Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunday Meals and Snake Neckties

       As promised, another short tale for you to savor.
       We all have them, don't we, those stories handed down through family lore?  My grandmother tells the story of the time they put up Burma Shave type signs to get her brother to stop when her car broke down.  They wanted to make sure he didn't go whizzing by. And there's a tale about my grandfather's cousin who invented the Vice Grips while he worked for a manufacturing company. My grandfather got free seconds and the wrench became known as The Jeffryes Wrench in his neighborhood as in, "Let's go borrow the Jeffryes Wrench." Of course the invention was property of the manufacturing company and not of the man who invented it, but I digress. In our neighborhood, Mrs. Lunnon told the tale of her older sons who faked a murder-kidnapping just as a crowd was leaving the theater. This was when only one film was shown at a time so the crowd was big. The boys had to hide the car for weeks because the cops were looking for it. Don't you have similar stories to be told? And a good story teller can make them a fascinating read. Sunday Meals and Snake Neckties by Peggy Randall-Martin has the feeling of family lore, a captivating story about the life and times of regular people.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Simple Tale of Ryann

     Sometimes, though I am extremely fond of huge long books, I enjoy the novella or even an occasional short story. Short stories and novellas must be excellent at the beginning, through the middle, and at the end in a way that novels can slide a bit on.  If a good novel has a few scenes that aren't quite on point, as long as they are well written, the reader won't be too phased. The novella and especially the short story doesn't have that luxury. Every word must count. Like writing an opinion piece for a newspaper, each sentence must carry meaning. Flash fiction is even more demanding because it must carry the plot and meaning in each word choice.  I like long novels because they have the time to give back stories or give lessons about plants and herbs (think Clan of the Cave Bear or Heir to Power) or weave several stories and plots together (think Lord of the Rings) as long as the stuff is interestingly written. Short stories have other strengths: Clean straight-line plots; no long winded rabbit-hole paths; no huge cast of characters to remember. One of my favorite stories, Monument by Lloyd Biggle, Jr., was one that I read  in a condensed form which allowed the point of the story to be sharper.  I enjoyed the longer version but the short version hit home so much better. To give you a taste of the various stories written in shorter forms my next few reviews will be short books, novella, and short novels beginning with Ryann by Paul Dorset.

by Paul Dorset
Words: 28,970
Language: English
ISBN: 9781476361895

About the book:

Ryann is a young girl who lives as a sclava, an indentured servant whose life at the castle is threatened not just from the hard work and little food but also by the sadistic son of the castle's Lord. Sclava's are paid but their food, housing, and clothing are deducted  from that pay making it almost impossible for them to save enough money to buy themselves out of servitude. But there is another way, for those who are brave enough and trained enough to try it.