Category Archives: book review

‘TWELVE STORIES OF RUSSIA’ by A. J. Perry: A Review, I Guess

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By STACEY MAZUR

A. J. Perry’s twelve stories are ‘told’ on paper in a diary-confession fashion, saturated with those witty and hilarious, comical observations of his, along with the broad cultural views of the author, too steeped in humor— and his many philosophical perspectives on life.

SUMMARY

The book gives an insight into the life in Russia of the beginning of the 1990s, as it can be quite fairly regarded and truly considered a different country from the one it has now become.

THE THEME

Through the eyes of a foreigner, a dialogue between cultures is provided, illustrating the manifold stereotypes about the American and Russian cultures alike—in a manner so humorous—that makes the reader (no matter how serious) smile involuntarily.

Following a man from ‘there’ in search for change ‘here’, a modern (Russian) reader will re-discover the harsh life of the 1990s for him/herself, presented in a somewhat comical yet deeply-observational way.

THE CHARACTERS

The characters are typically Russian and naive, with stereotypical Russian names: several Olgas, Tanyas, Vadim and Boris — James’ best friends.

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THE STORYLINE

The journey begins when an American man (James a.k.a. A.J. Perry) with a stable (yet somewhat boring) American life (boring enough, that is, to flee a safe country to the perestroika-aftershock-experiencing nation) makes a decision to escape its safety and comfort by flying… to Russia.

From his life-altering meeting with a German man on the board of the plane, the seemingly unremarkable finding of the muddied two-kopeck coin — the presence/absence of which in his wallet will quite symbolically mark his fateful decision to finally leave Russia (the point of exhaustion of his mission) — and the 11 encrypted yellow words he is yet to uncover, the reader will follow his each and every step in and outside of Russia, his every linehooked to read on.

Yet, by the end of the book, the mystery of the eleventh word remains unsolved, to be uncovered; indeed, it stays beyond the author’s grasp, unreachable, elusive, left for the reader to find out.

OVERVIEW

All in all, the reader will most likely find the book most enriching, light and entertaining yet captivating from the very first lines.

As for me, I’ve enjoyed the intercultural journey of the main character to the fullest, diving into his inner world—in the meantime rediscovering Russia ‘which is yet to become Russia’ from a totally different perspective—gaining a bicultural standpoint—seeing it in an ultimately new light.

Needless to say, this highely unlikely intercontinental journey-through-time, it has tought me a lot.

So it could teach you. If you only decided to open up your mind to it, setting out on a trip back to… (no, not the USSR, rather) the RSFSR, discovering the era of the post-Soviet 1990s through the lens of a New Worlder.

Take this chance, for this might truly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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August 24, 2010 · 10:29 pm

Harlequin’s Her Sister’s Keeper Super Romance by Julia Penney

Harlequin’s Her Sister’s Keeper ‘Super Romance’ by Julia Penney: A Review

by Stacey Mazur

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            Harlequin’s Her Sister’s Keeper “Super Romance” story by Julia Penney is more than a simple romance; it is a riveting detective story spiced up with an enormously compelling love line. It keeps you guessing till the very end.

            After the first few pages, you feel absolutely captivated by the author’s compelling writing and the eloquence of her style; you are completely absorbed by it: You simply cannot put the book down. It is a breathtaking read.

            The plot is completely unpredictable, always twisting; totally captivating, it holds the reader’s attention to the last.

            The first twist strikes when a dead body is discovered in one of LA’s hotel suites registered under the name of Ariel Harris, Melanie’s sister and the rising star in town, who is missing along with her new-born baby. But, it turns out, the dead body actually belongs to another woman…

            From that moment on the narrative is full of breathtaking turns, twisting all the way through the story.

            Truly, the book leaves you (feeling) overwhelmed; the twists of the plot  breathless… It manages to successfully combine love drama and detective story.

            Surely, after reading this, you will be longing for more of Julia Penney.

 

It keeps you guessing till the very end.

A mind-blowing read, a compelling story.  This book really absorbs one… 

The book is written so eloquently… Totally moving… truly absorbing…

Reading this book, you cannot fail to be totally absorbed by its compelling writing and the awe-inspiring twists of the plot that leave you gasping… for more.

It is a one-sitting read.

 

SYNOPSIS:

THE STORYLINE

            The main theme of this book is the kidnapping of the main character’s sister, Ariel, along with her newborn baby, by the old, childless and emotionally unstable Russian immigrant.

