Day: January 30, 2018

Book Review: Funeral Platter Stories by Greg Ames

Posted on

When the publisher of Funeral Platter: Stories, written in 2017 by Greg Ames, reached out to me to offer an opportunity to read his collection of short stories, I was honored. I love when that happens, but I had so many in my queue to read, what’s a guy to do? I also am not a typical short story reader, but I agreed to read it in early 2018. I just finished it last night on a train ride from NYC to Long Island and gave it 3.5 stars.

latter.jpg
At ~250 pages, it’s a relatively short read I completed in about 2 1/2 hours. There are twenty short stories, ranging from 5 to 20 pages. Some of the content is more adult-oriented, but many are good for young adults, too. As is usual in a collection like this, many shined; a few fell flat. My favorites happen to be the first three: Chemistry, Discipline and The Life She’s Been Missing. In these, the narrator tells the story of couples or families interacting with one another — both the good and bad sides of life and relationships. He’s got a knack for diving right into the bizarre yet totally understandable moments we all face in life. And there are a few where we actually see ourselves as the main character, experiencing the absurdities life sometimes offers.

Quite humorous, very succinct in capturing character profiles. Although I wanted to hit, smack or kick some of the characters, they always made me react with a hearty laugh or a smirk and wink of at least one eye (two would be just weird). In Discipline, a teenager tries to convince his father that they should physically abuse a younger sister to teach her a lesson, but when that doesn’t work, he asks the sister if they should attack their father to teach him a lesson! It all ends with the son telling the family dog that he drew the unlucky straw and must be punished. Of course it’s humorous, so no need to be alarmed, as it was purely drawing on a minor detail of what the son was really trying to say about life. Same goes for the couple dating in Chemistry. At first, I thought… we’ve got a nasty mean girl and a cantankerous douche of a guy on a blind date. Slowly, I realized, they have been dating for a while and enjoy bashing one another as part of their foreplay. When it ends with them happily in love, you know I’m like “whaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt??????????????” but in the end, it really makes you laugh!

A few of the stories completely flew over my head. Perhaps I’m not that smart. Maybe you just need a certain kinda understanding about life. Nonetheless, I flipped the pages and ignored the ones I didn’t like. That’s how it should be… you can’t love everything, so enjoy what you can. The author’s style is good; it’s a fine balance of realistic humor coupled with extreme circumstances of situations. For instance… ‘Playing Ping Pong with Pontius Pilate’ — seriously, who would think of something like that? But if you read the story, you’ll get a good flavor of Ames’ tone. And when you get to the final one, trying to decide whether people did or did not die, you’ll find yourself confused and tantalized. But when they climb into the coffin together, your head will do a few new moves!

I look forward to reading more from him. He’s got that funky offbeat charm with a bit of old-school approach that reminded me a bit of the flavor you see in Kafka’s slice of life. Oh and by the way, there may or may not be a character named Kafka in one of the stories, too.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

Posted on Updated on

Why This Book 
The publisher of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, written in 2017 by Cherise Wolas, emailed me late last year to see if I’d be interested in reading the novel. I accepted the challenge and put it on my TBR, agreeing to read within the next few months. As I was cleaning out my TBR, I noticed this was still sitting in my queue, hence it became one of my first reads in 2018.

ooks.jpg
Plot, Characters & Setting 
Joan Ashby as a young girl wanted to be a writer. She wrote all the time, publishing her first book by 23 to rave reviews. She even had a list of things to do, which included never to fall in love or have a family. Writing was all she ever wanted until she met a man, fell in love, married and had a child. Then a second. Even though she and her husband had agreed – no children! The book chronicles her life from about 23 to 53, covering the growth and maturity of herself and her two children, including the ups and downs of her relationship with the husband. Set in various cities between the US and India, Joan raises her family, writes and travels, all trying to find herself and be the best woman she can be. She meets many influential women who help organize her life and path, deals with devastating actions from each of her family members, and learns how to deal with something always stepping in the way of her success. It’s literary fiction — a true novel that will make you think about personal choices, giving up things for others and understanding when it’s okay to be selfish.

Approach & Style 
I read a physical copy of this ~550 page book over the course of 4 days, a majority of it on two 2-hour train rides near NYC where I live. There are ~50 chapters, each between 10 and 15 pages long, telling the story in third person POV. This is not your typical novel in that it only follows around the main characters; instead, it is two different books within one novel. Approximately 2/3 of the novel, ~ 350 pages, are the story of Joan Ashby’s life, but the other ~200 pages are short stories or sections of various novels that the author Joan Ashby has written throughout her career; these stories provide deeper layers into her thoughts and relationships, as she often tells the story of her own life through other characters. To be honest, while some of the stories were helpful, having ~200 pages of this book dedicated to that style was way too much. I found myself skimming those sections all too often, understanding I might have missed a few key points of the overall novel, but happier to focus on one drama at a time!

