[ARC] Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

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Public libraries and other stories is a collection of stories by Ali Smith; after each tale there is a recollection or an episode about public libraries and the cultural and educational role they have in modern society.

I honestly prefer other books by Ali Smith (like the beautiful How to be both and the nice Autumn), and I like more her narrative style in the novel form, however I still remember some images from this collection of stories:

  • the books that contain short text in the boundary and the poet Olive Fraser who frees them at the end of the tale that tells a fictional episode of her life;
  • the old lady forgotten on the train and the group of teenagers who help her;
  • the child who wants to pay an object with flowers;
  • the mix of bureaucracy and technology that make ourself lose control of our life (the cloned credit card, the man declared dead multiple times without reason).

To the readers wanting to read for the first time something by this author I think it’s better to go for a novel.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Slipping by Lauren Beukes

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Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls, Moxyland and Zoo City, here collects stories and essays published elsewhere during years.

The collection is heterogeneous: some of the tales emerges with respect to others and leave a vivid memory. One of these is the one that gives the title to the book, and it is quite strong: in the future corporations sponsor athletes and their body enhancements; the girl protagonist of the story do not have any more her guts, other athletes have some limb replaced by something similar to a paw and so on.

In some tales we face women protagonists forced to adapt to exploitation or market rules, more or less willingly, and women able to fight for their independence (like Thozama in Smileys who fights against the soldier who wants to protects her and asks for her money).

Some setting are extreme (like the dramatic science-fiction The Green), to get to the absurd and to the meta-fiction (Unathi Battles the Black Hariballs, a story with mechas that I did not particularly like).

The essays are the last part of the book and deals about violence against women (All the Pretty Corpses, where the author explains what brought her to write The Shining Girls), about live in the African cities suburbs (Inner City, linked to the researches to write Zoo City), and the last one, On Beauty, is a beautiful letter to the author’s daughter about beauty to teach her that it is not only about – extreme – physical standards, but it’s something more: to be gentle, to be smart, to be intelligent.

Overall it’s a good collection, not all the story have the same quality, but the best of them will be remembered.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Slipping by Lauren Beukes ★★★☆☆½

*I read this book in english

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

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Harrowing the Dragon è una raccolta di racconti principalmente sul genere fantasy, ma con presenze di retelling e racconti di altri generi.

Della stessa autrice avevo già letto The forgotten beasts of Eld in cui avevo apprezzato sia ambientazione che stile narrativo. Anche questi racconti sono un buon esempio dell’abilità dell’autrice nel descrivere sia ambientazioni (come l’inverno nel primo racconto, The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath) che concetti astratti (la musica di A Matter of Music), e nel creare in generale storie evocative (la malinconica ambientazione di Lady of the Skulls).

Tra i racconti più godibili i tre già citati, i divertenti A Troll and Two Roses e Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son, eleganti e ironiche fiabe moderne e The Fellowship of the Dragon, più classico ma sempre con un tocco particolare.

In tema di retelling risultano molto ben riusciti The Snow Queen (dall’omonimo racconto) e The Lion and the Lark, bellissimo racconto che riprende la fiaba classica La bella e la bestia. Toad riprende la storia del principe ranocchio (versione dei Grimm) dal punto di vista del principe: bello ma sicuramente meno riuscito dei due precedenti.

Star-Crossed prende il via direttamente da Shakespeare, e segue le indagini per comprendere la morte di Romeo e Giulietta, un compito effettivamente complesso se non si è il lettore onnisciente.

Non tutti i racconti sono allo stesso livello a mio parere, ma è una pecca condivisa da ogni raccolta: Ash, Wood, Fire; The Stranger; Transmutations; The Witches of Junket; Voyage into the Heart non mi hanno lasciato un particolare ricordo.

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Harrowing the Dragon is a collection of tales that belong mainly to the fantasy genre, with hint of retellings and a few other themes.

By the same author I read also The forgotten beasts of Eld of which I liked both the setting and the narrative style.  This collection is also an example of Patricia A. McKillip’s skill in describing settings (like the winter in the first tale, The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath) and abstract ideas (the music in A Matter of Music), and in general in creating evocative stories (the melancholic setting of Lady of the Skulls).

Among the best tales there are the three already referenced, then the funny A Troll and Two Roses and Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son, refined and ironical modern fairy tales, and The Fellowship of the Dragon, that follows some rules of the classic fairy tale but with a hint of modern.

Concerning retellings I liked The Snow Queen and The Lion and the Lark, beautiful tale from the classic tale The beauty and the beast. Toad takes form from The frog prince (Grimm version), and shows the story from the prince point of view, it is overall nice, but the former are better.

Star-Crossed tells the story of the investigation about Romeo and Giulietta murders, quite a puzzle except for the omniscient reader.

The other tales are in my opinion not good as these I talked about, but it’s hard to find a collection and like all the tales. Here Ash, Wood, Fire; The Stranger; Transmutations; The Witches of Junket; Voyage into the Heart did not leave me a particular emotion – memory.

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Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip ★★★★☆

[ARC] Twisted Dark #1 – 2 by Neil Gibson

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Twisted Dark è una raccolta di racconti – più o meno brevi – dalle atmosfere cupe. I racconti via via contribuiscono a costruire un universo di storie interconnesse per la presenza di elementi o personaggi.

