Lush in Translation by Aimee Horton

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Helllllo readers, hope you’re well! I’ve been reading a hell of a lot of fun books recently because I’m worried that reading something toooooo serious will kill off my want to read at all. But fun stories are good for me and this one seemed like the perfect  read for little ole me. I got a hold of this copy after subscribing to a blog which is something I haven’t done before – without further delay onto the review.

Find out just how British Dottie is…

Dottie Harris is as British as they come, which is exactly what endears her to us. But when her pregnant American cousin comes for a visit, Dottie is a frazzled disaster who can’t seem to overcome the language barrier.

Lush in Translation is a funny look at parenting from both sides of the pond, and the surprising number of confusing language differences that entails.

So, plot time – the book follows the routine of busy working woman Dottie Harris who has gone from working woman to full on Mummy. Battling little ones her days are filled whizzing around wiping noses and finding shoes. Although things aren’t exactly what she was expected she’s adjusting to life. One day though, her expecting cousin from across the pond comes to stay and let’s just say there’s a bit of a language barrier and a bit of difference in expectations but the story follows the differences between the two and the little quirks and ideas about parenting.

This is a very short story but it’s a fun story – we see the quirks and confusion in the changes of language between the two. The confusion when the words nappies (diapers) sweets (candy) and dummies (pacifiers) are used. Throughout we see Dottie desperate to impress and as she attempts to bribe her children into behaving she starts to struggle with keeping up appearances.  The story continues to play out between the two women and we get to see the thought process that no matter where we’re from, the ideas we have, the life we decide to lead and the way we parent we are really just the same people underneath. Parenting comes  in all different styles and we each have our own way of doing it.

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In terms of the writing style it’s very very simple;  there’s very little description or character build up and there isn’t a lot into the characters. We don’t really get a description of Dottie other than she’s very British and likes a gin and tonic or too every so often. Her cousin is the same and that’s the real problem of the book it’s just too short. It is sold as a snapshot into her life but it definitely could have been worked into a longer tale. All of these comments will revolve around it being too short but there was just very little space in the scenes, almost each was told in a  just sentence which made it difficult to really get involved in.

The ending also was really disappointing because we just know so little about the characters it’s difficult to feel anything at the end of the book. I love short stories and I know T doesn’t because they so rarely deliver and recently I’ve felt a little like that. There’s a difference between a short story and what just feels like a teaser to a really GOOD book that’s just not there. Maybe if this had been a selection of books and snippets it would have been better because I thought the premise of the story was really good.

Overall I enjoyed this but I  think if I had bought this in paperback i would have been quite disappointed. At thirty pages I almost (I’m sorry) thought was it worth it? I just felt there could have been so much more to this tale. The continuation of the language barrier, the relationship between the two women as her cousin gets closer to her due dates; there’s a real story there but it’s missing here. I think if this had been worked into more stories then this would have been better, but right now, it’s just not enough for me?

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The Christmas Bake Off Kindle Edition by Abby Clements

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Helllllo readers, I’m not usually one for Christmas stories but as I’ve been getting into the Christmas spirit a little earlier especially with all the Christmas markets I’ve been visiting I thought a festive read would be fitting. This year I’ll have (hopefully) done Birmingham twice and also Manchester and both I am sure will be wonderful. It’s a shame this year I’m not going with my parents but the weekends just haven’t added up but I thought today I would read and review for you a super short but super sweet Christmas story. Enjoy!

With Christmas just around the corner, the residents of Skipley village are gearing up for the annual bake off, and tensions are high. Winning means a lot to everyone involved – talented cake-shop owner Katie dreams of baking stardom, Rachel wants to prove she’s more than a stay-at-home mum, and John hopes his culinary skills will impress the woman he loves.

But when the judges discover that some cakes have been tampered with, the villagers’ loyalties are called into question – whose ambition would stretch to sabotage, and why? The Christmas Bake Off is an exclusive short story from Abby Clements, author of Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. This ebook edition also includes bonus recipes for cinnamon cookies and vanilla and almond biscuits.

