A Slanting of the Sun: Stories by Donal Ryan

a-slanting-of-the-sun“Donal Ryan’s short stories pick up where his acclaimed novels The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December left off, dealing with dramas set in motion by loneliness and displacement and revealing stories of passion and desire where less astute observers might fail to detect the humanity that roils beneath the surface. Sometimes these dramas are found in ordinary, mundane situations; sometimes they are triggered by a fateful encounter or a tragic decision. At the heart of these stories, crucially, is how people are drawn to each other and cling to love when and where it can be found.

In a number of the these stories, emotional bonds are forged by traumatic events caused by one of the characters – between an old man and the frightened young burglar left to guard him while his brother is beaten; between another young man and the mother of a girl whose death he caused when he crashed his car; between a lonely middle-aged shopkeeper and her assistant. Disconnection and new discoveries pervade stories involving emigration (an Irish priest in war-torn Syria) or immigration (an African refugee in Ireland). Some of the stories are set in the same small town in rural Ireland as the novels, with names that will be familiar to Ryan’s readers.

In haunting prose, Donal Ryan has captured the brutal beauty of the human heart in all its failings, hopes and quiet triumphs.” – Publisher Summary

Having read, in the past, author Donal Ryan’s previous two published works of fiction (The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December), I already held a high regard for his talent as a writer. I was not prepared, however, for the impact his newest collection of short stories would have on me. After reading A Slanting of the Sun: Stories, I am quite convinced that Ryan is somewhat of a literary genius. Each story in this collection held that punch to the gut all true readers long for – that glorious rush of all the feels slipping through our veins as our bodies tingle in anticipation for the next page, and the next, and the next.

“An old man looks into the fearful eyes of a burglar left to guard him while his brother is beaten; an Irish priest in a war-torn Syrian town teaches its young men the art of hurling; the driver of a car which crashed, killing a teenage girl, forges a connection with the girl’s mother; a squad of broken friends assemble to take revenge on a rapist; a young man sets off on his morning run, reflecting on the ruins of his relationship, but all is not as it seems…” – Publicity Blurb

Some of the stories take place in or around the same familiar territory of Ryan’s previous novels; others visit faraway lands such as Syria. It was a treat to recognize names that appeared in his previous novels, as well. While the subject matter of each story varied wildly, one thing remained the same: each and every one of the pieces ripped my heart from my chest and returned it to me in a dripping, shredded mess. Each tragic story wielded power in it’s own unique way, leaving me breathless and anxious, as each one ended, to move on to the next. This, friends, is the kind of reading that I love – when it’s real and gritty and doesn’t pull any punches. And this, too, is why you do not want to miss out on reading this amazing collection of stories.

A Slanting of the Sun: Stories by Donal Ryan: Read it Today!

5 stars

Source: Steerforth Press {via NetGalley}

Kindle Unlimited: Boss or Bust?

kindle-unlimited

Is Amazon showing some love for their Kindle readers, or what? The online retailers announced a new program today for Kindle users: Kindle Unlimited. Members of Kindle Unlimited will have access to over 600,000 titles, thousands of which come with free Audible audiobooks that can be listened to via Kindle tablets or the free Kindle reading app. Additionally, Kindle Unlimited members will receive a free three-month Audible membership, providing them with access to over 150,000 titles. How much will this cost you? Simply $9.99 per month. What a deal! Or is it?

Dealio-schmealio, is what I say. $9.99 per month adds up to $119.88 per year. To me, personally, the titles available via Kindle Unlimited are not worth $120.00 each year. Don’t get me wrong – there are some good ones available; just not as many as I would prefer. I am sure that there are many of you out there who will jump at this deal and it will do wonders for your reading life. More power to you! However, many of the titles that were of interest to me are either already in my personal library, or are available via my online public libraries. The rest, well, I’m willing to hoof it to the local library and read them in print – for free.

Take a look at the Kindle Unlimited trailer:

 

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Library Love: April 25, 2014

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Library Love is a recurring post in which I share each week’s bounty from my public libraries.

 

Oh, y’all, I’ve got some good reads this week! While I didn’t make it to the actual library, I scored big-time with both my local library’s digital library and with the digital library at The Free Library of Philadelphia (y’all, if you have a Kindle or other e-book device, it is SO worth the $50 out-of-towner yearly fee). The Boy is still working on his book hauls from the last couple of weeks, and his iPad broke a while back so he can’t benefit from e-books right now, anyway, so he was left out this week. He’ll get over it, I think. Let’s take a look at my haul:

Emma Donoghue absolutely rocked my world with her novel, Room, so of course I have to check out her latest, Frog Music. The premise of Hyde is awesome: Hyde as a reluctant hero? Can’t wait to see how that plays out. I’ve got another Scottoline novel this week – she’s usually a good bet. I checked out The Spinning Heart in honor of a fellow book blogger I know from Ireland… gotta represent my peeps, right? The rest of the haul is a group of novels I’ve been wanting to read for a while, so I’m anxious to delve into all of them, as well. Speaking of which, I’ve got to get to it. Happy Reading, y’all!

Do you have a special book you’re planning to read this weekend?

 

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Library Love – Friday, March 28, 2014

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Library Love is a recurring post in which I share the week’s current bounty from my public libraries.

