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Alma Katsu’s Short Story Free on Kindle…

Alma Katsu is at it again with more of her Taker series to tide us over until the final book in the trilogy hits stores next year.  She’s released another short story, The Marriage Price, for Kindle, and it is being offered free on Aug. 7-8.

Previously, she’s released The Devil’s Scribe in which Edgar Allan Poe meets Lanore McIlvrae.  If you’ve missed my reviews of this series, you can start with The Taker, and then move onto my review of The Reckoning and The Devil’s Scribe.

Today is the last day that you can download The Marriage Price by Alma Katsu for free.  If you’re interested in my thoughts on the short story, check out my mini review at D.C. Literature Examiner.

The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind, is like many other authors these days in that he is pumping out short stories for digital devices.  The Rose of Fire is one such story, but this story tells the tale of how the Cemetery of Forgotten Books was born at the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century.  The labyrinth of books is an intriguing idea, and Zafón’s prose is at once lyrical and absorbing, transporting readers into another time and place.

As fear and suspicion are around every corner, many Spaniards keep to themselves in the hope that they will be spared the wrath of the church.  Raimundo de Sempere, who knows too many languages to stay outside the church’s suspicion, is a printer who is asked to translate a mysterious notebook found on Edmond de Luna, the only surviving man of a ship left battered and adrift near Barcelona just after a plague has ravaged the city.

“Edmond de Luna could see himself reflected in those eyes that resembled huge pools of blood. Flying like a cannonball over the city, tearing off terrace roofs and towers, the beast opened its jaws to snap him up.”  (ebook)

Zafón has created a tantalizing back story for his series of books about the library, and for those who have not read his previous books in the series, The Rose of Fire serves as an introduction to that fantasy world he’s created in which magic and nightmares come alive.  While the story is enchanting and absorbing, it is likely to leave readers wanting more in the way of character development that would likely come with a longer piece of work.  In many ways, this ebook release achieves its goal of ensuring the reader will look for more of the author’s work, but it seems to be a means to an end only, rather than a well developed short story.  With that said, Zafón is a talented author who creates believable worlds full of adventure and conflict.

About the Author:

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish novelist. Born in Barcelona in 1964, he has lived in Los Angeles, United States, since 1994, and works as a scriptwriter aside from writing novels.

This is my 53rd book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.

Revenge (6:1 Series, Volume 2) by Janel Gradowski

Revenge (6:1 Series, Volume 2) by Janel Gradowski is even more well crafted than the first volume of short stories and flash fiction, beginning and ending with a wallop.  Once again there are six stories in this collection: “Persistent Foe,” “Kaboom,” “Check Out,” “Inconvenience,” “Anniversary,” and “Addendum.”  Some are longer than others, but each is well paced, with only one typical revenge story — “Kaboom.”

Agnes from “Persistent Foe” is the neighbor you wish you could be when you have loud, inconsiderate neighbors of your own.  While she does not complain too much outright and doesn’t call the cops, she exacts her revenge little by little each day envisioning a big payoff in the end.  And the ending of this one is inspired and unique. Gradowski does a great job of foreshadowing in this short story as well: “She plucked the invasive vine out the basket and dropped it into the tangle of weeds flourishing on the other side.  ‘Time to join your ancestors.'”  Readers will be sitting alongside Agnes as she watches the show unfold in her neighbors backyard one late evening.

“Kaboom” was the most predictable of the stories, but what made this one heart-pumping was the descriptions Gradowski uses as she tells the revenge yarn from the point of view of the perpetrator as she’s performing the act of revenge on her ex.  Meanwhile, Josie’s revenge is only possible because of Erik’s pride in “Check Out.”  Working as a grocery store check out clerk can be incredibly mundane and tiring, but there are moments in life when even that kind of job can be satisfying, especially when you exact revenge on a boy who ditches you across town.  “Inconvenience” brings to the surface many of the emotions that swirled about following the financial crisis and the persistent unemployment born by much of the U.S. population in recent years.  With bills to pay, should the “breadwinner” in the family swallow his pride and take any paying job to support the family, or should he hold out for a better position?  The short story tackles this question and more, but the revenge exacted in this story will leave readers agape.

“Anniversary” is not the happy occasion you expect, but it twists the idea of a celebration into a revenge scenario that celebrates the ability to break free.  Gary has some serious concerns about his wife and his boss, but being an accountant, he takes stock of the situation — its pros and cons — and comes up with the best solution for everyone.  Bartender Amelia doesn’t have a clue how her luck is about to change when Gary walks into her bar.  “Addendum” is one of the longer short stories in the collection, and Karen is a bit of an enigma given her risk averse mentality when it comes to guys and her reaction to her boyfriend Don’s cheating ways.  In an apartment that has eyes and ears in the form of Mrs. Conway, its hard to keep secrets.  “She was either a gossip super hero or had bugged everybody’s apartments with microphones and hidden cameras.”  Living under a microscope must have added undue pressure on Karen.  There is a great deal at work in this short story, and could be a precursor to something longer from Gradowski.

Revenge (6:1 Series, Volume 2) by Janel Gradowski is an even more well rounded collection of short stories and flash fiction pieces with characters that are dynamic and crafty.  The characters she creates in this collection will have readers snickering and smirking as they are reminded of the revenge plots they’ve created when wronged by lovers, neighbors, and friends.  Deliciously devilish, a joy to read.

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski grew up, and still lives, in the mitten of Michigan. She is a wife and mother whose writing companion is a crazy Golden Retriever named Cooper. In the past she has worked many jobs. Renting apartments, scorekeeping for a stock car racetrack and selling newspaper classified advertisements are some of the experiences that continue to provide inspiration for her stories. Now she writes short fiction and is also a beadwork designer and teacher.