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As the blurb suggests the book follows a baking competition in a lovely little English village. Among the competitors are Katie who wants to make herself known more professionally in the baking world and Rachel who desperately wants to prove she’s more than ‘just a home baker.’ Baking a gingerbread house desperate to impress the judges – there’s a problem. Sabotage? Who will be the winner? Who has tried to stop the competition winning? All will be revealed in this ‘christmassy’ baking read.

Did I enjoy this festive tale? Yes, don’t get me wrong it is incredibly short – you could plow through this on a lunch-break or a longer bus journey but it does pack a festive punch. The characters although lacking in-depth come across strongly and have lovingly created personalities. Although the plot does use the sabotage of the cakes to bring drama it is all very light-hearted and sweet. The bake-off, rural village was played up to make this a really sweet read and I did feel incredibly festive reading it.

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I did think that there could have been deeper insights into the characters. The book is very, very (very) short and a couple of extra chapters that could have introduced a sub-plot would have helped to fill out the book a little more. The recipe at the back is a welcome addition and I cannot wait to give them a try and bake some Christmas goodies but the book didn’t quite deliver for me in terms of enjoyment. There is a smidgen of romance between two of the bakers which could have been developed but wasn’t quite enough for me to really invest myself in.

Overall this is the perfect lunch-break read when you just need a minute away from the computer, or curled up on the sofa with a hot-chocolate after a long day at work. It’s a sweet read, with a sweet ending. I found myself wanting more from this due to its short length, but for a couple of pennies on Amazon it’s definitely worth a read.

Linnnnks

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Shards: a short story anthology by C.J Cummings

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Hellllllo readers I have a really interesting book of short stories to share with you today. It’s very rare that I would be sent a collection of books that make an anthology but I’m really excited to have received this and have it to review for you today. In terms of my review schedule I am about month ahead now in terms of what needs posting but I will get them all read and up for you soon. Without delay: THE REVIEW.

Like a box of lost and found, Shards is a dive into fiction and all its wonderful edges. Tales of life and of death; war and poetry; monsters with fangs and creatures with claws; the weird and the woeful; the realism and the obscure. It is a journey into the back of a brain, deep in the tunnels of imagination, where the most unusual and brilliant and terrible ideas are born.

An anthology of twenty brand-new works of short-fiction: Science-fiction, Weird, Abstract, Fantasy, Dystopian, Contemporary, Horror, War & More. A love-letter to the written word.

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Gah some of these stories are real stunners. The anthology is total mix of different stories and contexts. The first few are very subtle stories There are subject matters than appear once or twice, especially the writing of intense emotion. ‘A busy doorway’ is a beautiful tale of two people who are saying goodbye at an airport the emotion that the author manages to get into the tale and the use of words to give the characters description despite it being a very short tale is skilfully done. The ending was very endearing and difficult to read but it just summed it all up without tying it up in a really finished bow. Delightful. ‘Just Right,’ was another romantic tale that just fell into the readers hands; the author has a definite way of writing to really tell a tale with the characters without needing long descriptions or lots of backstory. It’s a very sweet tale and one I really enjoyed. The two characters continually meet at different coincidental opportunities and although maybe a little twee I thought it was beautiful.

Some of the stories also take on a darker turn especially ‘Soil in the eye,’ is a very dark tale, it tells of a person being buried alive but the emotion driven into the story makes you feel as if you’re there with quaking in the box, feeling the oxygen slowly slip away. More subtle stories including ‘Facing the right’ and ‘The Light’ tend to be more soft stories revolving around the telling of the tale rather than telling a story. Due to them being so short they do have an abstract feel but for me I thought it just added to the authors ability to weave such delicate stories. This is shown most in the tale ‘The Still Bridge,’ it’s so atmospheric and different to the earlier tales I thought it was beautifully done.

