Book review: Human Terrain by Emily Bullock

If you follow me on Twitter or are a regular reader of the blog you will know that over the past year or so I have been drawn further and further into the web of short fiction. So when Reflex Press approached me about Emily Bullock’s new collection Human Terrain I was very excited to get my hands on a copy.

Human Terrain is a collection of 20 short stories, some almost flash length, which concentrate very much on the human condition; on those things that motivate and bind us. The things that both hold us back and drive us forward.

Within these pages are snapshots of lives. From an elderly man revisiting his childhood home, to the young girls groomed by extremists; we move seamlessly from the everyday to the extreme. And whatever the focus, the content or the characters each story is as vivid and alive with connections as the next. No setting feels mundane, no seems character forced or unbelievable. Here is a writer who has harnessed, embraced and extended the human spirit in multitude ways, harnessing each stories energy and going where it might take her.

Diversity and adversity run through this collection like welcome silver threads. We meet characters who are up against it, who are doing what they need to do to survive both physically and emotionally. We witness self destruction and self awareness in equal measure, but we are invited to view them through a three dimensional, empathetic lens.

This is a sparkling collection with humanity at it’s heart. Beautifully balanced and constructed, it is a perfect short story collection.

Rachel x

Book Review: The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing by Hannah Storm

Flash Fiction rules! And for this week Hannah Storm is the Queen! Thank you Reflex Press for sending me a copy of The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing. Released this week it is my absolute pleasure to be able review.

I have made no secret of my deepening love affair with flash fiction and the fact that I can’t cram enough of it through my eyes and into my brain. Good flash fiction is compulsive stuff, tiny morsels of yummy delights that linger on your palate for days, sometimes weeks at a time. The kind of experience that makes your brain zing and then yearn for more. And that kind of flash is exactly what Hannah Storm is serving up here.

What always truly amazes me is the depth that you find in excellent short fiction and running throughout Hannah’s work is a tangible sense of humanity, humility and understanding. This is the human condition laid bare. These stories touch upon all corners of life, they take you to the highest heights and the lowest lows, sometimes just within the space of a few lines. But always they feel so real.

There are many themes that bind these stories together but the thread that seems to bind them all is the lived female experience. The empowerment and definition of women’s lived experiences and a clear acknowledgement of the challenges, abuse and extremes they face. At times these stories feel like spells or incantations. Places where women can see each other, hold out their hands and say ‘I feel that too’.

The arc of experiences and perspectives within this collection are vast. Each reader will naturally gravitate towards individual pieces, each reader will be drawn to stories that chime with them. For myself, wrestling through the first week of the holidays and with reluctant, dare we say difficult teenagers, pieces like ‘Octopus’ and ‘Birth Plan’ hit me with a thump. It is also proving impossible to get beautiful, lost Amy from ‘Birthday Girl’ to stop dancing in the corners of my brain.

This book is masterclass in flash. It’s a master class in knowing how to grab you by the heart and give it a beat stopping squeeze. Congratulations Hannah, you have a triumph on your hands.

Rachel x

#Blogtour Review: 100neHundred by Laura Besley

The qualities I admire in fiction are vast but variety and pin point accuracy are pretty high on my list. Over the past few months I have increasingly been scratching these particular literary itches by devouring flash and micro fiction. In all it’s many forms !

My introduction to flash fiction proper was somewhat delayed, but finally came in the form of Laura Besleys wonderful book, The Almost Mothers. My reading was delayed due to my own tardiness and the fact my teenage daughter pounced on the book the minute it was delivered to our lockdown abode!

But when I finally got my hands on the collection I was just blown away. And so when Saira Aspinall from Arachne Press approached me to ask if I would like to be part of the blog tour for Laura’s latest collection 100neHundred I nearly bit her hand off!

100neHundred is a collection of 100 pieces of the best not just flash, but micro fiction, all exactly 100 words long. The stories are divided equally into ‘seasons’, each season filled with colour, emotion and gloriously diverse subject matter. Each piece of writing is a pearl, unique and unexpected all woven together by a ribbon of ingenuity and skill.

Laura has created beautiful snapshots, each one alive with precision and emotion. Each story excels in it’s originality, each one a complete tale, each carefully crafted without a word to spare. The skill of creating an engaging story, alive with meaning, that both fulfils and leaves the reader wanting more is something to be admired. To be able to produce a series of these stories, is nothing short of mind blowing!

This collection is diverse and genre defying. It is as book filled with every kind of emotion. It will make you laugh, make you smile and sometimes make you cry. Laura is a master of commanding few words for maximum impact. From the thoughts of a grieving mother, to realms of outer space, this volume becomes a beautiful, engaging and colourful journey.

It is one I recommend you take.

Rachel x

And as a special treat

It is my pleasure and absolute privilege to be able share one of Laura’s stories with you here. A special shout out for publication day!

Death in Suburbia

Nice neighbourhood, I think, driving down the quiet morning streets.

My partner opens the door. ‘No blood, no murder weapon. Wife’s in the kitchen. Completely distraught.’

‘Morning to you too.’

The husband is slumped in a chair, dead.

‘Any sign of forced entry.’

‘Nope.’

‘Overdose on alcohol, pills?’

‘Wife said he was clean living.’

I take a closer look and notice a piece of paper in his shirt pocket. I slip on some gloves and carefully prise it out.

Stop contacting me, Dad. It’s too little, too late.

‘Get the pathologist to check his heart,’ I say.

‘It’s probably broken.’

Page 49 – 100neHundred by Laura Besley.

And there is more…

For more reviews and reactions, check out the rest of the Blog Tour below…

Review: Love Stories for Hectic People by Catherine McNamara

People who follow me on Twitter may or may not had noticed that over the past few months I have fallen increasingly and hopelessly in love with Flash Fiction. So when David Borrowdale from Reflex Press asked me if I would be interested in reading and reviewing Love Stories for Hectic People by Catherine McNamara I jumped at the chance.

Flash fiction is an art, a beautiful elusive skill. The ability to encapsulate, convey and develop a story in under 1,000 words is something to be cherished and admired. And within these pages are found thirty three fantastic examples.

The over arching theme is, as the title suggests, love. And it is love in it’s many and varied forms. Here, drawn with clarity, wit, empathy and razor sharp precision are stories of couples the world over. Couples in love, couples in lust and everything in between.

Here are relationships that are at the beginning, relationships in their death throes and relationships that have developed to stand the test of time.

Brevity might be the key in this collection, but each tale has as an impeccable structure, a view point that pans like a camera, zooming in and out, drawing the readers eye to the heart of each matter every single time.

If you are looking for something new, something biting, raw and fresh, then grab yourself a copy and feast away. I promised myself that this would be book to be taken on board in bitesized chunks. Turns out I gorged on it, one glorious tale after the other.

Rachel x

Love Stories for Hectic People by Catherine McNamara is available to order here.

It has been Shortlisted for The Saboteur Awards 2021 Best Short Story Collection.