REVIEW: GIVE ME THESE MOMENTS BACK BY MIKE CHINN

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Give Me These Moments Back by Mike Chinn
The Alchemy Press (ebook), 2015
266 Pages

Publisher’s Website

Amazon (UK)

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I was given a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review.

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Writer Mike Chinn (The Paladin Mandates) takes us on a tour de force…
A ring of external spotlights flared to life, revealing the floor of the Mariana Trench a few metres below us. The backwash filled the observation room with a cold grey light… As one, they gasped at the sight. I didn’t blame them – even though I’d seen it dozens of times, it still caught the back of my throat.

Donnie could feel himself beginning to shake. He clenched his fists, fighting the tremors. For a moment, he back-flashed to October last year: River Phoenix, on a Hollywood sidewalk, dying. No resurrection from the flames that time: no one was reviving dead movie stars.

The storm bounced the Oji-Maru across the ocean like a toy boat. Sky and sea were black; the only light came from the ship’s navigation lamps. Ishimaeru could barely make out the bows and harpoon gun. From somewhere he heard the sound of shattering glass. It reared out of the dark, vast and … and wrong. Nothing but bones…

And more … eighteen stories that range from the depths of the Pacific, the cruel charms of Venice, the price of immortality, to the Appalachian Mountains…

OPENING SENTENCE
‘If you needed to send your loved ones a message that was your last chance, ladies and gentlemen. We just passed beyond communications range’. The voice on the intercom came over perfectly deadpan (WELCOME TO THE HOTEL MARIANAS)

REVIEW
Give Me These Moments Back is an excellent collection of short stories. I’ve never read the author before, not to my knowledge anyway. One or two of his stories may have been in anthologies I’ve read. The stories are all pretty dark but well-written and highly enjoyable. I liked the range and diversity of the stories; no two stories were alike or dealt with the same subject matter. Each story took me somewhere unexpected. I have a few favourites. Welcome to the Hotel Marianas is one of the best stories in the collection and is brilliant and creepy as hell. I loved the twisted take on Beauty & The Beast that I found in All Beauty Must Die. The Appalachian Collection is a stand-out story. Just the Fare Back Home and Harbour Lights were both unsettling. I’d highly recommend Give Me These Moments Back for fans of dark stories.

Stories included:

  • Welcome to the Hotel Marianas
  • Facades
  • A Matter of Degree
  • All Under Hatches Stow’d
  • Be Grateful When You’re Dead
  • Kami Ga Kikoemasu
  • All Beauty Must Die
  • Parlour Games
  • Cold Rain
  • Once Upon an Easter
  • The Appalachian Collection
  • Just the Fare Back Home
  • Harbour Lights
  • Like a Bird
  • Give Me These Moments Back
  • Brindley’s Place
  • Holding It In
  • Saving Prince Romero

RATING

4 STAR RATING

REVIEW: THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY 2015

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The Best American Poetry 2015
Scribner (ebook), 2011
240 Pages

Publisher Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

I was given a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review via NetGalley.

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The premier anthology of contemporary American poetry continues with an exceptional volume edited by award-winning novelist and poet Sherman Alexie.

Since its debut in 1988, The Best American Poetry has become a mainstay for the direction and spirit of American poetry. Each volume in the series presents the year’s most extraordinary new poems and writers. Guest editor Sherman Alexie’s picks for The Best American Poetry 2015 highlight the depth and breadth of the American experience. Culled from electronic and print journals, the poems showcase some of our leading luminaries—Amy Gerstler, Terrance Hayes, Ron Padgett, Jane Hirshfield—and introduce a number of outstanding younger poets taking their place in the limelight.

A leading figure since his breakout poetry collection The Business of Fancydancing in 1992, Sherman Alexie won the National Book Award for his novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He describes himself as “lucky enough to be a full-time writer” and has written short stories, novels, screenplays, and essays—but he is at his core a poet. As always, series editor David Lehman’s foreword assessing the state of the art kicks off the book, followed by an introductory essay in which Alexie discusses his selections. The Best American Poetry 2015 is a guide to who’s who and what’s happening in American poetry today.

