Review: Hellgoing: Stories by Lynn Coady

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hellgoingTitle: Hellgoing: Stories
Author:
Lynn Coady
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Purchased (eBook)

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With astonishing range and depth, Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Lynn Coady gives us eight unforgettable new stories, each one of them grabbing our attention from the first line and resonating long after the last.

A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day.

Equally adept at capturing the foibles and obsessions of men and of women, compassionate in her humour yet never missing an opportunity to make her characters squirm, fascinated as much by faithlessness as by faith, Lynn Coady is quite possibly the writer who best captures what it is to be human at this particular moment in our history.

my thoughts-01

Short stories have always been something that alludes me. I mean, I understand the novel and I kind of get poetry (something I never really studied in university. Give me books!), but when it comes to short stories, I felt like it took a lot of work to really extrapolate the TRUE meaning of the story. If there was a meaning. Which, in university, there’s ALWAYS a meaning.

I’m not sure if I would have picked up Hellgoing on my own, but when I saw that local author Lynn Coady was up for a Giller Prize with her collection of stories, I decided to give it a whirl. Not only do I love trying out prize-worthy books, but I also have been on a mission to really explore the depths of local talent we have here in the capital city.

Without a doubt, it’s easy to see that Lynn Coady has talent. Right off the bat, I was in love with her writing style. It’s more mature than what I was used to, but it was also very accessible. I didn’t find myself fumbling through the text and actually found myself absorbed in the stories. Shocking, right?

I think my favourite stories in the collection have to be The Natural Elements, Wireless, and Body Condom. All had very real characters and interesting studies in our actions as humans. The stories aren’t light, they’re hard and sometimes a bit crude. It can be hard to really get to know a character through a short story, but I think there are certain characters (as in my favourites listed previously) who stand out. We don’t get a lot of filler with a short story, nor do we really get a lot of backstory. Instead, we get the here and now and the story that’s happening in this moment. It’s like we’ve suddenly attached ourselves as flies on the wall of someone else’s life, if only for a brief instant.

I’m definitely interested to try out some of Lynn’s full-length works. I think she is a true local talent and definitely worthy of acknowledgement. I’d be interested to see her writing a little serious of a story — maybe something with a mix of seriousness and a bit of humour, but I’d still say that this is a good introduction to her work.

rating-4-01

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Review: 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology (Various Authors)

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40 belowTitle: 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology
Author:
Various Authors (Edited by Jason Lee Norman)
Date(s) read
: October 10 – 12, 2013
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Publisher (Paperback)

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40 Below is Edmonton’s Winter Antholgy. Stories, poems, and essays about or inspired by winter in Edmonton.

Featuring: Jason Lee Norman, Diana Davidson, Jessica Kluthe, Michael Hingston, Jennifer Quist, and much more. 

my thoughts-01

Thank you to Wufniks Press for the copy of this book for review!

Winter in Edmonton is a strange beast. We all know that it’s going to come in at some point and yet some of us are NEVER prepared. For me, I look forward to winter every single year. I’m not sure what it is, but when winter comes, the world slows down and gets a little quieter. We all retreat inside of our homes with our fireplaces and blankets, our coffee or tea, and hold our loved ones close in an attempt to warm up just a bit more.

“Despite living for several years in Canada, I always feel depressed and tired during the winter season. As you gradually accustom yourself to the Canadian weather, you’ll stop getting excited for the snow and winter.”
- from My First Wild Winter by Amir Baharun

(I feel like I also have to promote one of the songs I’VE written about winter. After reading so many beautiful stories in this collection, I think I can make at least one contribution. I wrote Wild Birds in 2008 and it still remains to be one of my favourite songs.)

