Day Gazing by Carla Herrera

May 27, 2015



I first read this collection of short stories a while ago and had been meaning to do a review of it for some time.  But in a way, I’m glad I waited because it’s meant that I ended up re-reading the collection in full – and there were a number of stories that I got more out of on the second (or even third) reading.

Anyway, the first thing to say about this collection is that, although it’s subtitled “Weird Shorts”, all the stories are written in a very accessible way – so don’t assume that “weird” equates to “wilfully obscure” or “kind of hard going.”  For example, I found that I could readily identify with - or at least empathise with - most of the protagonists;  the weirdness is more about the situations that they find themselves in.  These range from a couple who respond to an ad offering the chance to spend several weeks in a nuclear fallout shelter (“Bunker Test”) to a man who wakes up in a room that is entirely white (and yes, you guessed it, that one is called “White Room”).  

On my first read, these were the two stories that I found most striking and effective – and a number of other pieces mine a similarly dark seam of people battling with their own personal hell or some form of wider, apocalyptic event.  But as  I say, on the second read, I was more taken with some of the stories which had made less of an immediate impression on me the first time around. These included “Stairs”, which deals sympathetically with anxiety and depression, “The Protector”, which is more satirical in flavour and “Only the Good”, about what the world would be like if all “the bad” was taken out (would we actually like it?  And who gets to decide what’s good and bad anyway?).  Second time around, these stories got under my skin and made me think about things more than the ones I thought I liked best at first.

So to sum up, a great collection of shorts that definitely repays more than one reading – and at the risk of boring everyone by repeating a point I've made before, it’s further evidence that short stories can be just as satisfying, in their way, as longer work (it’s often just a different experience, where instead of feeling “full up” afterwards, the story is more of a jumping off point, prompting you to speculate as to what might happen to the characters after the point where the story ends or how the world of the story came about in the first place).

Blue Tent” by the same author is also worth a read –it’s more of a long short story/novella, but explores some of the same dystopian territory that features in some of these shorts.  It’s not free – but at $0.99 (at the time of writing), purchasing it is unlikely to cripple you financially. 

At the time of this review, "Day Gazing" was available free of charge from Smashwords.  You can read the author’s Smashwords interview here and there’s also an interview with her on Tom Lichtenberg’s blog, Pigeon Weather Productions.

 

The Fifth Lectern

March 31, 2015



With the UK general election campaign underway, now seemed a good time to review "The Fifth Lectern", a self-published novel by Andy Cooke about what might have happened if the 2010 UK general election had turned out slightly differently.  The key change that the author has made is to have the surge in support for the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) occurring not in 2014-15 (as it has in real life) but back in 2010.   The background to this is recounted in a novella-length prequel to "Th...
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The Inelegant Universe

January 31, 2015



This collection of short stories by Charles Hibbard is thought-provoking, varied and beautifully written.  And if short stories aren’t really your thing – although in this case I would urge you to make an exception - the author has a number of other longer-form fictions available on Smashwords (discussed briefly below). 

But getting back to “The Inelegant Universe,” what can you expect from this collection?  Well, here are some examples to give you a flavour:

  •  “Fare ...

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Confessions of a sexist reader

November 9, 2014

They say you should never judge a book by its cover.  But when, in my last review on this site, I said that I hadn’t really expected “Pedalling Backwards” to be my kind of thing, that was exactly what I was doing.  Here’s that cover again – it doesn’t really scream “Men! Buy this book!”  does it?



And just to reinforce my prejudices, it was also categorised as “women’s fiction” on Smashwords.  But of course, when I actually read it, I enjoyed it.  Which means that my preco...

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Pedalling Backwards

September 28, 2014



“Pedalling Backwards” by Julia Russell is a very well written literary novel which has attracted an impressive haul of positive reviews on Amazon, and two five star reviews (including mine) on Smashwords. 

Lizzie, her husband and her parents have rented a holiday cottage on a bleak, muddy island in the Blackwater Estuary.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, for starters, Lizzie has recently lost a baby.  Her husband thought it would be a good idea for them both to get away from things fo...

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Read by robots

August 22, 2014

In common, I suspect, with many authors, I write at least partly in the hope that at least a few other people will read my stuff.  So I was a little dismayed to discover that the overwhelming majority of my “readers” on Scribd appear not to have been people at all, but robots.

Until recently, Scribd was showing my total “reads” as being about 1.4K.  I was somewhat sceptical of this (see this post) and thought the true figure was probably in the low three figures – but felt that even ...

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HHhH by Laurent Binet

July 31, 2014



This book by the French author Laurent Binet is described in its blurb as a “novel” but I think it would be more accurate to categorise it as “faction.”  What I mean by that is that the book is based quite closely around actual historical events but it also has certain features in common with other genres, like memoir or, at times, fiction.  I have blogged about faction before – in particular a book called “Red Plenty” by Francis Spufford, who started off writing a factual accou...

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Abraham the Anchor Baby Terrorist

March 8, 2014



This is a very interesting and well written novel by Sean Boling, whose collection of short stories (“Pigs and Other Living Things”) I have already reviewed on this blog.  It’s about an attempt by Islamic terrorists to insert a long term “sleeper” agent into the US.  This is to be done by smuggling a pregnant Algerian woman into the country and passing her off as a South American immigrant;  her son, the Abraham of the title, is to be raised to carry out as yet unspecified tasks on ...


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The Hole in the Wall

February 5, 2014


"The Hole in the Wall" by Clare Fisher is another mid-length piece (longer than a short story, shorter than a novel) of the type which I have been trying to promote on this blog because it is so under-represented in modern fiction (but I recognise that I may now be in severe danger of boring people to death with this point).  Luckily, we live in the age of the e-reader, which seems to be (slowly) helping to create more of a market for mid-length fiction - so maybe, eventually...


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Stream of consciousness: what does it mean to you?

January 8, 2014



Fear not:  this blog entry is not intended to be a free-flowing word association experiment chronicling all thoughts and feelings passing through my head right now.  That may come as a relief to you, although possibly not to my employers, for whom I should really be doing some work (the trouble is, I work from home on Wednesdays and it’s easy to get distracted when you start thinking about interesting concepts like “stream of consciousness”).  It’s also easy to get distracted by gazin...

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About Me


Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books.
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