My favourite of the tales I think was ‘The Aching Vengeance’ one of the stories towards the start of the anthology. The tale shows an old cowboy who has been searching for his daughter for many many years and after wandering into a bar it all starts to get a bit messy. The story shows Cumming’s ability to string together a powerful tale in only a couple of pages and the story really stayed with me. It’s a very dark tale but one I thought was really intriguing.

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There were a couple of stories that did fall short, ‘Sunday Night Movie Massacre,’ felt a little rushed and didn’t fully explore enough into the monster to make me believe in such a tale, and the story before ‘The Town Built on tragedy’ didn’t give enough to end the tale and make a lot of sense to the reader. I think it was a really interesting start but there wasn’t quite enough to make me feel that, oh wow feeling. There are a few near misses but most of spot on.

Overall this is a really brilliant complation of different tales with different contexts, characters and stories. Some of the stories I felt had too much content to be tied up too quickly and lacked a little more information but I thought the experimentation with style and genre was really exciting. I’ve just seen the author has another book and I might just have to give that a good. If you like short stories or want to read some really superb ones, this is a compilation for you.

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It Ain’t Easy: Short stories by Kesia Alexandra

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Hellllllllo readers; I have stepped away from the fantasy books and have discovered some wonderful books this week which you will see reviews of soooon. I’ve been getting back into going to the library and getting books read. I think some variety is needed so I’m trying to read lots of different styled books so there’s something for everyone. I’m other news, I am looking for a new job *cheers.* I’ve been meaning to look properly for a while but I’m ready to move to a new city and find myself a new path I guess but will keep you updated. For now a selection of short stories to get your teeth into.

Life is seldom easy for a teenager, and when that teen has to grow up in Washington, DC, life can be hell. In It Ain’t Easy, a collection of short stories by Kesia Alexandra, the reader is shown what life is like in that part of the city that’s not monuments and government buildings—from the gritty streets of some of the poorest parts of the city to the privileged halls of its prestigious private schools.

I do adore a short-story if done well; emphasis on the “if done well.” I think that it seems simple to write a short story but recently I’ve found if I’m reading short stories or a novella, they are too short and therefore fail to capture the reader wholly. Thankfully that didn’t happen here; this author writes with a skilful insight into the five stories of five girls that each delve into the gritty Washington scene. We meet, a single mother caught up in cheating the tax system, a mother to be with a less than savoury partner and a scholarship student attending a private school but drawn to a shady person in her path amongst others.

The writing is raw and real; I often complain about slang used in books but here it just about words. The language, I assume used in Washington helps to cement the stories to a certain place. Lines like ‘I check my watch. “We don’t want to be late.” “Girl, it don’t start till two. Stop bein’ pressed.” She grabs my arm and pulls me into the shop.’ There are a couple of glitches in the grammar and a number of spelling wobbles but it shows a writer with potential and promise. If she were to turn any of these stories into something longer, I would definitely grab a copy. My only real wobble is I would have liked a little more character development. Although the stories are short I think there was more time to really build the profiles and make the reader fall for the character.

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The stories are often raw and blunt offering a real and honest looking into the lives of those in the city. The writing is strong and steady and it has an evocative feel to it. If anyone has read NW by Zadie Smith it has the same feel although I think this writing could be strengthened with deeper and stronger descriptions. It gets about half there and then falters, I think overall more could be added. The speech is coarse and dotted with swear words which helps to make the text feel all the more real. It’s not added for the benefit of adding swear words but instead it adds to the text which I liked.

Overall this is a book with real merits; it tells a number of tales with determination and tenacity. It doesn’t hold back on the tales. My only critique would be a lacking in character profiling and more heady description but the writing style is solid. A quick read and an author I would really like to see more from.