            The first two chapters describe the acquaintance of the two main characters, Melanie Harris and Dr. Mattson (or simply Kent).

THE SETTING:

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

            The story is set in the Los Angeles district.

            Dr. Kent Mattson is juggling two jobs, one in LAPD as a police officer and a forensic psychologist, another in therapy as a private practitioner, so he would have a ‘healthy bank account’ to support his family estate in Chimeya; he had lost his wife Susan seven years ago in an accident and still hasn’t moved on with his life.

            Melanie Harris is a Hollywood actress attending Dr. Mattson to keep a promise to her best friend, Stephanie Hawke, who she promised she would get help from a professional. This should help Melanie forgive her sister for what she had done to her in the past, thus helping release her demons. She won’t forgive her sister Ariel for hiding her past-affair with Melanie’s fiancé until the last point.

COMPLICATION

            The events of the past linger in M-264765977elanie’s’ mind as she seats herself comfortably in Kent’s office. The session’s drawing to an end, and she still hadn’t uttered a single word. However what lingers on Doctor’s mind isn’t a way to help her either: his mind keeps returning to the crime scene he had witnessed that morning. As Melanie continues to insist on paying for the session in full, Kent receives a phone call from his LAPD boss, Carolyn Murphy, — there is yet another crime scene to observe.

            He rushes to the spot, but it turns out that his car had been stolen; luckily, there’s Melanie to give him a ride. With her car stuck in the parking lot, she follows Kent to the hotel, and there, in a two-bedroom suite, she discovers a dead body… of her friend Stephanie… 

Her sister Ariel, who checked in last night under the surname Harris, was with an infant, and they are both missing…  and this is just the beginning… of this truly captivating story. — That will take your breath away, leaving you literally… gasping… for air.

RELATIONSHIPS

            There are two main lines of relationships in the book: the first is the developing relationship between the main characters  Melanie and Kent — themselves; the second  Melanie’s relationship with her family  the one that is present and missing, and that which has passed and is now in her past. Confronting the demons of her past does, indeed, mean saving her sister.

            As they’re struggling to unpuzzle the mystery of Ariel’s disappearing, the relationship between the two main characters is constantly developing and transforming. As they go exploring each other throughout the whole story  during and after the investigation of the case.

            What is more, the story gives an exclusive insight into the adrenaline-filled lifestyle of an LAPD officer and the whole department he is working for, on a daily basis, which alonebeing the proverbial-and-everyday antonym of boring—is beyond the ordinary.

                           THE CHARACTERS

           The main characters are most likeable, convincing and believable…

            But what makes them so?..

            Apparently, the literary talent of the author: the narration constantly shifts from one character’s point of view to that of another  providing insight into their inner life. You simply dive into their diverse, controversial worlds, thus exploring them from the inside.

            The description of the events taking place in the story is woven eloquently into the narrative. Such an exquisite, involving literary technique adds a certain flair to the flow of writing.

            Plus, it’s an exceptionally emotional read, appealing to a wide range of human emotions. Exploring the intricate relationships between the characters, complex in themselves, in-depth,  with one another as well as with their own selves the reader (no matter how wordly) can always find something to relate to.

OVERVIEW

            One of the best things about this book yet is (undoubtedly) the way the author unfolds the story, unveiling the characters before us, bringing in more and more details on their lives and the case as they are being uncovered by the main characters themselves,  holding the intrigue of ‘her sister’s keeper’ up to the last page, up to the very last minute, up to the last awe-striking moment, up to the final breathtaken sigh…

            Truly, the book leaves you (feeling) overwhelmed; the twists of the plot  breathless. It manages to successfully combine love drama and detective story.

           Surely, after reading this, you will be longing for more of Julia Penney.

          As for this novel, I would say I enjoyed it to the fullest and would highly recommend it to all those with a love for exploring a detective story and a novel with an enormously compelling love line, all melted into one great literary piece of art…..

Now, sit back and relax.. Let the whirlwinding world unfold before you, swallow and enthrall you, inviting you for an exhilarating read of a lifetime.

Fasten your seatbelts.

— And finally 

Prepare to be blown away by Julia Penney’s compelling novel…

For it will

— Completely

 blow your mind

Away.

