Book Reviews for “Charity Girl” by David Blixt, and “Another Time Another Place: An Anthology of Short Stories” from Writing Group, Writers@…
I seem to be getting a little bit behind in my reviewing, so because these two books are both short, I thought I’d combine the two into one post for #ShortStorySunday.
“Charity Girl” by David Blixt
My regular readers know that I very much enjoyed reading David Blixt’s novel “What Girls Are Good For” about Nellie Bly. That novel focused on the early part of her life, and how she first became a journalist, and what led her to write the story that brought her into the public eye – her undercover expose of the treatment of people in insane asylums (I won’t call them mental health facilities).
This little book, which Blixt calls a novelette, is a sequel to that novel. In it he concentrates on Bly’s next big story, which was about the practice of selling babies! This story was an eye-opener for me, even although I knew that these types of things happened back when abortion was illegal. What I didn’t know was that Bly unearthed such a slew of scam artists. At the same time, Bly also discovered that there was an orphanage that actually took good care of unwanted babies, but its reputation was sullied solely by the fact that it was run by Catholics.
Once again, I was impressed at how easily Blixt got into the mind of this spunky young woman, and produced a very believable first-person narrative, which also credibly investigates the emotional roller-coaster that Bly must have been going through while researching this article. This novelette is therefore a really lovely companion to Blixt’s novel, and I would suggest you read that first. Mind you, he does some compensation for those not in the know, so it can be read as a stand-alone, but I think you’ll appreciate it more if you have all the background.
Overall, I did enjoy this little book, but I do have to say that I think Blixt is better with the longer formats of a novel. I say this because there were times while reading this that I felt the information garnered by the research Bly did, slightly overtook the story as a whole. I also felt that the ending felt a touch rushed, but I know that part of this was because Blixt didn’t want to change history. Despite these niggles, I will still recommend this with a healthy four out of five stars.
You can download a free copy of this eBook via Amazon, or you can find it on David’s website where you can sign up to get the file. You’ll also find other free stuff there, and if you sign up for his newsletter, you can get notification of when the next installment in the Nellie Bly stories comes out (which he’s also giving away for free). David also has a very nice blog with more information about Nellie Bly!
“Another Time Another Place: An Anthology of Short Stories” from Writing Group, Writers@…
I’m not sure how heard about this book (maybe via Shelly Wilson’s blog), but I am sure that the reason I bought it was to support this non-profit group of aspiring writers. Since I too will someday hope to publish my work in progress, I thought I should help others along the way (and hey, my day job is grant writing so I get non-profits). This collection has the following stories:
- “Truck Stop” by Judy Westoby
- “Knowing” by Emily Jenkins
- “Last Contact” by Julie Venner
- “Aphrodite’s Cottage” by Judy Westoby
- “Martha’s Malice” by Claire Jennison
- “Ye Olde Worlde School House” by Stewart Baskerville
- “Like Air…” by L. Taylor-Bayes
- “Not So Swinging Sixties” by Louie Elizabeth Parker
- “Taking Notice” by Jo Watson Davies
- “Yellow Roses” by L. Taylor-Bayes
- “Planet Bakewell” by Jo Watson Davies
- “Ye Olde Tea Shoppe” by Carol Ann Kerry-Green
Yes, that’s right – 12 stories in a book that is less than 70 pages long! That’s an average of less than six pages per story! However, we must remember that we should always be looking at quality, not quantity, and I’ve always said that a well-crafted short story is a joy to behold – as well as that I believe they’re harder to write than full-length novels.
Of course, any anthology including numerous authors is always going to be inconsistent. Furthermore, when the topic that connects them all is as ambiguous as this one, you never know what genres the writers will use. For example, I found stories here that qualified as mystery, fantasy, science-fiction, speculative, historical, futuristic, and contemporary pieces all mixed together – where some stories even combined a few of these genres together.
Unfortunately for me, there were quite a few stories in genres that I almost never read (and actually avoid, most of the time), and while that shouldn’t be all that off-putting, I’m afraid I don’t think any of those stories changed my mind about these genres. This also made me think that the length of these stories might have contributed to this problem. I’ve been known to read many books outside of my comfort zone and enjoy them, but the writing has to be really good to keep me reading. While I was generally impressed with most of the writing here, using such an abbreviated format doesn’t always allow that to come through, and thereby overshadow the genre.
Case in point – one of the longer pieces, Martha’s Malice, ended up being my favorite of the collection. Now, I’m unsure if that’s because Jennison had a little bit more space and time to develop the characters, or if the genre was more my taste, or if Jennison is just more talented than the rest of the writers here. I should add that the other stories that impressed me, both of which aren’t in any of my genres, were “Like Air…” in which the narrator is fate, and “Yellow Roses” which uses this same theme! Well, those are speculative fiction, and aside from Atwood, I don’t go out of my way to read that genre, but both of Taylor-Bayes’ stories were exceptional.
Overall, I think this was a bit of a hit-or-miss for me; some of the stories were really good, others just didn’t turn me on. For this I think I’ll give it three and a half stars out of five, and recommend it mostly to people who like to read a larger range of genres than I normally do.