2014 – January 30 – Casting the Net

On the 30th day, we’re reading “Casting the Net” by Joanne Jagoda.

 

As the January sun fades to gloom, Damon Southeby adjusts his high-powered binoculars, keeping his eye on Anne Donaldson’s beat up Honda in the second row of the teacher’s parking lot. It’s a chilly San Francisco afternoon, and he zips up the expensive leather jacket he picked up on his last trip to Istanbul.

This one has an air of international intrigue despite being set in a seemingly mundane domestic scene.  Anne Donaldson turns 50 today, and she’s determined to make a new start in her life. Eight years ago her husband died, leaving her to re-enter the workplace and raise Continue reading

2014 – January 29 – Slim Jim

It’s the 29th day, and we’re reading “Slim Jim” by Vanessa Wiebler Paris.

 

I always wanted to go by Jamie, but by the time I was old enough to say so, there was no escaping it: I was Slim Jim.

An effective way to draw us into a character who is unhappy with his situation. Jamie is certainly that, and possibly much more. A bone thin virgin at 28, his memories consist almost entirely of put-downs and jokes-on-him that reinforce his negative self-image. Lively prose and an engaging character provide welcome contrast to these darker issues.

In this chapter, Jamie meets a woman, Carla, through a quiz in a magazine. Are You Confident? Continue reading

2014 – January 28 – Twelve Days Old

The 28th brings us “Twelve Days Old” by Kimberlee Smith.

 

Etheline Margaret Pritchett, my baby, latches onto the handmade rattle dangling from her daddy Dean’s fingertips with a purity of instinct and fervor as if she’s reaching out to my breast for the first time.

This passage is innocent, even heartwarming on first read. A second read leaves quite another residue. Etheline is twelve days old, and she’s already experienced a death in the family. Today was the funeral.

Melodie, the story’s narrator and baby’s mother tells us,

I am not entirely surprised. Our family has a long history with incidents of unusual sorts.

The unusual framework of this piece, the back and Continue reading

2014 – January 27 – Waking Up Samford

For our 27th novel of the month, we’re reading “Waking Up Samford” by Nathaniel Tower.

 

Samford McGee wakes in a sweat. “What day is it?” he asks the naked woman at his side. He has no idea what her name is or where she came from or if she is even a woman at all.

Thus begins a strange journey into the sketchy realm of identity. Who is this naked woman? Why is she here? More importantly, who is the ugly dude on the other side of her? It’s enough to make a guy question everything.

Which Samford does.

The answers are not pleasant.

Rather than give away too much, I’ll simply say Continue reading

2014 – January 26 – Breakable

It’s the 26th day, and we’re reading “Breakable” by Gary Percesepe.

 

Yesterday morning I moved my just-divorced self into a new house. In the afternoon I went to the dentist.

This is what you get with Gary Percespe. Straightforward reportage of everyday events that take on a magical light as they accumulate around you and within you. This is the story of a broken man, who might be fixed with a little glue. But how to scrape the old glue off, and how to nurture the temporary bridge, these are the real problems of life. The larger issues, such as, “What is love?” are but philosophical musings to fit into the interstices between Continue reading

2014 – January 25 – Morgana Malone and the Case of the Mysterious Flood

January 25 washes up “Morgana Malone and the Case of the Mysterious Flood” by Matt Potter.

 

“You have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?” He’s at it again. With five minutes of the gallery tour left, his voice still sounds from the rear of the twenty-plus group: soft enough for the old ladies in front not to hear, but insistent enough that I wait for his intake of breath before he speaks, and wince.

Morgana Malone is a force. We see that from this opening chapter. We also see that she’s a bit needy and determined to do something about it. Today, she’s guiding a gaggle of grannies through an art museum, Continue reading

2014 – January 24 – People Skills

And on the 24th, we read “People Skills” by Teresa Burns Gunther.

 

 

I can hear Stella halfway down the block. As soon as my key’s in the lock she’s at the door. Stella’s long legged and sleek. All I want to do is rip off my suit and dive into a cold drink – it’s been a shitty day. I didn’t get my raise; my boss says I need to work on my people skills. He’ll find any excuse. Last time it was presentation skills. What next? Better Post-it note placement?

And there you have it, that sardonic tone that characterizes this very entertaining opening chapter. Rachel’s acid tongue honesty runs rampant here, and it’s Continue reading

2014 – January 23 – I was a fool yesterday

Our 23rd installment is “I was a fool yesterday” by Darryl Price.

 

I was a fool yesterday. I’m still a fool today. I can feel it in my bones. Sleep did nothing to dampen this sensation in me. Does this feel good? I’m not really so sure. Yesterday it felt like I had discovered something so right that it just might change the world as we know it.

Love, lust, longing. These emotions form the heart of this stream-of-consciousness story in which the unnamed narrator pulls us into the experience of falling in love, or, precisely having fallen in love.

…sometimes we are very simply confronted out of the Continue reading

2014 – January 22 – A New Ned

Wednesday sucks, unless you’re reading “A New Ned” by Margaret Bingel. Which we are today.

 

Wednesdays are the worst. Ned wrote this in bold, angry letters across his new calendar, barely used, just opened three weeks ago when he remembered that January is technically a brand-new month, and with it, you open your brand-new calendar and hang it on the wall.

There’s a very nice tension in this piece. One gets the sense that Ned is on the verge of doing something very, very bad. When a beagle calendar makes you think of the unbearability of life, you have serious issues.  And then there’s this:

… he sits down at the table to Continue reading

2014 – January 21 – Thorns

The 21st day of the month brings “Thorns” by Mandy Nicol.

 

The screen door twangs shut behind me and a dozen flies. I heave the shopping bags into the kitchen. Put the milk, meat and marge in the fridge and leave the rest on the bench, including the fourteen cans of dog food for Peregrine. Mum watches from the dining room.

This is a teaser of an opening chapter. A very nice introduction to Nadia (our viewpoint character) and her Mum, who seems quite aware of her surroundings but perhaps intentionally unaware of the family situation. Nadia seems to be the caretaker, and quite competent and likeable, but one senses the stories may Continue reading