 

 

I have a huge confession to make. I have library fines. Like, huge ones. And, we lost a book. Thus. Thus, we are avoiding the library like the plague. Thus, all of my checkouts are for the Kindle only. Man, I hope we find that book soon. We really need to get back to the Richard Gere Branch library (okay, so it’s not technically named after Richard Gere, but that’s what we call it). In the meantime, however, here’s what I’ve found on the digital side of things:

Boy, Snow, Bird is apparently somewhat based on the story of Snow White, and has received great reviews. I’ve been wanting to read The Kitchen House for ages, and am really looking forward to that one! Margot, by Jillian Cantor, is a fictional tale based on what would have happened had Anne Frank’s sister survived the Holocaust – I think it will be very interesting. I’m also anxious to read Men We Reaped, a memoir by Jesmyn Ward, who wrote Salvage the Bones (great book). All I Have In This World is a new release that sounded pretty interesting, as is You Should Have Known. And Zelda: A Biography, of course, will tell me more about one of my favorite women of the Jazz Age. All in all, I think it’s going to turn out to be a good haul. Let’s just hope I make it back into the good graces of our local librarian by next week…

Have you visited your public library recently? Do you ever have to pay for late fees?

 

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Are You a Kindlephile?

Kindlephile

I thought you might want to hear the latest development in my Kindle obsession…

Yesterday, while I was reading a library book (a real, honest-to-God book! Yes, apparently homeschooling research OCD trumps library book booger/food crumb/bed bug OCD!)… Anyway… Yesterday, while I was reading a book, I came upon an unfamiliar word. No biggie. Without a thought, without a second of hesitation, I lifted my hand, pointed my index finger, and pressed down on the page. How embarrassing! Thank God no one knew what I was doing! While it would be nice if all books had the dictionary feature that the Kindle does, I think I would get a lot of strange looks if asked to explain myself… I do believe this was my final induction into the Kindlephile Hall of Fame.

Book Binge – July, 2013

Oh, y’all, July was a banner month for book-buying! Thanks to Book Gorilla and all my free Amazon gift cards from SwagBucks, my total out of pocket cost was $4.73. It doesn’t get better than that, folks. Now all all I have to do is stop checking out so many library books so I can start reading the ones I actually own! Take a look at the awesome haul I pulled in:

Now, I have already read a couple of these books, but had previously checked them out from the library and really wanted my own copies. Some of the titles were ones I may not have normally purchased, but at such low prices, it was worth it. For example, The Hangman’s Daughter books were only $0.99 each – awesome price, right? Plus the fact that with my Amazon gift cards, they were free for me. So, totally worth it once I get around to reading them. Other books were ones that I’ve been wanting to read for a while now {some for quite a while!}. In addition to signing up for the free newsletter from Book Gorilla, you can also find good deals on Kindle books on the Amazon website itself. Look for the Kindle Daily Deals; they also offer Monthly Deals at $3.99 or less. There are a ton of other resources out there, too – all you have to do is look. Books, books, everywhere, people!

Do you have a Kindle? Where do you find deals on Kindle books?

Random Penguin House… Hook Me Up!

ebooks for libraries

As of Monday, July 1, 2013, publishers Penguin and Random House have officially merged into one entity to now be known as Penguin Random House (I personally would have preferred Random Penguin House, but they didn’t ask my opinion). According to The Associated Press, this merger “creates the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.” The former chairman and CEO of Random House, Markus Dohle, will be the CEO of Penguin Random House. In a statement on July 1st, Dohle stated, “Together we will give our authors unprecedented resources to help them reach global audiences – and we will provide readers with unparalleled diversity and choice for future reading. Connecting authors and readers is, and will be, at the heart of all we strive to accomplish together.”

What does this mean to me? One thing – more eBooks at the library. Out of the Big Six publishers (now to be the Big Five), only three publishing houses have made their entire eBook catalogs available to libraries for purchase – and Random House happened to be one of these publishers. Currently, eBooks published by Penguin are subject to ridiculous restrictions: titles purchased before February, 2012 are still available through libraries that use the Overdrive eBook platform, but new titles and bestsellers are available only to a limited number of libraries through a pilot program with two somewhat uncommon eBook platforms.

Is it possible that this merger means Random House will exercise its influence upon Penguin to make its eBooks more readily available to libraries? Oh, I certainly hope so! The cold shoulder publishers have shown libraries in the past regarding eBooks has long been a point of contention for library staffers and patrons alike. Historically, publishers have supposedly been concerned about the financial side of things, and the sales they might be losing by allowing eBooks to be loaned out instead of requiring them to only be available via purchase. This is a ridiculous claim, however, when statistics have long shown that library users are much more apt to purchase books or books from a series that they originally discovered within a library. There is no reason for this to be any different with eBooks.

I truly hope that Markus Dohle is ready to put his money where his mouth is and bring Penguin Random House into the future (present?) of eBooks as a major media platform. We love our Kindles, our Nooks, and our other eReaders. And now that tablets are so commonplace, as well as the many eReader apps for smartphones, no one is immune to the ease and accessibility of eBooks. This novelty idea that so many thought would fade is only getting bigger and bigger, and it’s not going to go away. Publishing houses’ only option is to move forward with readers and give us what we need and want – and for many of us, that is more access to eBooks at the library. Give it up, Big Guys – it’s long past time.