Today’s book review of a short 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.
Paperchase and Other Stories by Helen Yendall
Synopsis: Paperchase And Other Stories by Helen Yendall, is a collection of 12 uplifting tales about family life and finding love in unexpected places. All of the stories have either been published before and/or have been placed in competitions.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paperchase-Other-Stories-Helen-Yendall-ebook/dp/B00S5AAPZW or http://www.amazon.com/Paperchase-Other-Stories-Helen-Yendall-ebook/dp/B00S5AAPZW.
Review (via my Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
Knitting for Zambia – I always love stories set at libraries so this was going to be a winner from the start. I have worked in retail on and off over the years so I know all about awkward customers but we learn why she is the way she is, and that it’s never too late to change. An unlikely charming story.
White Lilies – Another story to pull at the heartstrings. My father suffered with dementia so this was bound to hit home but it was beautifully written, so fond memories rather than sad ones.
A Certain Someone – the heroine of this story reminded me of the hero’s mother in Alan Titchmarsh’s novel Rosie (which I reviewed – see https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/book-review-for-readers-and-writers-no-98-morgen-bailey-reviews-rosie-by-alan-titchmarsh – on Valentine’s Day 2015!). She’s got guts and I love that in a character and can understand why Woman’s Weekly published it.
My Very Educated Mother – this story is typical of family life and I love the descriptions, especially of what comes through the letterbox and ‘There’s flour on the floor, in her fringe and on her knees. I don’t think she’s a complete failure as a mother, but she can’t cook.’ That sounds like me! First person stories can be difficult to get the narrator’s name in but we have it on the first (Kindle) page when she goes to lick out the mixing bowl but her mother shouts at her and uses her name. Because there is a boy called Andrew visiting, I assumed the narrator was male so it was handy to have that clarified early on. The dilemma is that Andrew has gone missing and we find out the family dynamic and what the issues are. An ‘ah’ ending.
Love ’em and leave ’em – this story, or at least part of it, is scarily close to home (the main character’s relationship, especially the bit about the kitchen!) and although I related to the main character in some instances, I didn’t gel too much with her.
The Curse of the Sheep Baby – I am a big title fan and I love this one. The significance of the title soon becomes clear and it is very clever. I was a little confused as the story develops but the ending skillfully clarified it.
Accidents will happen – most women’s stories have humour running through them and I really liked the joke about putting her foot down in this one. There are often annoying characters and while some don’t mean to be, i.e. the writer doesn’t mean them to be but the reader find them annoying, our narrator Jan finds a new colleague annoying, and I can see why, but other characters don’t find her like that and it’s not long before we (the reader) feel the same. Angie, the annoying colleague, has a coaster which I have given as presents before: ‘You will always be my friend. You know too much’.🙂 This story is the template for feel-good stories.
Heroes, Just for One Day – taken, I am sure, from the David Bowie song although there’s no reference to it. Although one of the characters is being mean to another, it is an amusing start but events escalate and one of the characters gets what he deserves and another gets more than he expected.
The Train People – I travel very rarely on the train but when I look at commuters, I imagine what a regular trip with regular people would be like and this definitely gave me a feel for it. I like the thought of Mediterranean sunbeams on a cold Midlands morning and apart from one of the characters going missing, it is all very upbeat. The aftermath of a character going missing felt a little too quick; I would’ve liked more detail, but the story is about the train people as a whole and it has a lovely ending.
If the Worst Happens – is another poignant story and very realistic and representative of modern times. The main character comes across as a little self-pitying but given the circumstances that is understandable and the plot works well.
Love you a hundred – is a conflict story about his grandmothers coming together to look after their grandchildren, and how their grandchildren feel about them. Another where a brusque character comes good.
Paperchase – The title story is possibly my least favourite of the collection. It could be because it’s through the eyes of a teenager with all the angst that goes with it, but I wouldn’t have chosen this as the title piece as it has a lot to live up to and didn’t do the job for me. As Helen explains at the end of the collection, many are inspired by real life so perhaps this was one story especially close to her heart.
And now for writers…
– in almost every review I do, I mention about ‘started to’ and ‘began to’ and in ‘My very educated mother’, the mother starts to pour the gloopy cake mix into the tin. Because she does actually pour it and isn’t interrupted the ‘starts to’ can come out. Ditto ‘starts to run’ in ‘Heroes, just for one day’, and twice in ‘If the worst happens’ (screaming / sobbing).
There were a few too many bitings of lips but only really noticeable when there were two in the same story (The Train People).
One of Helen’s strong points is her description and fans of women’s magazine stories will enjoy this collection. It was entertaining and while it had peaks and troughs, I would recommend it and it only loses a point for the two weaker stories (in my opinion) and the lip bitings.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, 2015 Head Judge for 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) and has 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 nine 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.