“Holy Denver”: A True Literary Treat

Holy Denver

I’ll tell you a secret. For me, the problem with most literary works is that they move so slow it seems like nothing ever happens and eventually, I am so bored that I don’t care enough about the characters to finish the story. I guess that’s why I read mostly genre fiction. It’s more fast paced and has real conflict to keep the story moving and the reader interested. Not so, with Holy Denver, by Florence Wetzel.

While Holy Denver does have true literary qualities such as moving at a lacksidaisical pace, the characters are colorful enough to keep me coming back for more. Wetzel makes her settings come alive, allowing the unique atmosphere of Boulder and the old town ambience of down town Denver to become characters in their own right, carrying the story from place to place with graceful, relaxed transitions.

Holy Denver is a tale of self-discovery and yet is the tale of the fall of the publishing industry and some of its more recent rises. I was fortunate to acquire a print copy for review, so for me it was a feel good read, allowing me to slip quietly into a world I’m only too familiar with, having grown up in Golden, right between Denver and Boulder, and forget about the reality of the here and now for a while. (I can remember when what is now the 16th Street Mall that Wentzell writes about was a paved street where all the kids went to cruz their daddies’ cars on Friday and Saturday nights, and I attended the later part of my ninth grade year at school located in the Capital Hill area.) I think I smiled almost the whole way through it. It is introspective and entertaining, and I give Holy Denver four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

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“Gnarled Bones”: A Collection of Five Brief Tales

Gnarled Bones

Short stories carry the burden of telling the tale in few words, so they often sacrifice many of the qualities one finds in a novel length work, including details that fill in our mental picture for us, making readers work harder to gain a clear vision for the story. Another common complaint that I often voice is the fact that they are a brief glimpse into the character’s lives and don’t always have a complete story arc, making them feel incomplete, like there should be more. Such is the nature of the beast we call the short story. I have had to learn to expect these things when I’m reviewing short fiction, and not mark against the story for these faults alone. So, while I may comment on some of these qualities when reviewing anthologies or short story collections, they will not be the basis for lower ratings. Those will be based on the quality of the writing and how well the stories are crafted, just as they are with a longer work.

That being said, I found Gnarled Bones and Other Stories by Tam May to be a collection of highly crafted stories, with brief descriptions that skillfully put readers in the scene and allow them a clear vision of each story being told. Each story in this collection has heavy literary qualities and each carries the theme of empowerment, or the lack of it, in some way. Although most of them felt unfinished to me, they were none-the-less captivating, capturing my full attention during the brief snapshots I was allowed.

Along with Gnarled Bones, the story which sticks out most in my mind is The First Saturday Outing, which I enjoyed at first, but was later disappointed in, when the woman’s inability to empower herself and embrace her freedom became apparent, making the character, whom I’d been routing for, appear weak and inept.

Also to be found in this collection is Mother of Mischief, where Marie is driven by her need to look after and care for someone, drawn to mischievous men who need to be kept in line. Bracelets, where Isabelle, a circus acrobat is drawn to her circus family through the tragedy of a lion attack on a child. And, Broken Bows where, for Anne, a train ride becomes an act of defiance and two very different souls find one another briefly.

Along with theme, the stories in Gnarled Bones and Other Stories have other things in common, as well. Each has a female protagonist, each has literary qualities and feel, and each is well crafted to tell the story with skill and ability. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.