Strengths 
The story is simple, yet full of complexity and intensity. Joan’s approach to life, her internal thoughts and what she actually says and does, vary distinctly and vastly. This is the greatest strength of the novel — a woman readers will identify with, but also get angry with. Choices are presented in a light and casual manner, yet all the ramifications are immense.

Her sons are painted with a beautiful set of images and words. They are real, but they feel so far away. You want to hug them one moment, then cover their heads with a pillow case and smother them the next. BTW… it’s an expression — I’m not advocating this as a method to handle people you don’t particularly like at any given moment. And for the sake of irony, I’m writing this as if I were thinking exactly like Joan. It is my life/review to do what I will. LOL

On a more serious note, it’s spectacular when it’s spectacular, which is at least 50% of the book. The story pulls you in. The characters are diverse and basic, yet charming and frustrating. It’s a fine balance, and Wolas impeccably draws a wide array of issues and reactions that keep you thinking and page-turning to guess what Joan may say or do next. Just reading about Joan’s daily routine was vivid and exciting, even when it was merely running errands around town.

Concerns 
As mentioned earlier, the stories within the story were just too plentiful. A few were touching and provided some much needed balance to the overall narrative of Joan’s life story. Some went on for twenty pages and truly felt like a roadblock to a successful read of the book. Perhaps as a separate collection of shorts, I might have enjoyed them more. Instead, I found myself eager to get back to the main plot, feeling a bit overwhelmed, and in need of a red pen to edit!

I struggled a bit in the beginning with Joan’s attitude towards a few things in her life. She eagerly tells us how and why she treats her two sons differently, but everything else about her is balanced and fair. She chose to keep the pregnancies, despite not wanting children. She never seemed like someone who would treat them differently, but it was a key aspect of the novel, so I suspended a bit of disbelief and kept on moving… in the end, it’s important to the overall perspective of her behavior, but I think it needed another round of analysis on why Joan behaved the way she did in certain circumstances. Too little left out in some areas, too much included in others.

Summary & Next Steps 
Undoubtedly, Wolas is an amazing writer. Some of the passages were lyrical, intense and magnificent. I could never write like she does, I vividly recall thinking at a few moments. If Wolas can produce a novel like that, without all the additional superfluous or extraneous, I’ll be the first in line to buy it. But if it’s another like this, I would TBR it, but not rush for it. I would like to meet her — she seems quite brilliant, but in need of a push in more defined direction. I’m not saying I’d be the one to push her… just curious to see how she thinks in person on the fly, as opposed to a cultivated piece of writing. All-in-all, I’m glad I read this book and I really enjoyed large portions of it. If you can accept the things I noted as concerns, you’ll find some wonderful beauty in her writing style and choice of focus and perspective.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

365 Challenge: Day 319 – Immensity

Posted on

Immensity: the extremely large size, scale, or extent of something

immensity.jpg

After a month of taking a break from writing while beta readers reviewed the last draft of Father Figure, my second novel, and processing through a few emotional weeks, I plan to get back to work this afternoon on my revisions and edits. It’s important to take a break when your mind needs to recover. Although not an immense revelation, it is an eye-opening one when you know you need to allow time for rest among creativity.

While I was searching for the journals last weekend, I stumbled upon a collection of poems I wrote in college (twenty years ago). I may have posted a few on my site in the past, but this one was always the starting point for me; it’s also the one poem I’ve written that I usually can recite verbatim without reading it off a screen or printed paper. When I read the actual words from the journal this morning, I smiled at my own revelation… part of the title of my first book came from this poem — and I hadn’t even realized it.

Since my creativity today needs to focus on starting the edits so that I can finish Father Figure in the next two weeks, I choose to post an old poem as part of today’s 365 Daily Challenge. Some may see this as a painful poem, but for me, it was always about recognizing a reality and finding a way to accept a path. I hope you enjoy it…

***

The Immensity of a Revelation

There’s something I just realized

That I never knew before.

I can’t explain the reasons,

But I know that I want more.

Have you ever wanted something,

But were too afraid to ask?

So you wrestle within yourself,

Finding it quite an abstract task.

With every hour that Maneuvers on,

Truth shows me what I want.

I search for what it finds,

Looking in the wrong places.

I don’t ever want to be alone.

Do I have to dream forever?

Like glass shattering into pieces,

Will I then begin to vanish?

I need to taste the Passion

Of having what is mine.

Even though it’s so easy to hold,

I settle for things unkind.

Thus I question “Was I wrong?”

I decide no longer to move on.

Life has given me this sentence

I must follow – despite the pain.

Why won’t I let myself go after it?

Why am I stuck with such a curse?

Why can others make things happen?

Why do I sit back and to my wounds just nurse?

I don’t pretend to know the answers.

I’ve learned I am only here to suffer.

And to realize that Truth

Will never be mine.

 

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin