Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The One in Which I Attempted to Write Mini Reviews (but still used too many words)

One More Year: Stories by Sana Krasikov
Spiegel & Grau, 2008 (ARE)
Fiction; 240 pgs
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Rating: * (Very Good)

I read this collection of stories earlier in the year and featured several of the short stories from it. I enjoyed the book so much that I thought it was worth a mentioning as a whole.

I do not know if it was because I was reading the wrong kinds of short stories, whether they were truly bad or I just had not learned yet how to appreciate them. Short stories come in all different styles. Some are character studies; others have more of a vignette feel to them, that slice of life view; and then there are short stories that are more plot driven, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Sana Krasikov manages to capture all three in her collection, One More Year. Her characters are richly drawn and fully developed. Their stories are complex, their experiences real. She writes about immigrants from the former Soviet Union, each story a slice of their lives.

You can find my reviews of four of the individual stories here:
"Companion" & "Maia in Yonkers"
"Asal" & "Better Half"

Lion of Senet by Jennifer Fallon
Bantam Fantasy, 2002
Fantasy; 558 pgs
Source: Bought at Barnes and Noble in October of 2004
Rating: * (Good +)

Someone recently mentioned that they were surprised I read fantasy. I was a bit surprised they thought that being that it is one of my favorite genres. The problem is it isn't my only favorite and so I read a lot of other types of books too; and lately those seem to have taken over my blog.

I read Lion of Senet as part of this year's Chunkster Challenge, finishing it back in November, just in time. It is the first novel in the Second Sons Trilogy.

From the author's website:
On the world of Ranadon there is no night. Thanks to the intervention of Belagren, High Priestess of the Shadowdancers, and the sacrifice of a child of royal blood, the Age of Shadows has been banished and once again both suns shine brightly in Ranadon's skies.

When a volcanic eruption rocks the sea between the Kingdom of Dhevyn and the powerful mainland kingdom of Senet, a mysterious sailor is shipwrecked on the small island of Elcast.

His rescue brings together Dirk Provin, second son of the Duke of Elcast, Kirshov Latanya, second son of the Lion of Senet, Alenor D'Orlon - heir to the throne of Dhevyn, an angry and rebellious young woman named Tia Veran... and an orphaned acrobat known as Marqel the Magnificent.

But the badly wounded sailor is not what he seems. His arrival on Elcast stirs up old hatreds, exposes old lies, unravels old secrets and sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually change the world...
Fantasy novels of this type often get off to a slow start as the foundation is built, the world established and the characters introduced. The world Jennifer Fallon has created in this novel is dark and oppressive. Religion is being used to exert power over the people and those who wield it are desperate to hold onto it.

I liked Dirk, our young hero, instantly. He is a smart and kindhearted boy forced to grow up fast. He is put in very difficult situations, his will and moral character tested. Tia was another character I took to right away. She is stubborn and independent, not afraid to take a risk for what she believes is right. Alenor is also a strong female character. She has lived as a prisoner in the Senet's house for many years and yet she has kept her eyes and ears open. I never did warm up to Kirshov, the younger son of the Lion of Senet, completely. He seemed harmless but his ignorance about what was going on around him and his attitude were a bit off putting to me. And Marquel, I am not sure what to say about her without spoiling her story line. Her life has been anything but easy. She's the kind of girl who will go after whatever it is she wants, using whatever skills she possesses, and won't stop until she gets it.

Of all the characters, I least liked Belegren the High Priestess whose heart is full of greed for power. She uses religion as a weapon and does not care who gets hurt in the process. The Lion of Senet is hardly any better. They are frightening foes to be sure. I would definitely not want to live under their rule.

The novel really took off for me when Dirk left home and traveled with Kirshov and Alenor to Senet. That is when things began to come together fast and furious. The author did not make things easy for young Dirk and took the story to a darker place than I expected. I have to give her a lot of credit for that. I look forward to continuing with the trilogy and seeing what direction the characters go in next.

Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics
Dark House Books, 2009
Crime Fiction (Graphic Novel); 104 pgs
Source: Bought by my husband at the Golden Apple in Los Angeles.
Rating: * (Very Good)

As my husband was browsing through the recent releases of comic books, I wandered off to look at the shelves of graphic novels. I immediately honed in on this one and knew I had to read it--except I made my husband think he was buying it for himself (he claims he always knew better).

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first began reading this collection of graphic short stories. There are thirteen stories in all, each of them dark and gritty. And I loved just about every one. The first story left me stunned. The second, about a man with an ill wife who is about to lose his farm, is probably my favorite. It was called "The Silo" and was written and drawn by Jeff Lemire. Another one of my favorites was called "The Albanian" by M.K. Perker about an immigrant janitor who stumbles upon a murder-suicide in the office building where he works. I had to read the story called "Fracture" by Alex de Campi, Hugo Petras, and Clem Robbins twice because I hadn't realized the first time there was a special way to read it. The author and artist were quite creative with the set up of the story. I think it is pretty ingenious now that I better understand what they were aiming to do.

My experience with crime fiction short stories is hit and miss. Too often I find that characterization is sacrificed in the name of plot. Although I have read crime fiction graphic novels before, this was my first experience reading crime fiction shorts in graphic form. I was really impressed with how well done each of the stories were. So much is said within each pane and so few words are needed to get the entire story across (except in one case which was a short story, "Trustworthy" by Ken Lizzi and Joƫlle Jones, written in words with a few art drawings to go along with it). I think readers of noir and who don't mind a lot of grit in their crime fiction should give Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics a try.

