comedy, short story

Comedy by Kelly Oxford

You know that book you take with you to the dozens of daily moments where you have but 10 or less minutes to get in some reading. This is that book. Hence the worn edges and coffee stains. It’s taken me a while to review this one, because it was just so easy to read in small doses, I didn’t want to rush through it in one sitting.

When You Find Out The World Is Against You by Kelly Oxford is a collection of short comedic somewhat autobiographical stories. Each one is easy to enter and leave at will, making it a great alternative to your phone when you know you will be waiting somewhere for 5 minutes.

Oxford’s wit is wry and at times painful but always funny even when (or especially when) awkward. The moments captured are familiar or translatable to any first world middle classer. I’d recommend the ebook or paperback of this, though I imagine the audio version would actually be the perfect way to enjoy it. Oxford’s voice is the primary character throughout.

Fiction, middle grade fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Middle grade fiction with strong female characters and cyber security education

The Web Paige Chronicles (available on Amazon and direct from the publisher) by Emilio Iasiello is a delightful and refreshing mix of an endearing female hero, a family with realistically supportive relationships, and the harsh difficulties of being a teen and preteen today. The chapters are set up to make it easily accessible to the 4th and 5th grade crowd, but the material is deep and engaging enough for older middle schoolers.

The main character Web Paige solves a series of problems for strangers and friends alike, all related to cyber bullying, cyber stalking, or just plain poor cyber security. This is a great way to introduce how to be safe online with children. And the characters easily have the staying power to make this the first in a series of Web Paige Chronicles books.

I’d highly recommend this for late elementary through early high schoolers both for personal reading or in the classroom. The layout lends itself easily to create an engaging lesson in handling online predators and related issues.

I received my copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted on Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, and Instagram. The hard copy has been donated to a little free library.

Fiction, speculative fiction

Creative & Jarring: The Biggerers

Amy Lilwall‘s novel, The Biggerers, is built on an extremely creative premise (the keeping of “clonables” should you need a body part). The story does tackle some of the best and worst of humanity, which can make for interesting story telling.

However, the writing is too sparse – an attribute I’m seeing as fashionable these days, but which I do not enjoy. In my opinion, this story is a bit difficult to become entranced by, unless you are one who truly loves speculative fiction. I’m giving it it 4 stars because I think it could be enjoyable if that is a style of fiction you enjoy, even if I didn’t.

I received my copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted on Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, and Instagram. The hard copy has been donated to a little free library.

Fiction, Non-Fiction

You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper

You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper by Heather Corbally Bryant from Ardent Writer Press is a genuine genre-twisting novel. While technically, “creative non-fiction,” there’s a bit of history, screenwriting, crime fiction, spy novel, journalism, and literary fiction. Bryant’s eloquent, efficient, and effective hand feels like the necessary tool to tell the story of her grandmother, Irene Corbally Kuhn.

Bryant writes the character of her grandmother as a high-witted woman of the 1920-40s Shanghai Bund. The dialogue between Irene, her husband, and the close knit group of Western journalists in a transitioning Shanghai sound straight out of early 20th century film. It’s not until the end (don’t worry, no spoilers) where we see long passages of actual letters sent by the characters within the story that we see she stayed ever so true to their distinctly fluent style.

Students of modern Chinese history will appreciate the historical accuracy of this very personal tale of love, international intrigue, and loss in an esoteric time and place in China. The story is determinedly and appropriately written from the vantage points of an elite group of western journalists in a part of China that catered to creating a western dream in an Asian country. Due to this specific perspective of the characters, a reader will not find an awareness outside of the western life of the international concession present in the text. This element can be a bit jarring and possibly could have been avoided with a few fictional digressions into the lives of the Chinese that in the existing text briefly enter view.

But the tale is a beautiful ode to her grandmother told based on the correspondences she received and other historical records. Wrestling with a fast paced job, a husband that is loved and loving but visibly complicated, and starting a family, Irene approaches them all with journalistic eye.

You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper is a moving read for fans of historical fiction focused on the Anglo-American and European experience in Asia or those with an interest stories of strong women working within the times they were handed.

Fiction

Einstein’s Beach House and other well-told stories

Einstein’s Beach House” is a collection of short stories by Jacob M. Appel. This is the second work I’ve reviewed for Appel. The first was a novel, “Millard Salter’s Last Day” which I reviewed for this site in December 2017. Now having read two of his works, I can say Appel is definitely in the running for becoming one of my favorite authors. One of the most endearing qualities of his writing appears to be taking the morbid, depressingly confusing, or otherwise awful experiences in human life and making them some of the most mundane background elements of the stories he tells.

Appel’s style takes an even hand between events and dialogue throughout. But each story is heavy with internal musings. The short stories in this volume display the same expert hand at bringing a reader into the narrators mind as in the Millard novel. The difference here is that Appel draws you in, let’s you feel comfortable there and then delivers with adroit brevity an entire novel of experiences in 1-2 ending sentences. These closing lines don’t leave you with questions as to how this life or lives come to fruition or end. They are complete endings in and of themselves. Some are more open ended than others but they still provide the necessary closure to allow a reader to feel comfortable having read the whole story.

I received my copy through a LibrayThing giveaway and have donated it to a little free library. This review is also available on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Instagram @reviewsbymarie.

advice, business

Pacing for Growth

Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success is a business leadership advice book from a woman with 3 decades of business consulting experience. It presents the benefits of and provides learning strategies for, what it terms, the “intelligent restraint” model. The well-written, easily consumed prose of Alison Eyring makes it worth a read, whether you run a team, business, or are just curious about your own personal growth.

Her advice model is based on evidence-driven methods culled from years long studies with a variety of companies. But it shines most in readability through the use of Eyring’s own endurance running journey as a metaphor throughout. It excels over similar business and leadership books in its clear use of a strong research design and execution for developing the strategies it presents.

The model of “intelligent restraint” is built on an understanding of one’s own capacity and capabilities and leveraging both through exertion and restraint. This particular delivery of the model is laid out with a combination of personal experience, relevant company stories, bullet summaries, and self-reflection questions and exercises. It is ideal for both a corporate or organizational training. It could also be perfect for a book club focused on leadership or self-help books.

The model described is clearly one that could be fleshed out even more beautifully in a longer, more novel-like approach. However, this 180 page version works well.

I received my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Italian American YA (yes, that is a thing)

The YA novel, Beyond the Wicked Willow, by M.J. Rocissono and illustrated by Joe Rocissono is a story that traverses modern day United States and historical Italy. Curses and witching are connecting the two. It brings together times from late BC, AD1200s, and 2012. The story is full of detailed Italian lore and appropriate for both adults and children from about age 10+.

I picture an Italian-American teen, who has had experience with great grandparents or grandparents mentioning some of the old superstitions or traditions from Italy, finding real joy in this book. That said, it is an ideal read for anyone who enjoys historical YA and a surprisingly good read for an independently published piece.