Ogni storia è illustrata da un diverso artista, e questo comporta una disomogeneità di stile complessiva: nelle graphic novel secondo me la trama è importante quanto la resa grafica, e in alcuni casi il trovare il disegno lontano dal mio gusto ha contribuito a non farmi piacere neanche il racconto.

Le storie sono caratterizzati o da temi cupi, o da finali a sorpresa che virano sull’assenza di lieto fine, ne ho apprezzate alcune, ma per la maggior parte non ho trovato la raccolta particolarmente innovativa.

Ringrazio l’editore per avermi fornito la copia necessaria per stendere questa recensione.

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Twisted Dark is a collection of tales – from short stories to longer forms – with dark atmosphere. The tales contributes in building up a universe where stories are connected by elements or recurring characters.

Each story is illustrated by a different artist, and this makes the collection graphically non homogeneous: concerning graphic novels I think that the drawing are important as the plot, and here sometimes the imagery was quite far from my like corresponded in not liking the story.

The tales have dark and twisted themes, or surprise endings that are not happy. I liked some, but overall I think the collection is not particularly innovative.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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Twisted Dark volume 1 by Neil Gibson ★★☆☆☆½
Twisted Dark volume 2 by Neil Gibson ★★☆☆☆½

 

 

Stone Mattress: nine tales by Margaret Atwood

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Stone mattress: nine tales raccoglie nove racconti della ben nota autrice Margaret Atwood (per chi non la conoscesse ancora consiglio Il racconto dell’ancella). Non è una raccolta tematica e ogni racconto è a sè stante, a parte i primi tre che compongono una sorta di trittico (con personaggi comuni ma punti di vista differenti).

Ho letto la raccolta con le mie amiche online (le stesse con cui ho affrontato The Weird: A compendium of strange and dark stories che si è meritato una recensione collettiva) e l’opinione generale è condivisa: i racconti rimangono gradevoli per la grandissima abilità nello scrivere dell’autrice – ci si accorge quando qualcosa è *bello* da leggere – però sono spesso deboli per quanto riguarda la trama.

Ci sono ovvie eccezioni, ho apprezzato molto Lusus Naturae, The Freeze-dried groom, Stone mattress e Torching the Dusties; un po’ meno il trittico iniziale (Alphinland, Revenant, The Dark Lady), The dead hand loves you e I dream of Zenia with the bright red teeth (ma questo è legato al romanzo The robber bride che non ho letto).

L’atmosfera della raccolta, per la maggior parte dei racconti, ha il sapore della malinconia; i personaggi guardano al passato, alla gioventù, a quello che erano e che avrebbero potuto essere se la vita non si fosse messa in mezzo. Come commentava durante la lettura Tintaglia, questo passato mai superato, oppressivo, che segna l’esistenza dei personaggi, è molto triste.

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Stone mattress: nine tales collects nine stories written by the well-known writer Margaret Atwood (for the ones who do not know her I suggest The handmaid’s tale). It’s not a thematic collection and each tale stand aside from the others, a part the first three that are a triptych (characters in common but different point of view).

I read the book with my online friends (the same with I faced The Weird: A compendium of strange and dark stories that deserved a collective review) and the general opinion is shared: the tales are nice for the great skill of the writer – we feel when something is *beautiful* to read – but sometimes the plot are weak.

There are exception, of course, I liked a lot Lusus Naturae, The Freeze-dried groom, Stone mattress and Torching the Dusties; less the beginning triptych (Alphinland, Revenant, The Dark Lady), The dead hand loves you and I dream of Zenia with the bright red teeth (but this tale is connected to a novel I have not read, The robber bride).

The book atmosphere, for most of the tales, is melancholic, the characters look at the past, at their youth, at what they were and what they could have become if life had not meddle with them. As my friend Tintaglia commented during the reading, this never overcome past, oppressive, that marks the whole existence of the characters, is so sad.

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Stone Mattress: nine tales by Margaret Atwood ★★★☆☆

The bloody chamber and other stories by Angela Carter

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“The bloody chamber” is one of the stories by Angela Carter contained in this collection. The stories are inspired by fairy tales and myths, some of them in fact can also be defined as retelling.

The author stated that:

My intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories.

In every story the latent symbolism of the classic fairy tales is exasperated: these version by Angela Carter allow the reader to think about different topics and it’s very hard to let them slip out your mind; they are captivating, wonderfully written and full of idea to analyze both the original fairy tales themes, both the symbols introduced by the writer herself.

The tales have original traits even if they take origin from existing narrative structures: for example the story of Beauty and the Beast is adapted in two completely different versions.

The stories have in common strong-willed women characters, well aware of their sexuality – or becoming so during the story – who face with courage their problems.

This collection was a wonderful discovery that I absolutely suggest to read.

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* The bloody chamber and other stories by Angela Carter ★★★★★

*I read this book in English

[ARC] Things Withered by Susie Moloney

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The book collects some stories by Susie Moloney, all of them having in common something horror – noir that emerges in the conclusion of each story.

The stories are set in suburbs and in situation of decay, both social – economical and emotional: the main characters are persons unsure of their abilities, of themselves, dishearten and without any perspective for the future.

The stories atmosphere is always dark and emotionally heavy (and depressing), taking the whole collection it seems like all the stories come from the same standard structure (for example the conclusions are quite easy to deduce after reading a couple of stories).

Overall the stories are well written, but, as I said, quite repetitive – not in the plot in se, but in the general structure – and it’s difficult to feel empathy for the characters.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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* Things Withered by Susie Moloney ★★★

*I read this book in English