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Exciting news here at mylittlebookblog

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Solstice Shorts hosted by Arachne Press

A celebration of National Short Story Day of the Winter Solstice and of the narrative power of folk music, bringing together story and song on the Greenwich Meridian- on the theme of time. The festival has grown in scope at it is now a marvellous mix of live short stories; chosen by our exquisite line up of judges and read by actors; and folk music from leading local professional and amateur musicians, backed up with writing and singing workshops, all of which will be BS: interpreted throughout, as we’d like to make the event as inclusive as possible. We also plan to live broadcast the performances, and podcasting them for future reference. We have  confirmed venues at the beautiful West Greenwich Library from sunrise (8.04) till 11.30 and at The Royal Observatory Greenwich in the Astronomy Centre from 11 till sunset (15.53) We have confirmed judges for the short story competition: Alison Moore (award-winning short story writer and novelist,) Imogen Robertson (writer of the acclaimed Crowther & Westerman historical crime series) Rob Shearman (Doctor Who and multiple short stories) and Anita Sethi (Journalist; reviewer and Broadcaster.) Each of the judges is contributing a story to the day and the book that will be published of the winning stories from the competition.

I, Lizzy Baldwin from mylittlebookblog will be shortlisting the stories for the short story competition with the lovely Cherry Potts. I could never have guessed that MLBB could have brought me so many incredible opportunities and I cannot wait to get stuck in reading and shortlisting. I am so incredibly excited to be part of this festival. If you are interested you can see more here! http://tinyurl.com/mxh849e. There is a little problem and that is that the festival is a little short on funding, I am currently adding some well deserved pennies and pounds but if you fancy donating anything to the cause of this lovely little festival then click here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/solstice-shorts-festival. I have never asked anything from my readers before and do not feel obliged or pressured to, I’m sure we will push this project through no matter what. If you are interested all the information is in the links above! 

The Train: A Short Story by Lizzy Baldwin

“Darn it” Angie swiped her hand through her dripping hair and cursed as she daubed the skin under her eyes. The thunderous storm that was brewing loudly outside had caused her expensive mascara to drip down her sullen face; One hundred percent waterproof my arse she cussed. As she pulled her suitcase off of the bus, thanking the bus driver, she looked up into the sky. The sky was a triumph of navy blue with a smattering of pinched white clouds. The rain was hurtling to the ground and splattering wildly on the pavement. Pulling the suitcase from its standstill she raced along the pavement until she reached the large red wooden door of the railway station. Pushing it forward it creaked loudly; when was the renovation due on this place? She sighed as she took in the beauty; the high ceilings with large beams where pigeons sat like kings watching the tired passengers drinking steaming cups of coffee and frantically checking their bags for their tickets. However no time for taking in the culture! Angie was late and there was no time for daydreaming. Quickly scanning the busy railway station she breathed deeply. As her eyes wavered over the blinking board of departures she realised she was on the wrong platform. Cursing once more she sprinted down the white and red tiled steps descending into the murky underground of the station. She barely caught a breath of air as she pushed and curved through the ambush of angry and disgruntled people all trying to gain access to the platform. As she went to push forward she realised a rather little elderly man had stumbled on the wheels of the suitcase of a brash and large breasted woman, who was shouting abuse loudly.

“Why didn’t you just watch yourself you imbecile keep your scrawny hands away from my luggage.” With a callous grunt she pulled the suitcase free almost uplifting the small man. Angie was about to shout abuse when she saw the man was chuckling loudly. She looked at him slowly, and as he caught her eye he smiled explaining,

“I have all the time in the world my dear, I’m an old man, way past my prime. However I have the manners of a charming Prince. Unlike that brute of a woman; she would definitely play the part of one of the ugly sisters.” He chuckled and smiled before pushing through the crowd. Angie followed him up to the platform and through the disgruntled passengers. She looked across the platform taking in the tired mothers rocking tiny cherubs back to sleep, and the cranky businessmen in straight cut suits staring at watches whilst supping espressos and texting a million characters a minute but the little old man had seemed to disappear. Pushing the thought to the back of her mind she fondled the bruise on the side of her neck. The train journey was supposed to be taking her far away from the life she had lived. Moving to the city had been a perfect decision. She was bright and youthful with her entire life ahead of her. Moving into the tiny apartment had supposed to be the best decision of her life. But then, it had happened. She sighed not wishing to re think the situation. Looking to her right she saw the huge engine hurtling towards the station. As she went to move closer to the platform the group of people behind her surged forward taking her out. Sprawled on the floor she felt the heat rising to her face. Pushing herself from the floor she rushed towards the closing doors, jamming her purse between them and pushing them apart. She walked solemnly down the aisle, until she reached the last carriage where the old man from earlier was sat quietly. He had laid his walking stick along the other set of chairs however once seeing her retracted it and offered her a cold but friendly hand. She took his hand and sat shaking his hand gently.

