“Performance Art Stories” by David Kranes

Genre: Short Stories/Black HumorPerformance
Publisher: University of Nevada Press
Pub. Date: Oct. 5, 2021

David Kranes is the gifted author of plays, eight novels along with short story volumes including “Performance Art Stories.” Some of the stories in this book appeared in earlier publications. The title suggests that we all perform for others whether we admit it or not. His characters are more than quirky. They are bizarre which is why I did not finish this novel. I read five of the shorts then skimmed the rest. I was blown away by the first short, “The Daredevil’s Son,” and then had a hard time following the rest of the ones that I finished. In “Daredevil” from birth, his son is pegged as a chip off the old block, a dead ringer of his pop.  Alas, for the father, the boy was more comfortable in his mother’s closet than his dad’s. It is such a good story that shows us that the boy was mentally healthy, and the father was well, nuts.  I did find that the author’s writing to be impeccable. Still, most of the shorts here were surreal, and just too ‘out there’ for me. I get that the tale, “The Stand-Up Phobic” is a dark humor story about a comic who makes tasteless run-on jokes with the audience. I was never sure if the man was hallucinating or not. It reads like an imaginary free-form-art bomb leaving me to recover from the blast.  I should mention that Karnes is the winner of many literary awards.  Maybe it is just me.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“A Woman of Intelligence’ by Karin Tanabe

A Woman of Intelligence

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: June 20, 2021

The woman might have been intelligent but the story was dim-witted. The setting is in NYC in the year1954. Marketed as historical fiction the novel is really women’s fiction centering on an Ivy-League-educated bored homemaker and mother of two young sons. The FBI approaches her to help them on a case with a Russian ex-boyfriend of hers. She agrees while keeping her husband in the dark. (This alone makes this an unbelievable read). Now there are plenty of espionage novels out there where the protagonist is a female. I am guessing some are good but this one just isn’t one of them. To be fair to the author, she does a good job of showing us how hard and underappreciated it is to be a stay at home mom. And, I did enjoy her novel, “A Hundred Suns.” In that book, her writing shines. Here it is sophomoric.  Or maybe it wasn’t the writing, but a plot-line that never seemed credible. 

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“Wild Women and the Blues” by Denny S. Bryce

Genre: Historical FictionWild Women
Publisher: Kensington
Pub. Date: April 2, 2021

I disagree with the title. The women were not wild, but rather they were living in wild times working as showgirls. It seems to me that the title is to attract certain readers. Bryce transports us to the1920s with vibrant scenes of the Chicago Jazz Age.  She gives the reader a vivid feel of the real-life infamous black neighborhood known as the “Stroll,” which was peppered with nightclubs, pool halls, tattoo parlors, speakeasies, and vaudeville houses.  She brings you directly inside the middle of it all. She does a stellar job of filling us in on the early days in the career of the great ‘Satchmo,’ Louis Armstrong. You will feel like a fly on the wall observing how he just loved people.

There is a dual timeline, the roaring twenties and in the recent past. Language and slang for both periods are spot on.  In 2015, a male film student is researching Oscar Devereaux Micheaux.  In the early 20th century, he was a real-life pioneering, African-American author and film director/producer. The student visits a nursing home to interview a 110-year-old (hard to swallow) woman who was a chorus girl in 1925 and danced in one of Micheaux’s films.

The novel began to lose my interest when the chorus girl witnesses a murder. This is easy to believe considering that the mob ran the club that she worked in. Right here the story morphs into a sort of crime thriller that is heavy on the sappy side. The feel goes from historical fiction to women’s fiction. It is clear from the novel that Bryce is a gifted writer. She has written reviews and articles for NPR.  As much as I enjoyed the historical aspects, I do not enjoy romance novels, which “Wild Girls” borders on. If you do and you enjoy reading about the Jazz Age, you should enjoy the entire book.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review

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“The Children Act” by Ian McEwan

Genre: Courtroom Drama The Children Act
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014

Mini Review

I read this book years ago.  Recently while surfing channels I noticed that it was turned into a movie.  Instead of watching the movie, I re-read the novel because remembered liking it. I had previously read McEwan’s “Atonement.”  I found in both novels that his writing skills are first-rate. As in “Atonement,” a single event sets off a chain reaction of consequences.  In “Children,” a female judge must make a life or death decision regarding a 17-year-old boy. The teen has leukemia and desperately needs a blood transfusion.  He and his family happen to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion that forbids blood transfusions.  What makes this courtroom drama different from others is that the writer is not playing on the readers’ emotions. This book will not have you on the edge of your seat. ” It is not primarily about religious beliefs and saving a life. It is more about the judge and making difficult decisions in British High Family Court.   You will read about other brutal cases that she has proceeded over.  She does this daily, all while trying to keep her marriage together. You can’t help but admire her legal skills.  “This has been no easy matter to resolve. I have given due weight to A’s age, to the respect due to faith, and to the dignity of the individual embedded in the right to refuse treatment …” Her decision and its consequences throw her into confusion and self-doubt. Even though the author is writing about a female protagonist, don’t expect this to be a women’s fiction novel. This is a short (224 pages), concise, strong novel, where a judge’s ruling decision affects her life in ways she never intended or imagined.  Okay, there is a hint of a soap in the tale still, it remains a literary read that will make you think about the judge even after you have finished the novel.

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“Dracula” by Bram Stoker

Genre:  Gothic horror Dracula2
Publisher:  Archibald Constable and Company
Pub. Date: May 26, 1897

Martie’s 2020 Halloween Read

Mini-Review

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!” Those words, which were written in the 19th century, were the beginning of the vampire craze that is still going on today. There have been earlier stories on vampires but it was Stoker, who made the vampire, Count Dracula, a household name. Surprisingly, the novel is not a pure horror book, especially when compared to present day horror novels. It flows much slower and probes deeply into human identity and sanity.  I am sure I do not need to tell you the basics of the story that has been recreated in theaters, television, and films. I can share that none of them get the tale correct. Even the 1991 movie, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (I watched it the moment I finished the book) misses the major themes of the novel. The plot is too complicated for film reproduction.  It is a true mixed genre novel including, folklore, Victorian culture, religion, eroticism, colonialism, war, mystery (almost reads like a detective murder mystery), and of course gothic horror. There is no narrator. Almost the entire story is written in the daily journals of the main characters. This can make the novel trying to read.  But, stick with it because it is so darn good.

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Blogging Buddies I’m Out of Commission

I have just been released from the hospital so I am afraid that I haven’t been able to read any of your lovely reviews.  My latest attention-seeking shenanigans (if you remember I had broken my shoulder a couple of months ago) was having a minor heart attack, meaning I won’t be online for a bit longer. I’m fine no worries. Looking forward to reading reviews again soon.

A Portrait of an Artist

Sounds wonderful.

The Chocolate Lady's Book Review Blog

Book Review of Notes from an Exhibition” by Patrick Gale.

aad14-notesTo try to describe the plot of Patrick Gale’s novel “Notes on an Exhibition” is as difficult a task as to try to explain a piece of abstract art. In fact, this novel is less of a story than it is a portrait of a personality and the life around her. The action of this book revolves around Rachel Kelly, an artist who came from Canada and lived most of her life in Cornwall. What’s more, Rachel is bipolar (manic-depressive), and this affects not only her own outlook on life, but also all those around her as well as her art. With nothing is truly obvious from the outset of this book, the full story is only revealed once you’ve finished reading the last page.

What’s more, Gale sets up this book in a fascinating way. To…

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