Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Assorted Short Book Reviews for Short Reads

A few weeks ago I found myself in an interesting situation.  I was out of town and I had finished both my print book and ebook.  I didn't have any other print books with me and I was reluctant to start another ebook because I new that a newly released book I had been waiting for would be showing up soon.

So, what to do?  Well, it just so happened that I had a number of "kindle singles" (and one short story collection) sitting on my Kindle and I thought, "What better time than now?"  And so I started reading.

If you aren't familiar with Kindle Singles, they are short stories and novellas, many by famous in authors, that Amazon sells for only a buck or two.   I must have been on some kind of kick in the past because I had quite a few of them sitting there.  After this reading fest, I still have one left and I do keep my eye out for new ones from my favorite authors.

However, I'm going to start this off with the one non-Kindle single...a short story collection:
For Love and Liberty: Untold Stories of the American Revolution
Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Kate McMurray, and Stacey Agdern
I went into this book with a bit of trepidation.  On the one hand, Romance is not a genre that generally works for me in short story or novella form.  It is really a matter of preference--I prefer the build up in my romances and, in this format, there just isn't much of that.  On the other hand, I was intrigued by the fact that these stories were not "mainstream"- we had two romances with POC, one m/m novel (also with a POC), and a romance with Jewish characters.  I also really enjoy novels set in the Revolutionary War era.

So, with that, all I can really say here is that my opinion didn't really change.  For most the part, I felt that the stories were fine, but lacked meat.  My two sort of exceptions for that sentiment fall with the second and fourth stories.  I found the second, written by Lena Hart, to be borderline rapey--which I didn't like.  But, on the other hand, I found the fourth story, written by Stacey Agdern, to be the best conceptualized of the bunch and the one that most enticed me to read more by the author.
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Now, onto the singles....

The Grownup
Gillian Flynn
I have to admit that my only exposure to Gillian Flynn was Gone Girl, which I tried to listen to but just didn't like at all.  I was actually surprised that I had this one waiting for me.  I was surprised how much I, what?, enjoyed? this one.  I mean, it is not an "enjoyable" story.  It will creep the crap out of you.  It is touted (in the summary) as being a ghost story, but I found it to be more of a psychological thriller.  And, at the end, you are still guessing about what actually happened.
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The rest of the singles were written by one of my go-to authors, Jennifer Weiner.  She does have 2 other singles that I won't be talking about here--A Memoir of Grief (Continued), which I read last year and Swim, which is still sitting on my Kindle.

I've decided to organize these from most expected to most unexpected, based on Weiner's other works.

Good Men
This book is a prequel to Weiner's first novel, Good in Bed.  Like most prequels, I actually don't recommend that you read it first.  In my experience, prequels are usually most effective when you read the original work first and this one definitely falls into that category.  I did enjoy this one, but I would only recommend it if you've read Good in Bed (which, you know, you should....)
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The Half Life
This one really fell into what I would consider "classic" Jennifer Weiner.  In fact, I felt as though it could have been the first chapter of a longer novel.  I enjoyed it, but I also kind of felt a little unfulfilled after finishing it.  I think, because it was so much like her novels, that I felt like it should have been a novel.  However, it is something I would recommend if someone isn't sure if Jennifer Weiner is a writer for them and they aren't sure if they don't want to commit to a novel to find out.

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This is where Weiner starts to become a little more experimental. This story has a marked different feel from the rest of her novels, but it also shows how Weiner is a master at the short story format.  This is truly a well-crafted story--I got "the meat" of the plot, coupled with a laser-focus.
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So, here is where Jennifer Weiner makes a U-Turn, goes under a bridge, through a tunnel, and back again.  This one, folks, is bizarre.  But, strangely, it was probably my favorite of all the shorts.  Unlike Disconnected, it still feels like it is the "Jennifer Weiner Universe" but the actual story is unlike anything else of her that I've read.  I would say it has more in common with Gillian Flynn's than any of the other Weiner singles.  It's definitely a fun ride....
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All of these were well-worth the time (other than For Love and Liberty, I don't think any took longer than 30 minutes) and a great way to experience a favorite author when you only have a bit of time!

I was not solicited for any of these reviews and I received no compensation for this post.

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