“The names Stanley, my dear. Named after the once famous diner in the United States. Apparently when my ma was pregnant she was obsessed with their baby-back ribs. Couldn’t get enough of them. So the name stuck.” He chuckled. His voice had an American twang that she couldn’t quite make out. He smiled at her confused face. “It’s a rather uncommon mix of Missouri and Texas. Some call it odd but I call it well travelled.” He smiled again until he saw that she was gently crying. “Hey hun, what’s up? Can’t be all that bad.” He looked imploringly at her and dug into his pocket for a handkerchief. It was covered in embroidered flowers that were delicately applied with tiny pink stitches. She smiled but shook her head,

“It’s too beautiful to wipe my tears on. It’s perfect.” He shook his head at her, and laughed out loud.

“My dear, it is a handkerchief. No matter how beautiful it is, it’s not perfect if it’s not being used for what it’s for.” He chuckled, “you kids are so sentimental about the smallest of things.”

She took it and held it gently. “Where is it from?”

He smiled warmly, “It was my wife’s, and I’m going to go to America to see her grave. See I moved here after she died. It was too much for me and I needed a new start.” He smiled gravely. “But you see when you get to my age, sentiment is all you have.”

Angie smiled and looked out the window. She thought of the sentiment she had felt when moving into the new flat. She had painted the rooms in a rainbow of colours to match the mood she had felt that she finally had her own place. She had furnished it with a mixture of old and new pieces to match her feelings. A new wall clock that stood proudly above a warn and tarnished leather armchair that she had found at the local tip. She had bargained with him for twenty minutes but she had wanted it so badly and he had eventually given into her pleading. She had wanted the flat to be warm and forgiving not like it’s outside. Living in the outskirts of Birmingham she had found the city cold and un-inviting with the streets littered with muck. However the job was perfect, marketing and advertising for a new funky fashion label. Warm and friendly people who had bounced ideas off each other had surrounded her; she was in her element. She had never felt so at home. However, three months in, she had been burgled. Angie was in the house and when the burglar had discovered her he had assaulted and attacked her. A tear dripped down her face as she touched the bruise on her neck. Stanley didn’t miss the action and quickly tried to comfort her.

In the tiny train carriage Angie spelt out her entire life story. Her difficult upbringing; a dad that had never been around, a sister who had become addicted to class A drugs, and who had died with Angie clinging to her, screaming like a caged animal. She had clung to her cold blue body and had screamed until her lungs had become clogged with tears and she could only whine miserably. The paramedics had pulled her from the cold and heavy body and taken her in their arms holding her close trying to constrain her like a wild beast. They had soothed her with corrugated cups of hot chocolate laced with whipped cream and marshmallows, but it had healed nothing. Nothing could warm the iced feeling in her stomach. Her heart had been split in two. Not down the middle but it had been ragged and coarse leaving Angie incomplete and broken. Two month later, her mother had passed suddenly; the paramedics said it was pneumonia, but Angie had known it was a broken heart. Throughout her story Stanley had encouraged and held her story with him, feeding her with confidence to spill the difficulties that she was holding within her. When it was all out in the open she had sat and cried and apologised profusely to the caring Stanley. He had reassured her, taking in all her emotion. She had felt her body tire and before she knew it she had fallen asleep. Her dreams comforted her and pulled her deeper into the dreamland. Stanley sighed deeply. He had lived a life of enthusiasm and excitement; he had seen the world twice over and he knew that the reason for travelling was for sentiment only. He smiled as he realised his earlier words

