Today’s book review, of a two-story collection, is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
The Holiday Collection by Joyce Swann
Synopsis: Inspired by a true story from the author’s family, this heartwarming tale of how one small orphan girl brings faith, hope and love into the lives of a lonely farm couple in Depression-era Kansas is a reminder that God’s best gifts come in the most unexpected ways. The Holiday Collection features timeless tales of faith, hope and love that celebrate the Reason for the season.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thanksgiving-Gift-Holiday-Collection-Book-ebook/dp/B00O75K49Q and http://www.amazon.com/Thanksgiving-Gift-Holiday-Collection-Book-ebook/dp/B00O75K49Q.
Review (of the eBook using Mrs Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
This collection contains two related short stories, the first being ‘The Thanksgiving Gift’, the second ‘The Christmas Cake’.
The Thanksgiving Gift is about a reporter whose aspirations take her beyond the small town stories but her latest subject is a centenarian whose story is very touching and makes Michelle re-evaluate her life. I liked the first half of the story but then Esther starts to preach and the story takes a distinctly heavy religious tone. I was brought up in a non-religious family and am an agnostic but don’t mind some religion in stories where it’s relevant. In this piece, however, there’s such a contrast between the two halves that I would have preferred it to have ended halfway because the first half is what the synopsis above tells us, the second half having no relevance and it felt was put in because it’s in Amazon’s Religious & Inspirational category (which I only realised when retrieving the synopsis) and it’s almost as if the author tacked on the second half so it fitted that category because there had only been scant mention up to then. The first mention of Christmas was thirteen (Kindle) pages from the end where Esther shares a receipt (recipe) with Michelle which then leads on to the second story ‘The Christmas Cake’.
Our protagonist in both stories is Michelle Madison and it’s clear that M is a favourite letter of the author as other characters include Martha, Miz McDowell and Mable (Martha and Mable appearing on neighboring lines), with an equally similarly-looking name (on the page): Nancy.
I was listening to the text-to-speech function but did notice some typos (speech marks for speech and quotes, and apostrophes in the wrong place). There were also a fair number of clichés (inc. ‘cool as a cucumber’ and ‘as clear as day’) but the most offputting for me was the mix of tenses, some of which I put down to colloquialism.
Although this collection only has two stories, I stopped at the end of the first one because of the second half of it. I had enjoyed the first half but by the time it concluded, I wanted to move on elsewhere. It’s a shame because the writing’s not too bad but I probably won’t go back to the second story, or the author’s other works.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.