Her work has appeared in many publications, both online and in print. The 6:1 Series features themed collections of her stories. Each volume will have six stories, a mix of flash and short fiction, that are based on the title’s theme.  Visit her blog, Janel’s Jumble.

***And yes, for those keeping track, this is the third item I’ve read on my Kindle.

Haunted (6:1 Series, Volume 1) by Janel Gradowski

Haunted (6:1 Series, Volume 1) by Janel Gradowski is part of her six stories with one theme series and was the first she published as an ebook after much success in publishing her flash fiction in literary journals.  This collection is a quick read and can be read in about a day.  There is a surprising breadth of characters and situations representing the theme from a woman haunted by her jilted lover to a ghost unaware of his present state.

There are six stories in the collection: “Sequestered,” “New Friends,” “Retirement,” “Grandma’s Treasures,” “Uncleansed,” and “Strangers.”  Each cast of characters is haunted in one way or another whether by the past, the supernatural, or their deeds.  Among some favorites in the collection are “Sequestered,” “Strangers,” “Grandma’s Treasures,” and “Uncleansed” that have very dynamic characters in normal situations that turn a bit abnormal.  However, “New Friends” reminded me of other stories involving ghost children causing mischief in houses and mothers who don’t believe their children at first and think that their kids are exhibiting signs of trauma.  Readers may want a new twist in this kind of story, but the characters of Wendy and her daughter Mia are playful and have a charming relationship that makes them endearing.

In “Sequestered,” Stacie is jilted by her fiance and escapes to the woods to forget.  Haunted by a unrequited love and a future that can never be, she gets more than she bargains for.  The ending will knock the socks off readers, and there are some great descriptions in this short story.

“Naked trees contorted like tortured skeletons in the frigid, autumn wind.”

“Wisps of fog rose from the lake’s glassy water, materializing like an army of ghosts.”

Even in “Retirement,” Gradowski has a way of painting the scene so that readers are captured by the moment and emotionally charged.  “Autumn thunderstorms are always more vicious than their summer counterparts, like they are enraged by the cold air.”  She generates the heartache of Cecily as a palpable being that reaches beyond the page, haunting not only the character created, but also the reader.

Readers can identify with the oddities of family members from the crazy grandmother to the strange behavior of parents after a tragic event and the rituals they rely upon to keep their sanity.  “Grandma’s Treasures” and “Uncleansed” explore these relationships and their odd rituals in a unique way and each story uncovers family secrets that the protagonists Lindsey and Eva, respectively, never expected.

Haunted (6:1 Series, Volume 1) by Janel Gradowski is an excellent debut from a talented flash fiction and short story writer.  Short story is a difficult form to generate connections between readers and characters, but Gradowski achieves this easily through her word choices and narrative flow.  Haunting prose, unique characters, and surprising twists will keep readers coming back for more.

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski grew up, and still lives, in the mitten of Michigan. She is a wife and mother whose writing companion is a crazy Golden Retriever named Cooper. In the past she has worked many jobs. Renting apartments, scorekeeping for a stock car racetrack and selling newspaper classified advertisements are some of the experiences that continue to provide inspiration for her stories. Now she writes short fiction and is also a beadwork designer and teacher.

Her work has appeared in many publications, both online and in print. The 6:1 Series features themed collections of her stories. Each volume will have six stories, a mix of flash and short fiction, that are based on the title’s theme.  Visit her blog, Janel’s Jumble.

***And yes, for those keeping track, this is the second item I’ve read on my Kindle.

This is my 44th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

The Devil’s Scribe by Alma Katsu

The Devil’s Scribe by Alma Katsu is an e-short story released by Simon & Schuster this month, and it’s the first thing I’ve read on my Kindle!  Can you believe it?!  What prompted me to finally read on the Kindle?!  You’ll never guess, well maybe you will by the end of this unconventional review.

“He fell on the bottle before he took a seat, pouring two fingers of whiskey into his wineglass, streaked with the last of a red he’d consumed.  Now that he’d gotten his invitation, his tentative edge fell away, replaced by relief.”  (from the e-story)

Lanore McIlvrae from The Taker (my review) meets with the one and only Edgar Allan Poe by chance in an expensive Baltimore hotel in 1846 after having been gone from America for the last 20 years.  Poe describes himself as an orphan and a widower able to support himself as the “devil’s scribe,” but Lanny seems passingly interested in his life story and the fact that he’s a writer.  However, in spite of her preoccupation with why she came back to America, she walks with this stranger through the streets of Baltimore, careful not to reveal too much of herself to him.

The story raises the idea of telling strangers secrets as a way to unburden the soul without having to deal with the same consequences one would have to deal with should they tell someone they know intimately or should they tell a family member.  It is reminiscent of the relationship between dying soldiers and/or patients and the priest that comes to hear their sins, though in this situation, Poe cannot offer Lanny absolution.

Even in this short story, Katsu is adept at creating tension and suspense as Lanny and her new companion make their way to Boston.  The story is predictable — though because I’ve already read The Taker — but well written.  Readers who know anything about Edgar Allan Poe should realize where the story is headed, but I’ll not give it away.  I really enjoyed learning more about Lanny and her fears, and it will likely play into Katsu’s next book, The Reckoning.

***Reading on the Kindle***

It wasn’t too bad with a short story.  I actually was surprised how I remained focused, but I’m not sure that I can remain focused for a full length novel.  I may try doing that soon, but for now, I’m still a fan of “real” books.

Mailbox Monday #135

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is A Sea of Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  The Taker by Alma Katsu a win from TheBookTrib

2.  One Day by David Nicholls for review in Sept., but stay tuned for a giveaway in August.

3.  Kindle by Amazon, which I won from the Summer of Gomez event from Graham Parke

What did you receive this week?