The Memory Man, a short story by Helen Smith

23624909Pages: 50

Reading time: about 30 minutes

Making her way through a dark cafeteria in what may well be an even darker warehouse, Sarah comes across Valerie, asleep in a chair and wrapped in a blanket. Next to her, a dead body…which they put in a disused fridge whilst they try to decide what to do.

Neither is sure. It is dark. They are scared. And they have no idea how they got here. No memories at all in fact. Which means they aren’t sure what is outside the door and at the end of the corridor. Valerie decides to try and find out, leaving Sarah alone and afraid, only to come back with strange stories and fragments of memories that may or may not be hers and a name that may or may not be the dead mans.

The where and the why are a nice twist in this story, which was well written with good pace. It packs a lot into its 50 pages. For some reason, I had in my head that it would be a crime story but it is more supernatural and spooky and I liked that. Sarah and Valerie and the Memory Man himself were interesting and there was so much not said, building the tension. I really wanted to know how they had ended up in the room and what would happen to them, which meant that for me, the story ended a little too soon. I would have liked a few more pages and a little more plot. Still enjoyed it though and would recommend to anyone with half an hour to spare.

Emma

National Short Story Week 2015

NSSW-300x171This week is National Short Story week, something I hadn’t heard of – though it’s in its fifth year – until I read about it on Kimberly Sullivan’s blog.  I really enjoy short stories but haven’t read any for a while and so loved the idea of promoting them (now that I’m aware of it!) if I could.

You can find out more about the week here but, in a nutshell, the idea is to promote short stories, and short story writers, publishers and events. It runs from today, Monday 16th through Sunday, 22nd November.  Kimberly is taking part by trying her hand at flash fiction.  I’m nowhere near as creative but I thought I could do my part by reading and doing mini-reviews of short stories every day.

23624909The reading will start tonight with The Memory Man by Helen Smith, which has been on my Kindle for a few months now.

Two women become friends in an abandoned post-apocalyptic building. A psychic makes contact with a lost soul. His apprentice tries to find news of a man he has lost touch with. Fragments of memories are traded and twisted. Friendship provides comfort, but the recovery of memories brings torment rather than reassurance – until truth becomes secondary to survival.

It feels like a fun thing to do and I’m also hoping it might get me out of my reading funk and inspire me to read some new authors. Are you a short story reader – any recommendations for the rest of the week?

Emma

This Week, Next Week: 15th November, 2015

Morning…hope you are having a good weekend. Ours has been perfectly quiet, if a little wet as we have been pounded by rain over the last few days. It’s about to get a little noisier though as we are heading off to a children’s party in a bit.

7575266902743Reading wise, I was in a bit of a slump last week after the disappointing The Bed I Made  by Lucie Whitehouse and it continued with Fair Play by Tove Jansson. Neither book did anything for me I’m afraid, though for different reasons. The Bed I Made was slow and didn’t have enough tension or twists and turns whilst Fair Play was well written but felt more style over substance.

Hopefully, I’ll have more luck this week, though I haven’t made it very far in Little Girl Gone, which I started last week so who knows.  I have tried to step outside my comfort zone a little again this week and pick books I wouldn’t normally.

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Honor Bright is a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

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On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

And finally, November 9, for the Caffienated Book Club.

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Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day of her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.

And that’s it for me. How has your week been? What have you been reading?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Fair Play by Tove Jansson

902743Jonna and Mari are artists. They live together, sort of, and have for twenty or thirty years.  I say sort of because their apartments are at opposite ends of the top floor of an old building, connected by an empty attic space.  When they are working, they stay in their own homes.  When they aren’t working, they spend their time in Jonna’s apartment watching American movies (Fair Play is set in Finland) and avoiding the world or in a small cabin owned by Mari on a small island with no other inhabitants, still avoiding the world.  Sometimes, they travel, taking long trips to other countries.

Occasionally, they have visitors or meet new people who they seem to attach themselves to rather than become friends with.  Whilst excited by the new additions, each time it seems to upset the balance of their lives, the routine of their non-routine world.  There is Mari’s old boyfriend for example, who says he’s going to come camping on the island then doesn’t show up, and the young artist Jonna befriends and feeds food normally set aside for Mari until one day she doesn’t turn up anymore and Mari, who had felt like she no longer belonged, is welcome into the flat again.

Told in short chapters that are linear timewise but do not necessarily follow each other immediately, Fair Play gives snapshots into lives less ordinary than mine.  As an outsider, getting a glimpse of this world, I struggled to understand it and get a real sense of time and place.  The seeming lack of direction, the misunderstandings that were never discussed – I wondered whether I was missing something and kept going back on myself.  Then I read that Fair Play was based on Tove Jansson’s own long-term relationship and, knowing this, I started to feel like I was getting not so much a work of fiction but a glimpse of her real life and started enjoying it more as a result (though not sure why, perhaps I was no longer looking for a big idea?).

