those who have worked in both the front and back of the house in the restaurant business, "Clock-In" portrays a very real scenario of what it is like to train a new recruit while developing a rapport with that person, in a very funny but also unfli ...more
Lauren O'Regan
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
From its opening pages, “Train Shots” serves up a candid collection of characters whose struggles—as ordinary as they are bizarre, as beautiful as they are painful—make for great fiction and profound truths. Blakeslee's stories are like dramatic snapshots, each one a colorful glimpse of our sordid and vibrant humanity. Clean, compelling, and honest, "Train Shots" deserves a prominent spot on the contemporary reader's bookshelf.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Serendipity! I came across this book on hoopla whilst looking for books on Janis Joplin. The synopsis of the stories looked intriguing but the title seemed odd... train shots? I wondered. The only train shots I had ever heard of were at PR’s Taco Palace in Winter Park but that couldn’t be it. So I read the book and here are all these Orlando, Winter Park, Apopka, etc references and lo and behold: the title story IS referencing PR’s! And what a story it was. Each story in this collection broke a ...more
Michelle Hannon
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found "Train Shots" to be the perfect lunchtime read. My meal was planned, but the story I consumed was always a surprise. They took me all over the place from a ranch in Nicaragua to downtown New Orleans. I met a waitress in training one day and a train engineer another. Both the food and the read left me satiated and ready to face the afternoon. I was sorry to finish the last story. I guess I'll have to put "Perfect Conditions" on my reading list!
Caleb Michael Sarvis
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Will be reviewing this one for the Drunken Book Review Podcast.
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Having only an electronic version of this one--a copy of the galleys given to me by the author for review--I've take a long while to read it through. I read on buses, on breaks, on street corners, in restaurants, on park benches, on sofas, in bed, anywhere I can manage. I don't read so much on computers--and certainly not much since taking on a family and moving to a new office that is not conducive to lunch-time reading at a computer screen. So I was not able to rip through Blakeslee's book wit ...more
Jason Pettus
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary, stories
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Regular readers know that I find it difficult to write reviews of short-story collections -- the shortness of each piece makes it hard to do a really good analytical look at the book as a whole, while the nature of such collections means that some pieces might be great while others are terrible -- and Vane
Nathan Holic
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Though I've seen Blakeslee read on a number of occasions, I'd never read her stories on the printed page. (Well, maybe one or two, here and there. A couple online. My memory is terrible. Where was I?)

And honestly, it was awesome to read this collection, to see the stories she'd assembled from a much wider body of work. The cover of this book is perfect, evoking as it does the stereotypical female "shoe novel" (as my wife calls them), but hinting at a female voice and at subject matter far from
John Fleming
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was privileged to get a copy of this book before the official release date, and it came to me with excellent blurbs and word-of-mouth recommendations. It’s no empty hype. Blakeslee writes with beautiful clarity about lives as disparate as a suicidal “princess of pop” and a grieving train engineer. She inhabits places as varied as Costa Rica, L.A., Pennsylvania, and Florida. Her sleight-of-hand is so deft, her stories so convincingly and confidently rendered, they sneak up on you and break your ...more
sarah  morgan
May 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous collection of short stories. Blakeslee's perception of people and their life dilemmas is razor sharp. Her characters are complex and conflicted, all looking for some sort of fulfillment or a cure for a chronically broken heart. She is an immensely talented writer with a distinctive, new voice, who also has a knack for twisting the story; often the last line or two takes a turn in an unanticipated direction—rather like life. This is a stellar collection of short stori ...more
Franklin Ross
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Really great stories that you'll want to return to. "Don't Forget the Beignets" is particularly colorful and strikes close to home. Reading it, the details are so vivid that I almost felt like I was there, at the hotel in New Orleans as Alan, the bumbling con man, gets arrested by the FBI, except of course the story is told from the point-of-view of a young woman. The story jogged something in my mind, a Starsky-and-Hutch personal experience from a few years back. That said, she writes male char ...more
Amichai Shalev
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've read it last week, and it's got some of the most brilliant, hurt-breaking stories i have read in last couple of years (specially, "Ask Jesus", "The Lung" and "Train Shots")and although its her first book, and she's really very young, she writes like she's already published dozens of book. her dialog are sharp and funny, and she got this rare and unique talent to peak special dramatic moment of human behavor and transforming them in to art. and the most "frightening" thought of all - she wil ...more
Justin Tyner
Oct 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-books
"Except everyday at dawn he poured that spaciousness in which he drifted over himself like a pitcher of water, while I pushed the pitcher away". I wish the whole book was this sentence. The difference between characters you don't really get to know the connection of. It seems each separate story,minus the pop star one, could be novel and the reader gets a glimpse of that novel. The author has a talent and I would read her next book and hope the talent will be revealed. Congratulations Vanessa! H ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
You could devour Vanessa Blakeslee’s first collection of short stories, Train Shots from The Burrow Press Review in one sitting, but that would be like slamming eleven shots in one hot gulp—even with an assortment of short story chasers, the warmth from the last short will burn in your throat. . .

Read my full review at The Boiler Journal:
Donald Quist
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
"This debut collection is comprised of fast moving stories of considerable weight. Blakeslee keeps momentum and avoids over-explaining with strong scenes and concrete details that allow meanings to be inferred. Though the confidence of Blakeslee’s authorial voice is apparent, the approach and the relaxed inquiry is most admirable."

From my review for Queen Mob's Teahouse (
Alexander Southerland
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I just finished your book and I must say it is the best collection of short stories I've injested in quite a while! A nice variety of plot lines. I'm a sucker for dark undertones and twisted tales. I look forward to reading more from you! Well done :)
Tracy Robertson
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved these intense, dark little stories. The book is terribly short, though. I got an excellent price on a used copy via Amazon, but if I paid the US cover price of $15.99 I would have felt that I was short changed because the book was over almost as soon as it started.
Danita Berg
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Enjoyably stark.
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is more like a 4-1/2 star rating for this debut collection of stories from an author I will be keeping tabs on. Her first novel is due out by the end of the year.
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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Phillippe Diederich
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Compelling stories, elegantly written 1 6 Sep 26, 2013 03:58PM  

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Vanessa Blakeslee's debut short story collection, Train Shots, was released in March, 2014 by Burrow Press and is the winner of the 2014 IPPY Gold Medal in Short Fiction. The book was also long-listed for the 2014 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Vanessa's writing has appeared in The Southern Review, Green Mountains Review, The Paris Review Daily,The Globe and Mail, and Kenyon Revie ...more

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