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‘THE DEADLY SPACE BETWEEN’ by Patricia Duncker

P A T R I C I A  D U N C K E R

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  Patricia Duncker is the author of three novels, Hallucinating Foucalt (1996), James Miranda Barry (1999), and The Deadly Space Between (2002), and a collection of short fiction, Monsieur Shoushana’s Lemon Trees (1997). She has also published a collection of essays on writing and contemporary literature, Writing on the Wall (2002). She is a professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

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512STFGQX0L‘THE DEADLY SPACE BETWEEN’

by P a t r i c i a D u n c k e r

‘Combines intellectual playfulness with the deadly suspense of a thriller’

Literary Review 

reviewed by expiring_touch

             

               I laid my hands on this book by Patricia Duncker by sheer accident — mainly because of Stacey who praised it such a lot. So I waited for something spectacular, extravagant, something, which would blow me off my bed (where I usually read my books). Yet the beginning was rather unpromising. Short, sharply cut sentences, despite their unquestionable potency, didn’t grasp me as much as I hoped they would.

She came home smelling of cigarettes. She didn’t smoke… She must be going out with someone who smokes

— this isn’t really my kind of favorite prose. But I gave the book a chance, I let it unfold before me, capture me, bewitch me. I submitted to Duncker’s writing powers, which held me mesmerized for hours on end while I was reading the book and still long after I’d turned the last page.

ROEHM THE ROAMING

I only hope that Roehm doesn’t come back to haunt me in my nightmares’

Scotland on Sunday

           

               ‘The deadly space between’ tells the disturbing tale of an 18 year-old boy, Toby Hawk, whose life changes radically after the appearance of his mother’s lover, Roehm.

            This book in many ways is a coming of age story: the reader becomes the silent witness of the transformations that occur to the main character, Toby, — the striking boost of his intellectual and creative powers, the dramatic shift in his perception of himself and the world around him.

Sex, especially, plays a crucial role in this — it is woven into the narrative, easily and eloquently, without the unhealthy flush of chastity or the perverse grin of exhibitionism.

Even though, the issues tackled in The deadly space between can be found extremely disturbing and even repulsive.

‘Duncker is a mesmerizing stylist’

‘Disturbingly haunting. . . the descriptions linger in the mind’

Times Literary Supplement

              

              Imagery is stunning. Throughout the book, the reader is haunted by the ever-present images of ice and cold. Duncker’s Alps are as breathtaking as they could have been had I stood on the edge of the precipice myself and seen everything with my own eyes.

‘With sparkling locations and Duncker’s seamless, almost hypnotic prose. . . The Deadly Space Between is proof that the ghost story is back, and with a shocking twist

Mirror

              It should also be said that towards the end I couldn’t find even a trace of those crudely crafted sentences of the beginning.

              The language develops along with the main character; and finally Duncker lets herself go — she no longer restrains herself but uses every tool in her vast language inventory to the full. The result is amazing; no doubt, it brings the author of The deadly space between to the fore of today’s literary world.

              All in all, I can confess that I enjoyed this book immensely; I was absolutely taken in by the decadent, slightly disconcerting and highly seductive feel of The deadly space between.

              I recommend it highly.  

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‘Freud would have loved to have placed these characters on his couch; the general reader should rush to add them to his bookshelf’

                                               Daily Mail

 ‘A psychological thriller-cum-ghost story in the great neogothic European tradition, steeped with references to Frankenstein, Faust and Freud. With sparkling locations and Duncker’s seamless, almost hypnotic prose… The Deadly Space Between is proof that the ghost story is back, and with a shocking twist’ 

                                                                             Mirror

Patricia Duncker writes beatifully with a flamboyant immediacy… Her plot is complex, her characters’ motives persuasively ambigiuous and the encounters between Toby and the inexplicable Roehm have the requisite  purtenances of a creepy horror story’

Sunday Telegraph

 ‘The Deadly Space Between confirms Patricia Duncker’s reputation as a writer who brilliantly realises ambitious themes… [her] ability to combine intellectual rigour with flamboyant storytelling is perfectly showcased in this powerfully imagined and most impressive novel’

Big Issue

 ‘Such a compelling read that your really don’t want to put it down. I only hope that Roehm doesn’t come back to haunt me in my nightmares’

Scotland on Sunday

‘Disturbingly haunting. . . the descriptions linger in the mind’

Times Literary Supplement

‘An elegant, psychologically astute exploration of the way in which jealousy, love and fear combine to shape identity’

New Statesman

‘The tale wins you over through its sheer eloquence and nerve. . . Holds the reader’s attention to the last’

The Times

‘Duncker is a mesmerizing stylist’

Times Literary Supplement

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