Book Review: Of Mice and Fairies by A.R. Geiger


Some of you may remember that a while back I posted a mini-review of A.R. Geiger’s Birdwoman, a collection of short stories. Well, Of Mice and Fairies is a second collection–very different from the first!–of short stories put out by Geiger, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Of Mice and Fairies is a collection of inter-connected stories in which a very endearing and old-fashioned kind of narrator tells us of the adventures of her woodland friends — mice, fairies, gnomes, and the like. It’s a short, delightful read – really! I sort of laugh at myself for typing “delightful” but it’s the best word for it. The stories are fanciful and fun and contain little, not-overbearing moral lessons. It’s very light reading and was perfect for my grouchy, I’m-mad-about-being-on-bedrest mood that pervaded the last couple of days (yesterday especially). Its style is old-fashioned and charming, and I’m thinking about reading it aloud to my kids (my oldest LOVES fairies – we just had a fairy-themed 7th birthday party for her). I love that peppered in through the stories are also profound truths such as, “Lumpkin is an adventurer at heart. And an adventurer is never quite happy at home for too long (Kindle Location 479).”

I read the whole thing with a smile on my face — both for the adventures of Lumpkin, Belinda, and associates and for the beautiful way Geiger describes the scenery, giving life to such things as shadows as they dance and hide among the grasses. I should also note that I loved the illustrations! There are beautiful, black-and-white drawings throughout the stories done by Geiger’s sister, E. Noel. I couldn’t help but think that they’d make a really fun adult coloring book!

Geiger’s biography at the end says she’s working on her debut novel – I’m eagerly looking forward to it, because through these two very different collections of stories I can clearly see her talent for writing and I’m eager to read what she comes out with next!

Four stars!

Book Review: The Simple Soul of Susan by Noel Branham

The Simple Soul of SusanI was privileged to receive a free review copy of  The Simple Soul of Susan by Noel Branham in the fall of last year. At that point I already knew I was falling behind on reviews, but I said yes because I just loved the idea of the story. And I’m so very glad I did!

Susan Combs had long ago found the love of her life. The only problem was the other party still didn’t know he had been found.

Every day Susan saw Calder Hurtz, her next door neighbor and childhood best friend. They always enjoyed the short drive to school down the dusty streets of their small Texas town. She was happy in those perfect moments, for her life at home was most imperfect. The challenging homestead she inhabited was also the favorite subject of local gossip.

But one autumn day she overhears Calder and another boy having a conversation. This occasion of accidental audience sets Susan’s life on an unforeseen path. In the seasons to come, her future will be changed by two hospitalizations, two confessions of love, and one betrayal.

Compulsively readable, The Simple Soul of Susan is an engaging, soul-endearing romance and a mesmerizing debut.

The books spans a several-year time period, going season by season, which was a really interesting way to structure it. So many books focus on a much narrower time-frame, but this really enabled the author to develop the characters. The reader has the opportunity to see Susan and Calder grow up, and deal with the corresponding life transitions. Refreshingly, no character is perfect; even Susan has her faults and the author doesn’t hide them or rationalize them away. Rather, the book tells a real coming-of-age story as we watch Susan and Calder stumble along their respective paths as they discern where they’re headed in life.

I remember talking to a therapist years ago about something that had happened when I was 18 and her telling me to “forgive the children” who were involved in the incident. At the time, I was furious: how dare she call me a child?!? After all, I met my husband when I was 18 – I was a GROWN UP!!! We see Susan struggle with that dichotomy throughout the course of the book, and reading it helped me to judge my adolescent self a little less harshly and be more willing to see adolescence for what it is: a time of incredible growth and turmoil, with a lot of lessons to be learned along the way. (Of course, much of that holds true for adulthood as well…)

Despite enjoying the length of time the book spans, I did at times feel like the book was longer than it needed to be. I can’t tell you what I’d cut out because it all feels essential, it was more of just a feeling I had from time to time while I was reading it.

That said, I highly recommend the book and I think it’s a solid debut novel. I’d love to read more of Noel Branham’s work in the future.

Four stars!

Book Review: Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

I’ve probably said a million times that one of the things I love about being a book-blogger is the opportunity to read new and interesting books by indie authors. Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley is a perfect example of why!   
Spaghetti Head

I received an ARC of the book from Sarah after weighing in on her book blurb via Twitter and I’m SO GLAD I volunteered to take the few minutes to comment on her blurb and get to “meet” Sarah, and through her, Nell and Sid/Cyd.

This book truly defies classification. There are sci-fi elements, as it’s set in the future with all sorts of new technology and gadgets — some of it scares me, to be honest. I’ve read and blogged a bit about AI before – freaks me out. No doubt it takes a lot of creativity to come up with the future world and all it’s accompanying technological advances (which, truthfully, seem mostly plausible).

Beyond sci-fi, there’s the whole post-apocalyptic thing – which really is two-fold. First, there’s the new world order and governance structure (The System) that comes about. Tyley creates an entirely new system of world government, taking gender, technology, and–she seems to argue–inevitable power struggles into account. Along with this, she adeptly brings to life the societal structures and shows us how people actually live in this new world order. The second and equally important part of the post-apocalyptic story: what was The Disaster? This Tyley does equally well. It’s introduced very creatively, weaving the backstory seamlessly into the action of the story. It’s also very believable — I think most readers are at least vaguely familiar with the natural phenomenon (no spoilers!) that Tyley employs to bring about the destruction of the Earth as we know it. It was one of my favorite parts, a super important and fully-fleshed out history for what could easily have been treated as an afterthought to the story.

Sci-fi, apocalypse… what else? Romance! Motherhood! Relationships! These are central themes without being so overpowering that the book would only appeal to women. The book has so many angles to it that I think it could be universally enjoyed.

The parts of the book that are most memorable and with which I identify the most involve mental health and mental health treatment. Nell attends a multi-week mental health “retreat” of sorts to help her deal with her inner voice and unravel the “spaghetti” in her head. The mental imaging techniques used in the treatment would be AMAZING if they truly existed – I couldn’t help but wonder what my own treatment would look like with such techniques available. Having experienced a significant amount of intensive mental health treatment, I also felt that Tyley’s portrayal of therapy techniques, as well as the characters’ varying paths to recovery–including how much effort they must expend, even when treatment is “over”–were spot-on just like so much of the rest of the book. It’s believable and really realistic.

Overall, there are so many complicated aspects to the novel that Sarah Tyley weaves together flawlessly. I am impressed by the creativity and depth of knowledge she demonstrates in writing such a complicated and yet utterly relatable story, not to mention the incredible amount of effort it must have taken to put that story into words and edit it to a point where it reads so smoothly!

Five stars!

** Thank you to Sarah Tyley for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!