EXTRACT
BODHISATTVA BY SARAH ARVIO

The new news I love you my nudist
The new news is I love you my Buddhist

REVIEW
The Best American Poetry 2015 is a really enjoyable anthology of poetry. This collection contains poems for almost every style and technique; rhyming poems, poems written in strict rhythm and metre, free verse and poems that have a little bit of everything. The poems themselves also deal with a wide range of themes and are grounded in reality and fantasy. This anthology has something to suit every taste. I really enjoyed reading this anthology without knowing what the next poem had to offer. I liked the imagery used, the lack of imagery, the simple language and the complex language. I must admit, I don’t think I’ve read any of the poets before so this anthology was a treat – a big box of tempting chocolates, each with a different flavour. A box, or book of treats to gorge on. I’d highly recommend The Best American Poetry 2015.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

REVIEW: CAPE WRATH BY PAUL FINCH

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Cape Wrath by Paul Finch
Telos Publishing Ltd (ebook), 2002
128 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

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Craeghatir: a lonely rock, far out on the northernmost tip of Britain; the closest point of land to it, the wild, storm-ravaged Cape Wrath. To call this place bleak is the understatement of a lifetime. Huge cliffs dominate its shores, but within there are green tracks linking secret valleys where tumuli can be found, ancient megaliths and the bones of prehistoric mammals long grown over with moss. The island is now uninhabited and in terms of this beauty and silence, it is an outstanding locale – though few sightseers ever venture there willingly, for Craeghatir has an evil reputation. Professor Jo Mercy of Warwick University’s elite archaeological unit doesn’t believe the rumours and is keen to investigate a newly-discovered barrow on the island which might contain the remains of Ivar Ragnarsson, perhaps the most infamous of all Viking chieftains. Ragnarsson was reputed to be berserkir – a warrior possessed with the wolf-spirit, whose madness carried him past all pain and reason in the heat of battle, and whose victims were deemed offerings to the wolf-god Fenrir. But Mercy and her team will find themselves faced with more than just the inhospitable environment on Craeghatir, as the spirit of Ragnarsson is disturbed and death and madness come to the island.

OPENING SENTENCE
‘Oh, shiiiitt!’ Craig cried, jumping to his feet, setting the boat rocking wildly.

REVIEW
Cape Wrath is a great horror novella. I really enjoyed it. I loved the setting, the perfect back-drop for a little madness. I’m a big fan of Norse mythology so loved all the references to Odin and the god’s and the mad, blood-thirsty Vikings. This isn’t the most original novella ever written and some elements were predictable horror movie fodder (i.e. a group of people at a remote island get picked off one by one but who is the madman?). What makes Cape Wrath different is that the mad killer is revealed to be something completely unexpected. I liked the characters. The scenes with the professor splashing about naked in the water surrounded by water lilies after her mind caves in were sad but sort of hilarious as well. There are some gory moments in this novella but I never felt like they were over the top or unnecessary. There wasn’t any gore for gore’s sake. I hate it when writer’s do that. I’d highly recommend Cape Wrath for anyone looking for a good horror.

RATING

5 STAR

REVIEW: A FARAWAY SMELL OF LEMON BY RACHEL JOYCE

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A Faraway Smell Of Lemon by Rachel Joyce
Transworld Digital (ebook), 2013
26 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

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It is Christmas Eve. Binny has four hours to make Christmas happen and she couldn’t feel less like wishing glad tidings of good will to all men – least of all to Oliver. It is raining, her house is falling apart, the streets are jammed with people and it is all Oliver’s fault. Darting into a shop to escape a conversation, Binny finds herself in the sort of place she would never normally visit. But in amongst the shelves is a surprising source of peace.

A beautiful gem of a short story from Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect.

OPENING SENTENCE
It is Christmas Eve.

