Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

Fiction means fake. I’m well aware that is a second grade definition, but it still holds true.

February 17

Comments: 2

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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January 31

Comments: 2

Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop

by Ann-Katrina

Trapped cover Title: Trapped
Author: Michael Northrop
ISBN: 978-054521-0126
Story Length: 240 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Psychological Thriller

Back Cover of Trapped

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive.

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But the power goes out, and the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the day adds up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision…

Three Quick Points About Trapped

  • Point 1: A smooth read. There was nothing difficult in the reading. One word flowed into the next, one sentence into the next, and one paragraph into the next.
  • Point 2: Underwhelming characters. Each character seemed like a slightly varied stock template, from the bully who wasn’t so bad after all to the hormonally challenged teenage boy to the super hot blond.
  • Point 3: A pressure cooker with too little pressure. The students’ situation was dire, no doubt about it, but there wasn’t enough character variation to spark true conflict.

Continue reading »

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July 29

Comments: 12

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

by Ann-Katrina

Stolen Cover

Title: Stolen
Author: Lucy Christopher
ISBN: 978-0-5451-7093-2
Story Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult Drama

Three Quick Points About Stolen

  • Point 1: Slow. No, that’s not right. In fact, a new word needs to be coined because “slow” (and all its various synonyms) is inadequate.
  • Point 2: The camel won. It was the only character that felt genuine. Ty came close, but meh. Let’s not start on Gemma.
  • Point 3: A twisted love story. Still, it was an interesting take on the evolution of Stockholm syndrome. Continue reading »

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July 28

Comments: 5

Review: Broken by Karin Fossum

by Ann-Katrina

Broken Cover

Title: Broken
Author: Karin Fossum
ISBN: 978-0-1510-1366-1
Story Length: 272 pages
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Back Cover of Broken

A woman wakes up in the middle of the night. A strange man is in her bedroom. She lies there in silence, paralyzed with fear.The woman is an author and the man one of her characters, one in a long line that waits in her driveway for the time when she’ll tell their stories. He is so desperate that he has resorted to breaking into her house and demanding that she begin.

He, the author decides, is named Alvar Eide, forty-two years old, single,works in a gallery. He lives a quiet, orderly life and likes it that way—no demands, no unpleasantness. Until one icy winter day when a young drug addict, skinny and fragile, walks into the gallery. Alvar gives her a cup of coffee to warm her up. And then one day she appears on his doorstep.

Three Quick Points About Broken

  • Point 1: Where’s the mystery? A quarter of the way through, I realized this wasn’t a traditional whodunit mystery—it wasn’t a traditional mystery in any sense.
  • Point 2: It’s about characters under a microscope. Flawed but hauntingly natural characters crafted with aplomb.
  • Point 3: Smooth prose and pacing, for a translation. Lost in translation isn’t a cliché for nothing, but if anything was lost in this translation, I didn’t miss it. Continue reading »

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