Book Review: A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan

A portable shelter kirsty logan book cover

I’m going to tell you a story.

This was a spiderweb of a book: a collection of short stories deftly threaded together. Ruth and Liska are expecting their first child, and have retreated to a tiny cottage on the north coast of Scotland. They have agreed to only tell their child truths, however both are telling it stories; Ruth in the day while Liska is at work, and Liska at night while Ruth sleeps. The collection is made of the stories they tell.

And what stories! Selkies and circuses and dragons and bicycles. The ordinary and the magical; the ordinary as magical, and vice-versa. Stories of love and loss and hard lessons and hope. Through these tales, we catch glimpses of the women doing the telling. Of who they are and where they’ve beena and how they see the world. It is wonderful and weird – reading it felt a little like catching a werewolf mid-change: scary, magical, and impossible to look away from. I found myself intrigued by the layers; the stories and the people behind them. I admire Kirsty Logan’s skill in telling us a big story by telling lots of little ones (though of course this is not a new technique). This book is a gem, and one which I think will stand-up well to re-reading.

Rating: read this book, and dive down into the salt.

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Halloween Reading

Happy Halloween! Or Samhain (I tend to celebrate a funny mixture of both).

I have been reading some seasonally appropriate books today, and thought I’d just recommend them for anyone who’s interested. Firstly there is:

The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade, art by Kristina Tsenova

The Convergence of Fairytales by Octavia Cade

The Sleeping Beauty woke with a heartbeat between her legs.

I have literally just finished reading this, and it was something of a tour-de-force. A compelling mixture of horror, fairytale, vengeance and beauty, Octavia Cade really gets to grips with some of the oft skimmed over aspects of the fairytale. Such as, for example, the original ending of Sleeping Beauty. Trigger warning, there is rape: it does not happen on the page (as the character is asleep), however most of the story is dealing with the aftermath so if you think that’s something that you’d struggle with, approach with care and look after yourself.

Having said that, I really enjoyed this. Octavia Cade has a skill for description that is both precise and vivid, and her sentences are sharp things. The book is presented as a set of short stories, however read through they all bleed one into the other; this is a style that I am particularly fond of (for other examples of this, see Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch) not least because I get nervous about how I’m meant to read short stories.

The tales balance between horror and fairytale, sometimes tipping from one into the other in the space of a word. In a way, they felt luxuriant. I think that was probably the effect of Octavia Cade’s language skills. They were also full of a deep, pounding rage that splintered and grew and bubbled up in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. As someone who loves fairytales, but has been reading them with a critical eye since I became old enough to ask why the princesses always needed rescuing, I found that rage familiar. I shall definitely be re-reading this at some point, and I strongly recommend this to fans of horror, gothic tales and anyone who’s ever preferred an evil queen to a princess. Fantastic stuff.

PS there’s a giveaway competition on the publisher’s website, meaning you could get a free copy of this! Click here.

Secondly there is:

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I remember how, that night, I lay awake in the wagon-lit in a tender, delicious ecstasy of excitement, my burning cheek pressed against the impeccable linen of the pillow and the pounding of my heart mimicking that of the great pistons ceaselessly thrusting the train that bore me through the night, away from Paris, away from girlhood, away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother’s apartment, into the unguessable country of marriage.

Now this collection I have only just started (and really I’m amazed I’ve come this far in my life without reading it yet). So far, it is simply stunning. I have in all honesty had to read it with a dictionary to hand (deliquescent, voluptuary and missal being some of the new words I’ve come across), but that hardly detracts. Angela Carter is a writer that I already enjoy, although most of my experience of her so far is from her collections of fairytales. I am very much enjoying getting to know the her style when it is not dictated by the simplicity of the stories she has collected.

I’ve only read two of the stories so far, and my head is full of images, of words and feelings and the sea washing away the shore, a woman desperately racing a horse against the tide. Usually, I wouldn’t recommend a book before finishing it, but I think it’s a safe bet that this collection will carry on being wonderful, cutting, funny and awesome. I’m looking forward to curling up with this book and a blanket later tonight, and perhaps never ever sleeping…

And that’s it – have a great evening everyone!

News and squealing

Hellooo! I know I know, I’m not very good at this whole ‘blogging regularly thing’. I figure if you’re still following me after all this time you’ve worked this out.

So anyway, here is a quick listy of the literary(?) things that are going on in my life at the moment:

Writing news: I have just finished the first draft of a short story (okay, it’s not that short, it’s about 12,000 words), and I have printed it out, put it in a folder and hidden it under the bed where it is going to stay for at least a month while I gain the distance necessary for editing. I’m finding this hard because I’m very excited about this story, and I just want to to dive back in there. The space, however, is very important. In the meantime, I’m drastically re-vamping an older story of mine that I found a while back and which I think has a lot of potential. Hopefully, I can get this done in the month while the first story is Under The Bed, and maybe have it in shape for sending to submissions by December. Hopefully…

Reading: I have just read The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot. It’s the first thing I’ve read by them, and I really enjoyed it. I may well write a review in the near future. I’m also reading Women in Dark Times by Jacqueline Rose, which I can only handle in ten to fifteen page bundles at a time, mainly because I end up full of impotent rage…

Excited about: I’ve ordered my copy of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers and I am very very very excited about it! I shall have it in the next few days! *dances*

And that’s me for now – more news to follow as and when.


Short Story to be published!


One of my short stories is being published! The delightful Book Smugglers are having a Season of the Superhero, with five short stories and a new series. I am ridiculously excited about reading all the other stories, as they sound like they’re going to be absolutely fantastic. And of course I’m ridiculously excited about the fact that one of my stories is being published!

In fact, I have become a bit tongue-tied in excitement, so I’m just going to leave you with this link and some bare bones facts. My story is called The Life and Times of Angel Evans, and it involves a ghost, a heroine and the end of the world.

The other stories are: The Indigo Mantis by E. Catherine Tobler, Boy’s Own Superhero Bingo Card by Tansy Rayner Roberts, How To Piss Off a Failed Super-Soldier by John Chu, Superior by Jessica Lack and a new series by Isabel Yap called Hurricane Heels.

Check out the link for all the relevant info, such as publishing dates.

Book Smugglers publishing announcement.

Stroud Short Stories-a bit of shameless publicity…

SSS May 2014 Poster

Stroud Short Stories is an event held at SVA in Stroud, where ten writers with local connections read a piece of short fiction. It’s an event that I have previously attended and read at, and after submitting my work I have been invited to read again on the 25th May. I am ridiculously excited!

I will be reading a short story titled Containment, which I wrote about two months ago. It should be a great evening for anyone who can make it-8pm start at the SVA in Stroud.

I’m really looking forward to hearing everyone’s stories; spoken/read word is so different from the written word, and it’s also a nice opportunity to meet other writers. Not to mention that it’s a lovely feeling to send my work somewhere and get a yes 🙂

And that’s all for now-more book reviews soon.