Posted in reviews

A Sextet of Shorts – A Review

A SEXTET OF SHORTS by Chris Hall

Reviewed by Kelvin M. Knight

With collections of short stories, the first thing I am drawn to is the introduction. There was none. And no dedication. And no About the author section. What drew me to this collection was word of mouth, a review by a trusted source, Ellie Scott. Then, when I visited Amazon, the interesting cover by Cliff Davies with the tagline “An eclectic collection of short stories” and the following book description piqued my interest further:

“A collection of six short stories of different genres and themes: cautionary and charming, fear and fantasy. A veritable smorgasbord!”

While looking that last word up, the initial feeling I had about this book was less is more. This continued with the price.

Ninety-nine pence. Sold.

The prose is polished. The editing is professional. The presentation and ordering of the stories is just right, starting with an emotional and physical bang, and ending with a heartwarming and charming tale.

The characters, the viewpoints chosen to tell the stories, fit together seamlessly despite there being no linked theme or central location. Each story is completely stand alone yet the author’s cosy and confident style make you want to keep reading.

I don’t have a favourite story or a least favourite story; I love every story in this collection. Each story feels familiar, like a friend visiting after a long absence, a true friend, one you are totally relaxed with and could listen to all night long.

Regrettably it only took me about an hour and a half to read these stories; however, I did willingly read them again and then again days later, curled up on my favourite comfy chair in the lounge with a hot chocolate early evening. Something I never do!

As you will see from the Contents on the Amazon sample  – that I never downloaded before purchasing – the story titles are: The Day the Soldiers Came; The Swindler; The Spotless Bathroom; Dying With Determination; Daisy; A New Friend For Henry. Each one of these titles fits their story perfectly.

SUMMARY:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this eclectic collection of short stories and wholeheartedly recommend it. I cannot wait to read more of this author’s published work.

Posted in reviews

Merry Bloody Christmas – A Review

MERRY BLOODY CHRISTMAS by Ellie Scott

Reviewed by Kelvin M. Knight

I first came across Ellie Scott in June 2018 on the FridayFictioneers weekly photo prompt for flash fiction hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. There was something different about Ellie’s storytelling that piqued my interest, so I added her to those I already followed on WordPress; then, in December, when I saw on her blog that she’d published a collection of short stories in honour of Christmas, I purchased her eBook from Amazon without hesitation.

From her blog, Merry Bloody Christmas’ strapline is: “In a gloomy Yorkshire town on a snowy Christmas Eve, nothing pans out exactly as it should…”

My original intention was to read these twenty-four stories about Christmas Eve one at a time from December 1st onwards like they were an advent calendar, to nudge me into the Christmas  spirit. I failed immediately, which is no surprise really because I buy my Advent calendar on the cheap now, around the second week of December, where I have an initial catchup flurry of chocolate scoffing, followed by a Doh moment on Christmas Eve when I find I need to play catchup again.

Reading this anthology went something like that, except my final flourish came on 6th January, on Epiphany, when I just had to finish this collection. That is not to say these stories dragged on, far from it, but as with the majority of short story collections, and flash fiction come to think of it, they can be read however and whenever – in a tea-break, in a lunch-break, while on a bus, while waiting for a bus, while in a doctor’s surgery, or at a hospital’s A&E.

The dedication says this is a “novelty” book. Yes, Ellie Scott’s stories are unusual and amusing, this is her inimitable style, which is something I look forward to. Furthermore, I do not think the novelty of this alternative view of Christmas will ever wear off, and like sprouts and honey-roasted parsnips, I believe these stories can be enjoyed all year round.

And to ensure you are not in any doubt as to the tone of this collection, before the stories commence, there is a metamorphosis of a classic Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. Ellie’s re-writing of this poem had me nodding and smiling, as did reading the majority of these stories. However, towards the middle of this collection, there were several stories where I felt this sadness lurking behind the prose, one the humour could not mask.

Despite making copious notes while I read these stories, I am not going to break each story down for fear the spoiler police might arrest me; however, I will say this:

My favourite story is A Blackout because of the realness of the story, the character’s interactions, and the stupendous “revelation” moment.

My second favourite story is A Battle Commences. Who would have thought a remote control and Top Gear and Strictly could cause such mayhem.

My third favourite story is An Incarceration where a cat’s viewpoint is skilfully portrayed right down to the…

In all three of these stories, and several more, the omniscient viewpoint was tethered to the viewpoint characters rather than slipping into authorial tones.

The icing on the cake is there’s a twenty-fifth story, where Ellie revisits all the stories and finishes on a high – which is exactly how Christmas Day should be.

And the decorations adorning the icing on the cake are found at the end of the book. On the About page, how glad I was to learn that Ellie Scott was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2018 which is no mean feat, as any aspiring writer will testify.

Congratulations, Ellie. I look forward to your next published work.

Posted in reviews

Please Say Kaddish For Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – A Review

As encouraged by Maria, Kelly and Mel when I wrote my first non flash fiction post for my blog, here is a book review… a first for my flash fiction only blog 😱


Please Say Kaddish For Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Reviewed by Kelvin M. Knight

The format of a book I want to read is important to me. I reluctantly read this book in Kindle format, on my iPhone rather than on my Kindle because my Kindle refused to download this book or any other book on Amazon for that matter. I say reluctant because I tried purchasing Please Say Kaddish For Me in paperback format from the author directly (so I could get the book signed while hopefully also getting a personal message). Despite Rochelle’s best efforts, the price of shipment from America to the UK was too high for me.

The point in telling you this? Simple. Resigning myself to reading this book on my tiny iPhone 5c screen, getting re-used to percent complete rather than page numbers, did not deter my enjoyment. Quite the reverse, actually; the ability to top up my usual regimented reading times by dipping in and out of this book, wherever I was, whenever I had a spare five minutes or so (my iPhone is on my person always, unlike my manbag containing books, wallet, key and lunchbox), actually enhanced my enjoyment. And, and, the icing on the cake – Rochelle sent me a homemade card by airmail, with the covers of her four books on them and a lovely handwritten and signed message inside. The best of both worlds.

The ability to dip in an out of this book is poignant as the story dips in and out of the characters’ lives. And what a cast of characters. No… what an extended family. This theme of family extends from this book in a way that is both heartwarming and heart-aching. Right from the first chapter, where the heroine, Havah, flees for her life, you know you are in the hands of a capable storyteller.

The tone of narration has a familiar feel to it, which I think is due to the psychic distance of the omniscient viewpoint, where we always remain close to the storytelling character’s viewpoint, and never slip into the author’s viewpoint, which can jar and, if done too frequently, can jerk a reader out of the fictive dream.

There is no jarring or jerking in this prose. The narration feels smooth, despite the hardships heaped upon Havah and those she cares for. She is a true survivor, and indicative of the spiritual backbone of the Jewish faith. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a religious book, but there is a quiet strength of faith about this story and in the delivery of this story, that I was often left with a sense of peacefulness whenever and wherever in my busy day I found time to read more.

The other thing I enjoyed about this book were the topics tackled: from the graphic portrayal of amputation, to the loveliness of child birth; the beauty of love, to the tragedy of death; the passion of true love to the duty of love unfound and unfounded. There are so many human emotions all bundled up believably in this story, and overarched by loss. And yet, as typified in Fruma Ya’el, who literally breathes love, there is always hope.

This theme of hope, this trust that things will turn out for the best, no matter what the hardship, is the main theme I loved. One that even now, while performing a final edit of this review for self-publication, still brings a tear to my eye.


If my review has encouraged you to want to sample or purchase this book, please find links to Amazon etc on the author’s site -> here.