“Of course, I know that I romanticize Edmonton winters. It is lovely and wonderful and magical when one doesn’t have to experience it directly.”
- from Southern Lament by Gregory Ramshaw

Anyway, when I started this anthology, written entirely by Edmonton authors, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be full of fictional tales? True accounts? Abstract things written about the strange Edmonton climate? What I got was all of the above. The anthology is a beautiful mix of short stories and poems — all of various lengths. My personal favourites remain to be the true accounts of winter in the city, usually told by people who haven’t lived here all their life. Being someone who loves the snow, I know that feeling of the first snowfall and wanting to walk down the crunching streets feeling that winter chill on your cheeks. (In fact, I’ll let you in on one of my favourite things to do in the winter — when the snow is falling and night has draped our city with her blackness, I like to bundle up and go for a walk with Radiohead’s OK Computer playing in my ears. It’s perfect.)

“and for you
winter in Edmonton leave nothing
nothing at all to complain about”
- from O Jackie by B. Joanne Underwood

By the end of the book, I felt completley prepared for this upcoming winter — in fact, I was looking forward to it. There was something about these stories that not only brought out the terrifying moments of winter, but also the beauty of winter. I hope that the stories will make people long for the days of winter rather than run in fear. Winter — and really, the seasons — is one of the best parts of living here. I definitely plan to revisit some of these stories in winters to come.

rating-5-01

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[ARC] Review: Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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let the old dreams dieTitle: Let the Old Dreams Die
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Date(s) read: September 16 – , 2013
Genre: Short Stories, Horror
Source: Publisher (ARC)

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A classic short story collection from the writer called Sweden’s Stephen King that continues the breathtaking story begun in the internationally acclaimed classic Let the Right One In.

Because of the two superb films made of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In, millions of people around the world know the story of Oskar and Eli and of their final escape from Blackeberg at the end of the novel. Now at last, in “Let the Old Dreams Die,” the title story in this absolutely stunning collection, we get a glimpse of what happened next to the pair. Fans of Let the Right One In will have to read the story, which is destined to generate much word of mouth both among fans and online.

“Let the Old Dreams Die” is not the only stunner in this collection. In “Final Processing,” Lindqvist also reveals the next chapter in the lives of the characters he created in Handling the Undead. “Equinox” is a story of a woman who takes care of her neighbor’s house while they are away and readers will never forget what she finds in the house. Every story meets the very high standard of excellence and fright factor that Lindqvist fans have come to expect. Totally transcending genre writing, these are world class stories from possibly the most impressive horror writer writing today.

my thoughts-01

Thank you to Raincoast Books for an ARC of this book for review!

I don’t know what it is, but I LOVE horror novels. I love the feeling of being creeped out or scared just by reading words. I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the masters of horror are the foreign writers. I’ve read a handful of John Lindqvist’s books and think they’re all perfectly creepy. This one was great because it was short stories — horror in small doses? Yes please.

The funny thing about this book is how weird it is. I mean, I’d be reading a story thinking it was totally normal and then it would get stranger and stranger — some of the strangeness made my skin crawl, other strangeness had me furrowing my brow as I read, and there was the odd strangeness that I just didn’t understand.

One thing I liked was how there was the odd character used, or referred to, in multiple stories — even characters that appeared in Lindqvist’s full-length books. It’s a little hard to get into the character’s names at time since they have Swedish names, not normal North American names, but that only happened here and there. We even get to visit OLD characters, like the main character in Let the Right One In, something that really excited me about reading this book.

I do have to mention that I skipped one of the stories, but only because it was the sequel to Handling the Undead — the only Lindqvist novel I haven’t read. I didn’t want to spoil it for myself, since I do plan to read that story! I did read the sequel to Let the Right One In and was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t how I thought it would be. We get glimpses of the main characters from the story but I thought it would be more of a first-hand account.

There was also one story I didn’t really like … though, maybe I didn’t totally get it. I’d mention the name, but I would rather readers make up their own minds about it without my assistance. The funny thing was that when I was reading the afterward at the end of the book, Lindqvist mentions that this particular story is probably only liked by him and readers tend to not like it. I had to laugh at that.

These stories are quirky, spooky, and will make your skin crawl. My favourite stories in the collection include The Border and Equinox. My only word of advice? Go in with an open mind. Lindqvist knows how to dole out the creepy, but he definitely works in plenty of quirkiness alongside of it.

rating-4-01

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