With this in mind, I found it interesting though not compelling and I did like the style of writing.  It was sparse and simple and seemed (at least to my untrained eye) well translated.  I think the problem was I wanted more, I’m just not sure more of what.  More of a story maybe and definitely more pages – this was billed as a novel but was only 84 pages long.  When it ended I felt disappointed and slightly cheated.  Which is a shame because I don’t think this was a bad book and I think other people would really like it.  It just wasn’t for me.

Emma

Tuesday Intro: 10th November, 2015

Once again this week I’m linking up with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt.  Here’s what it’s about…

imageA baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…

And here’s how it starts…

‘Mrs Paradise?’ A voice sounds out of nowhere.
My thoughts are sluggish, as if I’m running under water. I try and try but I’m not getting anywhere.
‘Not stable. Eighty over sixty. And falling.’
Oh God, I’m still alive. I move my legs, they respond, barely, but they respond. Light prowls its way into my eyes. I hear dogs barking, high pitched. They pant, their tags clatter.
‘You’ve been in a car accident.’
My face is numb, my thoughts vague, like dusty boxes in obscure and dark attic spaces. I know immediately something is amiss.
‘Oh my God, look at her head.’
A siren sounds, it stutters for a second, then turns into a steady torment. I want to tell them … I open my mouth, my lips begin to form the words, but the burning sensation in my head becomes unbearable. My chest is on fire, and ringing in my left ear numbs the entire side of my face. Let me die, I want to tell them. But the only sound I hear is of crude hands tearing fragile fabric.
‘Step back. Clear.’
My body explodes, jerks upward.
This isn’t part of the plan.

I’ve shared a bit more than normal because the last line is the one that got me. What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse

7575266Well, it had to happen. After not reading a book I didn’t like in all of October, barely a week into November and I found one that did nothing for me. And I’m even more disappointed because I had high hopes.

The reason, I had read Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met earlier this year and really liked it – the pace, the plotting, and the characters – and had hoped for more of the same. Sadly, it was not to be.

The Bed I Made is slow from start to finish, only picking up the pace in the last 60 or so pages, way too late for me to care I’m afraid. Lucie Whitehouse tries, and early on nearly succeeds in building up the tension, creating a career girl (Kate) who meets a too perfect man (Richard), only to discover he isn’t anywhere near what she thinks he is.

I spent the first few chapters wanting to know just what Richard was up to and why. The problem is that once Kate figures it out and heads to a bolt hole all Richard has is email and text. It just doesn’t a good bad guy make. I needed more. I needed twists, turns, and danger. Not Kate being mildly concerned but – inexplicably to me – unable to tell her best friend why.

All that said, and disappointments aired, this isn’t a badly written book. Lucie Whitehouse does a good job setting the scene and describing the island Kate has retreated to and the people who inhabit it. She has a nice, easy to read style, that keeps you turning pages. It is a shame the story didn’t do the same – meaning (no surprise) this one wasn’t for me…sorry!

Emma

This Week, Next Week: 8th November, 2015

Hi All – hope you are having a good weekend. Ours was full of bangs – literally – as it was Bonfire Night Thursday and our neighbours decided to wait till last night to let off the million fireworks that usually accompany the 5th November. It was great to watch actually and I’m kind of hoping they go all out again on New Years Eve to save us having to track any displays down (yes, I’m lazy!).

imageThe rest of the week wasn’t quite as exciting and book wise a bit of a mixed bag. I got my review of Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica posted and read and reviewed Girl Meets Boy, a short story by Ali Smith and part of the Canongate Myth series, which I really enjoyed. I loved Ali Smiths style of writing and sense of humour.

2547263Then I read The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse, which I’d been looking forward too. Unfortunately it wasn’t what I had hoped. I’ll review it this week but it left me feeling a bit flat and struggling to read anything else.

Hopefully I’ll get my writing mojo back after picking up these, both books I’ve heard good things about…

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The Ice Twins…A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

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Little Girl Gone….A baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…

Keep your fingers crossed for me. What about you? What are you reading this week?

emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

Girl Meets Boy is part of the Canongate Myths series, where authors retell a tale from mythology their own 2547263way. I’ve only read one other (The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood) but wish I had read more because I love the idea…which is why I picked Girl Meets Boy up.

Based on Ovid’s story or Iphis and Ianthe, it is a about love, fear, family and the not so nice things in life like sexism and homophobia with a fair bit of corporate greed thrown in for good measure. That’s a lot for 84 pages (this is a short story) yet Ali Smith manages to cleverly get her messages of acceptance across without losing the love story at the heart of it.

In the myth, Iphis is born a girl. Her father had said he would kill the child if they were not male so the mother prays to the gods and they tell her to raise her daughter as a boy, which she does. When Iphis grows up, she/he falls in love with his best friend Ianthe, a girl, and they plan to marry. Knowing she/he cannot make Ianthe truly happy as a woman, she/he also prays to the gods who turn him into a real man. Then everyone lives happily ever after – unusual from what I know of Greek Myth.

