Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Saffron and BrimstoneSaffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Description from Goodreads

Widely praised and widely read, Elizabeth Hand is regarded as one of America’s leading literary fantasists. This new collection (an expansion of the limited-release “Bibliomancy, ” which won the World Fantasy Award in 2005) showcases a wildly inventive author at the height of her powers. Included in this collection are “The Least Trumps,” in which a lonely women reaches out to the world through symbols, tattooing, and the Tarot, and “Pavane for a Prince of the Air,” where neo-pagan rituals bring a recently departed soul to something very different than eternal rest.

Written in the author’s characteristic poetic prose and rich with the details of traumatic lives that are luminously transformed, “Saffron and Brimstone” is a worthy addition to an outstanding career.
* Elizabeth Hand’s work has been selected as a “Washington Post” Notable Book and a “New York Times” Notable Book, and she has been awarded a Nebula Award and two World Fantasy Awards.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the format a lot. It consisted of eight separate short stories, of varying lengths. It provided great variety, with each story being different from the others and covering an assortment of genres from supernatural to dystopian themes.

I thought that each of the stories were very well written, and the breadth of topics dealt with was impressive.

My favourite story was Cleopatra Brimstone, which was one of the longer stories. I found this to be remarkably clever and inventive story with a lot of surprises.

The stories all contained interesting and real characters, despite the limited length. It was easy to connect with and invest in the characters portrayed. I think that this is important in a short story, since the relationship that we have with the characters in a story is so very important, but is often one of those things neglected in short stories.

The plot and storyline of all of the stories were very creative and all of them were highly character based.

I think that this book provides a very good example of how to write captivating short stories. The stories all felt finished and fully formed. Even though I often wanted more, I was not left feeling that any of the stories were incomplete.

I would recommend this book to any fan of the short story, and of Elizabeth Hand’s work. This was a fascinating collection of stories that I enjoyed greatly.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol by Elizabeth Hand

ChipChip Crockett’s Christmas Carol by Elizabeth Hand

Description from Goodreads

The father of an autistic child dreams of a Christmas miracle in this moving short novel nominated for the World Fantasy Award—proceeds to be donated to Autism Speaks

When Brendan touches his four-year-old son, Peter screams and pulls away. He suffers from a form of autism known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder and has no idea how much his father wants to make him smile. Their relationship is tortured, but Christmas is coming, and a miracle might come with it.

An unlikely harbinger of the holidays arrives in the form of Tony Kemper, Brendan’s childhood friend who’s never quite gotten over his glory days as a 1970s punk sensation. Broke, unemployed, and homeless, Tony has recently become obsessed with the long-canceled Chip Crockett television show, a beloved memory from when they were kids. Not a minute of footage remains of Chip, but these three boys are about to discover that when an entertainer is truly great, his magic will last forever.

Previously serialized online, this is the first time Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol has been published in ebook form. Elizabeth Hand will donate all proceeds from this book to Autism Speaks in honor of special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. The two attended the same high school, where Murphy was a friend of Hand’s younger sister

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. It was a relatively short story and a great read.

I loved reading about the relationship between the three friends Brendan, Tony and Kevin, and about the different paths that life had led them along. The story was mainly about how Brendan dealt with being a single parent with an autistic son.

I felt that the main thrust of the story was how Brendan struggled to come to terms with, and deal with, the changes that he had seen in his son at an early age. How it had affected his view of Christmas, and how childhood memories of a tv show, and the influence of one of his oldest friends, helped him to rediscover the joy of Christmas and reconnect with his son.

It was interesting to gain a view of the life of a single parent with an autistic child. How important things like routine and familiarity can be to them. I was also fascinated by the way that Tony, the ex punk rock musician, bonded with Peter, in particular, over Tony’s obsession with a childhood tv show and its presenter.

It was nice to see how much these memories of a childhood tv show can mean to some people. How they can evoke memories of times gone by, happier, simpler times. Just the simple act of hearing the opening theme song is often sufficient to prompt a barrage of mental images. I am sure that many of us can identify with that.

This story is obviously influenced by Dicken’s Christmas Carol, but also by the authors own memories of childhood television shows and of discovering punk rock.

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone wanting a holiday story that is considerably more real than a lot of the mushy, over the top happy offerings that one usually comes across at this time of year. Also, don’t forget that the author, Elizabeth Hand, is donating all proceeds from this book to Autism Speaks, which is pretty cool.

This review was based on a review copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher Open Road Media.