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2006-2009
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Don't feel bad, I don't think I could do anything mini if my life depended on it! I've just started dabbling in short stories, and it is amazing how much emotion can be packed in them, in the hands of the right author. Now crime thriller short stories? I guess I'd have to see it to believe it. I fear I would not be satisfied!

  2. I've been eyeing Noir ever since I saw Rick Geary was one of the illustrators! Thanks for the review. I'll be reading it one of these days ...

  3. I am not a fan of either short stories or comics but fantasy is certainly my cup of tea! I haven't heard of Lion of Senet but I will certainly seek this one out.

  4. I do not know if it was because I was reading the wrong kinds of short stories, whether they were truly bad or I just had not learned yet how to appreciate them.

    I just posted a review about a collection of short stories and felt exactly as you do about this genre! Isn't it great to know there are lots of short stories out there worth reading?!

  5. One More Year and Noir sound like books I might enjoy. Mini reviews are great in my opinion, but I do enjoy, your detail reviews as well :)

  6. It looks like you've been reading some good books! Noir sounds really good to me.

  7. Sandy - I tried, I really did. LOL I think the first one counts as a mini review. And technically, considering how long my reviews usually are, the others are too.

    A short story can be amazing when done right.

    Nicola - I hope you do read Noir. It's awesome. The one Rick Geary illustrated is definitely worth reading.

    Lily - I've had Lion of Senet on my shelf forever to read. I'm glad I finally got to it. I don't read fantasy as often as I used and I miss it sometimes.

    Les - I am so glad I persevered with reading short stories even though I wasn't too fond of them early on. I've been rewarded again and again in the last couple of years, having read some really great ones.

    Diane - Notice how I couldn't do one "mini" review? I had to post three at once. LOL I hope you do give One More Year and Noir a try. I'd love to know what you think.

    Kathy - It's been a good year for reading, I must say. I may not have read a lot of books, but the quality has been good overall. Noir is good and I hope you get the chance to read it, Kathy.

  8. looks like you've been busy reading. That short story book sounds great. I'll have to check it out!

  9. I'd have trouble with "mini" reviews too, but I think you did a pretty good job with yours, and included a nice mix of your reading!

  10. Was I the one that said I was surprised you read fantasy? I think I said something of the sort. Eek! The short story collection you rated sounds great- I'll have to look into that as I really enjoy well-written short stories. And Noir sounds REALLY cool as well.

  11. Fantasy is one of the genres that I have read very little of so I'm looking for (and now have at least 1) recommendations!

  12. Honestly, I didn't think they were overly long! I did enjoy them immensely and am interested in the 2nd book....I love fantasy!

  13. It is very hard to write short when you have very real things to say about books, so thank you for going on! The Lion of Senet sounds like a fun read for the dark days of winter. Thanks for the head's up!

  14. I couldn't write a short review if my life depended on it. When I start out I think it'll only be a couple of paragraphs and before I know it, it's much longer. Short stories just don't do it for me. I know that there are some that are pretty powerful. It's just that I always miss that character development you get with a novel. I miss getting to know everyone and having them around a bit.

  15. Thanks for the reviews, Wendy! I enjoyed reading them all. I'd have to look out for One More Year and Noir, they sound good!

  16. Serena - I hope you will! I really enjoyed the stories.

    Florinda - Thanks, Florinda. The first one I'd read months ago but had prepared a mini review for such an occasion as this. I just held off on posting it until I had other mini reviews to go with it. I just never seemed to though--until now. When my buddy read of Lion of Senet didn't quite work out as planned, I thought I might as well add it in here since I didn't have a whole lot to say about it. And then the Noir book seemed a fitting way to close the post.

    Aarti - I don't remember who exactly said it, but if it was you, please don't feel bad. It's obvious to me that I enjoy them, but how would others know since I haven't read a lot of them lately?

    I do hope you enjoy One More Year and Noir if you read them. Both were so good!

    Kathleen - I used to read much more fantasy than I do now. I miss it sometimes as I love it so much when I do read it. I'm dying to read one of the books my husband read not too long ago. It's a fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss. The Name of the Wind, I think it's called. Hopefully this next year.

    Staci - At least they were shorter than my usual reviews. LOL

    Clea - Very true. And I've never been good at keeping things short and sweet.

    Dar - I would be very hard pressed to myself as you can see. :-) I probably am not a very good short story writer either.

    That character development issue can be a real killer. I'm amazed though at how well some authors are able to pull it off.

    I can't remember, Dar, but have you read Olive Kitteridge? I've been wanting to read it. It's a novel written in short story format--sort of. Supposed to be really good.

    Melody - Thanks, Melody. I think you would like both of those!


  17. It took me a long time to figure out the joy of short stories, too.

    Also, I have a terrible time with brevity. My "mini" reviews don't look mini at all.

  18. Bookfool - I am glad I didn't give up on reading short stories. I would have missed out on so much.

  19. I didn't love One More Year when I read it, but I still remember some of the stories, so I guess it must have stuck with me more than I thought it would...

  20. Melissa - I'm sorry One More Year wasn't better for you, Melissa.


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