In the present the story takes place Inverness with Iphis played by Robin (a girl) and Ianthe by Anthea (also a girl). They meet by chance and Robin helps Anthea find her place in the world, a world she had previously felt lost in and one where she had found herself employed by Pure, a corporation who believes they can make water a commodity and take over the world. Together, they find love, peace and – eventually acceptance of family.  Family includes Anthea’s sister Imogen who struggles with her sisters sexuality and is going through her own journey of discovery as she realises she does not have to conform to the male dominated world around her either.

What it means to be a woman and women’s rights across the world are writ large here. Ali Smith doesn’t pull punches and cleverly includes statistics by way of art as part of the storyline. These are alone enough to make you think but as I said earlier, there is so much more. I realy like Smith’s style of writing. It is sharp and witty and felt perfect here for the tale she was telling. It made me laugh and smile and question. All good things when it comes to reading. I liked this a lot. Highly recommended.

Emma

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

imageBefore starting Pretty Baby, I had heard some really good things and read some rave reviews, which meant that whilst I really wanted to read it, I was also very nervous that I would be disappointed.  In fact, I’ve owned the book for a few months now and kept putting off reading it.  Once I did crack the spine though, it turns out my fears were just that because from page one the book grabs you and doesn’t let you go.

It starts with Heidi seeing a young girl with a baby standing on the train platform on a very rainy morning.  They look bedraggled and in need of food and shelter.  She hesitates, but gets on the train.  Then she sees them again, and again, and the need to help becomes so strong she can’t help herself and – despite the objections of her husband and daughter – she brings them home.

The girl, Willow, seems fragile, scared.  She won’t talk about her past, where she has come from, how she ended up living on the streets, and Heidi doesn’t push.  She doesn’t want to know because she is starting to love having the baby, Ruby, in their house.  Ruby’s needs and unconditional love are welcome distractions from the angst of her teenage daughter Zoe and the absence of her husband Chris who seems to be constantly travelling for work.

Whether Willow likes the interest Heidi is taking in her daughter, or is truly what she seems – a lonely, homeless, girl in need of love herself – is another matter and Mary Kubica keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out just who she is and if she is a danger to the family who have taken her in…or if they are a danger to her.  Told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Heidi, Chris and Willow, it’s like a jigsaw you have to put together.

I really like this style of storytelling and found this story in particular quite compelling.  It was well written, with good pace and each character seemed like their own person with their own voice.  There were plenty of twists and turns and second guessing and, whilst I have to say I wasn’t too keen on any of the characters in the beginning, I had started to care about all of them by the end and the predicament they found themselves in. No one ended up being quite who I thought they were.  It all made for a great book and one I kind of feel I can sum up in one word – it’s how I felt when I’d finished – “wow!”.  Loved it!

Emma

This Week, Last Month: 1st November, 2015 (and October round-up)

Hi All, welcome to November. This is one of my favourite times of year, with the weather changing and Christmas just around the corner, not that I’m quite ready for it yet but – now Halloween is over – there is nothing else I need to plan for to get in the way of getting excited about the season.

And this week has been all about Halloween, with a party Friday and trick or treating last night.  It’s also been half term, which has meant a few days away and little time to read, though I did manage to finish Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica and post one review, Drive by James Sallis, which I loved. He is one of my favourite authors and I never tire of his stripped back style of writing and interesting, flawed, characters.

The whole month has been a bit hit and missed with posting but can’t be helped. I have learnt not to beat myself up about it. Plus, I read some really good books, one other of which I loved…

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Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt, the second in the series involving DS Allie Shenton, was as good as – better even – than the first with a serial killer on the loose in the City of Stoke set on carrying out revenge on those who had done him wrong. It was well written with great characters. I have the third book ready to read and hope to be cracking the spine on this in the next few weeks.

And the rest of which I really liked, including…

932671imageA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, the first Sherlock Holmes I’ve read (and the first story featuring the greatest detective off all time), I could see why the story has stood the test of time.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish, which I’d heard goods about and wasn’t disappointed by. Just what was going on behind the well-to-do front doors in this London suburb and exactly what happened to the most beautiful resident of the street made this a real page turner – and made me want to read more books by this author.

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Eeny Meeny by M J Arlidge, the first in a series I’m already four books behind on but would like to catch up with. This was a pretty dark tale of a serial killer targeting couples but with a clever plot and interesting central character.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which I read for Frightfall and also my Classic Club challenge. A book I felt I knew the story of but it turns out I didn’t. This was a horror story but also a tragic tale of a creature mankind just couldn’t accept. I needed up feeling quite sad by the end, rather than scared.

Looking back over the month, I was surprised to see there wasn’t one “blah” book amongst them – perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age or maybe have just been lucky, in which case I hope the look continues. I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next – I still have all last week’s books and I also picked up an audiobook about The Gunpowder Plot which seemed appropriate for the time of year.

What about you? What are you reading? Or what have you read I should be adding to the list?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in (rather belatedly) with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post