“You kids are so sentimental about the smallest of things” he spoke softly and smiled pleasingly. He pulled his coat from his shoulders and took the bag that he had been storing under the seat from its hiding place. He looked inside at the bundles of cash. Being a scared man he had stockpiled his cash, saving the money for his trip back to his homeland. But he smiled again,

“You kids are so sentimental about the smallest of things” He stood up suddenly and pulled the coat from his shoulder reaching inside the pocket for his notebook and pen.

Angie woke with a shock, she was covered in a coat and the old man had gone. She felt cold; had she scared him off with her sheer emotion. She felt tears creeping down her cheeks until she saw she had her arm slung over a large worn bad. A single sheet of paper was clinging to the inside of the bag. She opened it slowly and read the long slanted handwriting.

To my dear Angie.
Inside this bag is the money I had saved to visit my darling wife for the last time. I was a silly old sod and was always afraid of the banks. Yes, this money was held in my mattress for a number of years. However this money was meant to help not to dwell on the past. My darling Angie we may have only met for a mere while, but I know my beautiful wife would have called me a sentimental old sod and would have cursed at me.
You cannot run forever my dear, but I will take a bet, or a punt on you. You are an incredible young woman. Take this and make your dreams come true. Don’t let me down hun.
All my Love
Stanley.

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Thoughts please?

my first (very) short story

When I was younger I used to write a lot of short stories and read them to people that I knew. In recent years I haven’t had any time to allow myself to continue writing. I must admit I am a little rusty so here is my first attempt at a very short story that came to my mind yesterday. Feedback would be brilliant! 

“BANG”

Greg woke with a shock; Startled from his sleep, he regrettably left the warmth of his duvet and with his vision impaired he stumbled over to the bedside table and retrieved his glasses. Slipping them over his nose he lurched forward, falling over a wayside mug of cold coffee from the night before.

“Shit,” he growled, as he begrudgingly picked up the mug and the handle that had fallen from its side. He gingerly picked his way down the stairs, past the piles of books and swiped aside the bills stamped with the red letters WARNING!  As he swept down the stairs he touched his favourite photograph on the stairway. A photograph of his wedding day to his beautiful wife Alicia, with her blunt fringe, her large green eyes that she used to blink when she was nervous, and her dry, sarcastic sense of humour, she had become everything to him. But that was a long time ago, now were the arguments and yelling. The frustrated pacing and arguments about the house, the mess, and the bills was rising up and drowning their relationship, like a broken ship, without an anchor.

As he swung into the kitchen and placed the mug down on the sideboard, he looked up. The most peculiar vision met his eyes; a large pterodactyl was perched on the draining board, clawing at the silver, putting large marks into the tinged metal. Suddenly the monsters eyes flew to him and cocked her head the same way that Alicia always used to. Still in a moment of shock Greg wiped his glasses and pushed them back up his nose. The same view greeted his eyes. But now the beast was getting increasingly angrier, she beat her wings and swung at him, directing her large claws into the middle of his back. As he yelled out in pain the beast stopped for a second and blinked her huge eyes at him, and fidgeted nervously. The resemblance and movements were shockingly similar to Alicia’s. He slowly moved towards to beast and running his hand through his long fringe, offered a hand to the beast. The now silent creature bowed her head and turned to face the window outside. As he looked out to where the creature was staring he noticed that his glasses had been bent in the attack, changing his perspective of the world. He took them off slowly, not taking his eyes off the creature and slowly reshaped them. With his vision blurred he carefully placed them back on his nose. The beast had disappeared and his beautiful wife was sat, staring into the morning sun. She turned and cocked her head and giggled

Greg wiped his eyes, knowing that his sleepy stupor had finally worn off. ‘Right, lets get this sorted,’ he said with a hazy smile.