Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

February 24

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Short Story Review: The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link

by Ann-Katrina

Pretty Monsters coverThe 25 page short story The Faery Handbag is from the anthology Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link or you can read it for free on her website.

Short Synopsis

A grieving Genevieve is searching for her recently deceased grandmother’s very special handbag. As she does so, she explains who her grandmother was, where she came from, and what makes the handbag so special.

My Thoughts on The Faery Handbag

Like ‘The Wizards of Perfil‘ I’m left unsure of what I feel.

As with Link’s other stories this one was readable. It flowed well and before I knew it I slammed into the end. And I do mean slammed. The end was so abrupt that it felt unsettling, but similar to ‘The Wrong Grave‘ it left you with plenty to ponder. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t like it, the abruptness (I like the plenty to ponder part).

One aspect of the story that I found skillfully mastered was the unreliable narrator. Enough doubt is cast about Genevieve’s story to keep you guessing about whether she’s telling the truth, whether she’s outright lying, or whether she’s just a girl trying to cope with the loss of her beloved grandmother and missing (boy)friend Jake. It even cast enough doubt to question the existence of her grandmother and Jake. This story certainly isn’t what it seems.

Despite loving Link’s writing style and her dexterity with voice, I wasn’t in love with this story and that’s mainly because of the denouement…there wasn’t one.

Final rating: C+

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February 17

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Short Story Review: The Wizards of Perfil by Kelly Link

by Ann-Katrina

Pretty Monsters cover The 30 page short story The Wizards of Perfil is from the anthology Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link.

Short Synopsis

A mad king has declared war on everyone leaving families broken and fear in his wake. An orphan named Onion, in the care of his aunt, is nearly sold into slavery, but at the last moment, the stranger from Perfil decides to take Onion’s ill-tempered cousin Halsa. Onion and Halsa are both special, they share the same gift, so while Halsa rides off to serve the Wizards of Perfil, it’s as though Onion is right there with her. In time, Halsa, after much hard labor, and Onion learn that the Wizards are nothing like they’d expected.

My Thoughts on The Wizards of Perfil

I’m not sure what I feel right now. I’m a bit unsettled.

The prose was smooth and I glided through pages with ease. The story unfolded like a half-remembered-dream where nothing could quite be nailed down (like ages or dates or locations) which worked in its favor and the story was unique and the characters were memorable, but I can’t shake this feeling that this would have been a better story had it been longer or, at least, more fleshed out. And the end, which I sort of saw coming, fizzled when I expected an explosion (or maybe a firecracker).

The reason for my ambivalence, though, is because I enjoyed reading it. Link is certainly a skilled wordsmith and she has a way of crafting genuine characters. (One small quirk was Halsa’s abrupt and quite jarring personality shift and Onion’s willingness to accept it at face value, but that was minor.) Plus, I like the thoughtful elements of the story; it was almost like a parable causing you to question the costs of war and faith.

But, the fact remains that I’m squarely on the fence and in my mind this story fell just short of excellence.

Final rating: C+

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February 14

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Short Story Review: The Wrong Grave by Kelly Link

by Ann-Katrina

Pretty Monsters cover The 23 page short story The Wrong Grave is from the anthology Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link.

Short Synopsis

A boy regretting his decision to bury some of his poetry with his deceased girlfriend decides to dig her up and get them back, but receives a shocking surprise when he does.

My Thoughts on The Wrong Grave

I didn’t know what to expect from Kelly Link’s writing, but having read this story I can say it was a pleasant experience. This story was so many things—comical, dark, and poignant—and her writing style and subject matter aligned well with my own morbidity. (Dealing with Death has a way of skewing one’s personality; what one, who has not dealt with Death, might find disturbingly dark another may find amusingly dark.)

Each of the characters’ personalities were delineated, naturally flawed, and none of them seemed stock. I even found myself wanting to know more about the story’s anonymous narrator who had me chuckling every few pages.

As far as a plot or point to the story, there really wasn’t one that I could discern, but that was OK. It was just a charming sliver of another, longer story that I won’t ever know—unless, of course, Link ever decided to write it, at which time I would eagerly read it. Instead, I’m left to wonder and speculate and dwell on what happened to Miles and that girl he dug up.

Final rating: B+

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