REVIEW
A Faraway Smell Of Lemon is a good story. I enjoyed it. The story is well written and quite sad at times. I liked the way the main character’s very recent break-up is contrasted with all the commercial trappings of Christmas. The last thing you feel like doing after having your heart ripped out is celebrating. I found Binny’s experiences very realistic. Breaking up just before Christmas is a horrible feeling. Even though the story is set at Christmas, the festive period is incidental and the story could have been set at any time. I liked the flashbacks of her relationship and the break-up. I really like the scenes of the story set in the mysterious little shop where Binny is able to reach some sort of equilibrium. I’m a big fan of Rachel Joyce and this story delighted me. A Faraway Smell Of Lemon is a perfect little story.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: THE MONSTROUS

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The Monstrous
Tachyon Publications (ebook), 2015
384 Pages

Publishers Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

I was given a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review via NetGalley.

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From the best horror editor in the business comes the quintessential horror anthology: The Monstrous. Take a terrifying journey with literary masters of suspense, visiting a place where the other is somehow one of us. These electrifying tales redefine monsters from mere things that go bump-in-the-night to inexplicable, deadly reflections of our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s a seemingly-devoted teacher, an obsessive devotee of swans, or a diner full of evil creature’s simply seeking oblivion, the monstrous is always there — and much closer than it appears.

OPENING SENTENCE
On a blue afternoon in Autumn, Riku and Michi drove south from Numazu in his silver convertible along the coast of the Izu Peninsula

(A NATURAL HISTORY OF AUTUMN BY JEFFREY FORD)

REVIEW
The Monstrous is one of the best collections of stories I’ve read in recent years. Every story in this collection shines. On each page I encountered a host of monsters, some human, some non-human and plenty somewhere in between. I’ve not enjoyed a collection of stories this much in years. The authors have taken the idea of monsters and created twenty-five original, striking and wide-ranging tales. Every anthology of stories usually has one or two clunkers. This isn’t the case for this collection. Every story in The Monstrous is excellent. I have a few favourites. I’ve read Asputtle by Peter Straub in his collection, Magic Terror. There is something unsettling and chilling in this story, in what’s not openly stated. The Beginning of the Year without summer by Livia Llewelyn is brilliant one of the most unsettling stories I’ve ever read. Catching Flies by Carole Johnstone gave me icy chills right down my spine. Jenny Come to Play by Terry Dowling blew my mind. The Last, Clean, Bright Summer by Livia Llewelyn is both brilliant and terrible. The Monstrous is highly recommended.

Stories included:

  • A Natural History of Autumn by Jeffrey Ford
  • Asputtle by Peter Straub
  • Giants in the Earth by Dale Bailey
  • The Beginning of the Year without summer by Caitlin R Kiernan
  • A Wish from a Bone by Gemma Files
  • The Last, Clean, Bright Summer by Livia Llewelyn
  • The Totals by Adam-Roy Castro
  • The Chill Clutch of the Unseen by Kim Newman
  • Down among the Dead Men by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois
  • Catching Flies by Carole Johnstone
  • Our Turn Too Will One Day Come by Brian Hodge
  • Grindstone by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Doll Hands by Adam G L Nevill
  • How I Met the Ghoul by Sofia Samatar
  • Jenny Come to Play by Terry Dowling
  • Miss Ill-Kept Runt by Glen Hirschberg
  • Chasing Sunset by A.C. Wise
  • The Monster Makers by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Piano Man by Christopher Fowler
  • Corpsemouth by John Langan

RATING

5 STAR

BOOK REVIEW: THE HUNDRED AND NINETY-NINE STEPS BY MICHEL FABER

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The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps by Michel Faber
Canongate Books (ebook), 2001
98 Pages

Publisher’s Website (Author Page)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

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Sian, troubled by dark dreams and seeking distraction, joins an archaeological dig at Whitby. The abbey’s one hundred and ninety-nine steps link the twenty-first century with the ruins of the past and Sian is swept into a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a fragile manuscript in a bottle and a cast of most peculiar characters. Equal parts historical thriller, romance and ghost story, this is an ingenious literary page-turner and is completely unforgettable.

OPENING SENTENCE
THE HAND CARESSING HER CHEEK was gentle but disquietingly large – as big as her whole head it seemed.

REVIEW
The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps is a good novella. I’ve read and loved the author’s novel, The Fire Gospel so I’ve wanted to read more of his work. I liked a lot about The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps. This novella is well-written, interesting and really engages the reader. I liked the characters, especially the dog. I liked Sian deciphering the scroll and learning of Mary’s tragic fate centuries ago. I liked Sian revealing her unhappy past. There are some things that let it down. I don’t feel this works as a stand-alone piece of writing and really comes across as the opening of a much longer piece. I felt like I was reading something incomplete. I thought it was strange that the attraction between the main characters doesn’t go anywhere. Faber makes it clear they’re attracted to each other and this sort of fizzles out. I did enjoy The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, interesting read despite its flaws.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

POETRY REVIEW: EMPORIUM BY IAN PINDAR

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Emporium by Ian Pindar
Carcanet Press (ebook), 2011
96 Pages

Poet Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

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Emporium, Ian Pindar’s first collection, is stocked with curiosities, jokes and horrors. Step through the door and discover Big Bumperton on his bicycle, Mrs Beltinska in her bath, Monsieur P. on holiday, a transfixed girl in blue jeans, a wasp, two lascivious figs and a god who wanders shopping arcades ‘enhaloed in black flames of longing and dread’. A chain letter travels across centuries of poetry, from Langland to Maxine Chernoff; deep in a snowy forest, seen only by wolves, a mysterious machine is resonating… Pindar maps a surreal hinterland where the dark humour of absurdity lies in wait.

EXTRACT
FIGURE STUDY

Naked on a bed, the sex in shadow
Not caring if man or woman.

Something of the caged beast, captive, fallow,
Odour of unclean linen.

Darkness beyond everything.
Nothing visible except

Limbs turning, seeking rest,
Arms and legs bending, unbending

Like a puppet examining its joints.
The head moving from side to side

As if struck by invisible fists
From different angles, from inside.

REVIEW
Emporium is an enjoyable collection of poetry. I’ve never read any of Ian Pinder’s work before (not to my knowledge anyway). This was a good introduction to a new poet. I didn’t love the poems but I really enjoyed some of them. The poems that stood out the most for me are Figure Study, On the French Riviera, Society of Blood, Advise for Travellers and Snow. Pinder’s poems are very typical of much contemporary poetry, they contain lots of imagery, sometimes this can be vague or obscure which clouds what the poem or poet is trying to convey. Therein lies the rub. I’m not a huge fan of these types of poem that leave me scratching my head thinking what exactly is the point of all this? Some poems that use this style are brilliant such as There Is a Desert Here by Elizabeth Bartlett and any poem written by Joyce Carol Oates but some are not. The poems in Emporium fall into the latter category with the exception of the poems listed above. I enjoyed reading them but that’s about that. I’ve read poems that touch me so much they move me to tears or stay in my head for years. I didn’t find any examples of these in this collection. The poems are well-written, enjoyable to read and in some cases very funny but I didn’t take anything deeper from them. In the words of Kafka: ‘A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us’. The poems in this collection didn’t succeed in this endeavour and merely chipped away some fragments of my frozen sea. I’d recommend this collection for people who enjoy contemporary poetry.

Poems included:

  • Figure Study
  • Mrs Beltinska in the Bath
  • On The French Riviera
  • Monsters of Philosophy
  • A Dog One Afternoon
  • Society of Blood
  • Anecdote of the Car
  • Marc Chagall the Poet Reclining
  • Parable
  • Advice for Travellers
  • Poem
  • What Is The Matter?
  • Archaeologies
  • Snow
  • The King’s Evil
  • Les Vacances De Monsieur P.
  • Chain Letter
  • Of Truth
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • Two Figs
  • The Prophecies
  • Casanova
    Carvaka/Lokayata
  • Windows
  • Gods of the Near Future
  • After Birth
  • Big Bumperton on the Sabbath
  • Ashes
  • Death of a Senator
  • Birds
  • Illustrated Evenings
  • Parasite
  • John Miro Man and Woman In Front Of a Pile of Excrement
  • It Takes a Man
  • Everybody’s talking about Antonin Artaud
  • The Wasp and the Orchid
  • Armageddon
  • Black Jelly Baby
  • Kissing
  • Dust
  • Loon
  • Silent Spectres
  • The Rainy Day Murders
  • An Accident in Soho
  • Lost
  • Insomnia
  • Time Remaining

RATING

3 STAR RATING