Felicity Harley Recommends Eliza Sherlock

by Eliza Sherlock

What genre is it? Women’ s literary fiction / short story collection

Quick description: This is a book of twelve short stories, each diverse and yet interconnected by themes of dislocation, loneliness, loss and discovery. A brain-injured young man rebels against his diminished life, a doorman at one of London’s exclusive hotels impersonates a deceased client, a retired banker tries to renew his importance by sculpting and erecting an enormous spire in his front yard, a young wife discovers the betrayal going on under her own roof, and in the concluding story railing against her daughter’s self-destructive life and wasted potential, the grieving mother longs to recapture the past. The loneliness, longing and emptiness that lead to the search for meaning and connection in the midst of tumultuous personal change are achieved in unusual ways. From diverse walks of life and settings, young and old, the characters’ every love relationship, every betrayal tests their assumptions and reshapes the future.

Eliza Sherlock resized Why I recommend this book: The book will appeal to readers who seek fiction with complex characters whose stories unfold in surprising and suspenseful ways.

Links for people to buy it:
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
Amazon US, UK, Canada, Australia

787 Guest reviewer’s latest title or project:
Felicity Harley was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in March, 2015, and is the author of several books of poetry and fiction. Her most recent book is Portraits and Landscapes.

Bob Van Laerhoven

I discovered the writing of Bob Van Laerhoven recently when Jack Eason promoted his longtime friend. I took particular notice of this author, because he is Flemish-Belgian, just like my grandparents and mother who emigrated to Canada from Belgium in 1919. (I wrote about my grandfather previously on my other blog.) Bob has been a pleasure to work with in preparing this promotion post and I’m very pleased to now present to you “a fellow Belgian”!

C Studio Schrever Bob Van Laerhoven

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Dangerous Obsessions, published by the Anaphora Literary Press, is a collection of short stories, set in different countries and time-slots. It’s a bit difficult to describe the genre. In general, I try to write cross-over between literature and the mystery genre, but in this collection the “connecting factor” is that all the stories, except one, take place in war-zones. They are not tales of pure mystery. Let’s just say that the stories are “noir” and that I try to write in a style that is appropriate for the “mood” in each story. I’m a novelist at heart, I don’t write many short stories, but I consider them an excellent introduction to my theme(s) and style(s). My novel Baudelaire’s Revenge, published by Pegasus Books in 2014 in hardcover, and in April of this year in paperback, has stirred up a lot of response in the USA. Some find the novel “controversial” and I take that as a compliment because Charles Baudelaire, the main subject of the novel, was controversial in his time, the 19th century, too.

It’s not easy for an author from a small language community – Flanders has 5 million people, to venture into the vast English-reading market. Therefore I’m happy with this fast “follow up” on Baudelaire’s Revenge with Dangerous Obsessions while the last details in the translation of Return to Hiroshima, my second English-translated novel, are being completed.

Quick description: I chose for variety in Dangerous Obsessions: different settings and different styles. I was a travel writer in conflict-zones from 1990 till the end of 2003 and echoes of my experiences trickle through these confronting tales, set in civil war-torn Algeria in the fifties, in a gypsy-populated concentration camp during WWII, in a Peruvian border-town where stealing is a deadly art, in Liberia during the civil war in the nineties, and in Belgian Congo during the bloody uproar in the sixties.

Laerhoven - Front Cover - Dangerous

Brief biography:
A fulltime Belgian/Flemish author, I made my debut as a novelist in 1985 with the novel Nachtspel (Night Game) and quickly became known in Flanders for my ‘un-Flemish’ style and my kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. I became a full-time author in 1991. As a freelance travel writer I explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from 1990 to 2003: Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Lebanon, Mozambique, Burundi… to name but a few.

During the Bosnian war I spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later I was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. I was the first writer from the Low Countries who had the opportunity to speak with the refugees. These conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica – getuigen van massamoord (Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder). The book denounces the murder and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. I concluded that mass murders took place, a notion that was questioned at the time but later was proven accurate.

In 2007 I won the Hercule Poirot Prize for the best mystery novel of the year with De wraak van Baudelaire. In 2013, the French translation La Vengeance de Baudelaire was published in France and in Canada. The English translation, Baudelaire’s Revenge, was published in the US by Pegasus Books in 2014. Also in 2014 came the publication in France and in Canada of Le Mensonge d’Alejandro (Alejandro’s Lie), a second novel in French translation. Baudelaire’s Revenge won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense”. Currently, the English translation of Terug naar Hiroshima – Return to Hiroshima is almost finished. A French translation is in the making. In April 2015, The Anaphora Literary Press released the collection of short stories Dangerous Obsessions in paperback and in e-book.

Links to buy Bob’s book:
Amazon: “Dangerous Obsessions” Kindle
Amazon: “Dangerous Obsessions” paperback
Amazon: Baudelaire’s Revenge hardcover
Amazon: Baudelaire’s Revenge paperback
B&N hardcover
B&N e-book

Bob’s promo links:
3D-“Parisian” Inkflash-room for Baudelaire’s Revenge and Dangerous Obsessions

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new novel in Dutch (I have spent my advance already some months ago, so my Dutch publisher is frowning and yelling that there is also a writer’s life outside being translated and published abroad and that I must not forget the country in which I was born. The novel is set in Berlin in 1922. Paul Van Ostaijen, a famous Flemish avant-garde poet, is one of the main characters. This WIP is a mix of a literary novel, a mystery with a grim social background, and an unusual love story. I don’t have a title as yet, but luckily I have progressed during the past two months to roughly two thirds of the novel. But there is still a lot of work ahead. Usually, I write 3 to 4 versions before I’m satisfied…

Bob’s reading recommendation:
The very elegant Italian author Curzio Malaparte with his novel “De Huid” (The Skin). This is a master stylist who writes phenomenally about WWII. His novels are really fascinating.

Lee Kvern

Lee KvernLee Kvern

What is your latest release and what genre is it? 7 Ways To Sunday – Short Story Collection

Quick description: 7 Ways To Sunday – a short story collection that grapples with humanity in all its flawed, often guffawed glory. An artist’s girlfriend dies by mistake. A mother holds surveillance on her son’s foray into drugs. A sibling’s jealousy raises its green head toward her sickly brother. A father’s death; a mother’s fear for her unbridled, grade-two son. A hijab-wearing woman challenges the modern world of Save-on groceries, along with an arborist, his wife and a Shar-Pei – all in need of an attitude adjustment. A bed-ridden woman looks back over her life. RCMP and prostitutes arrive for family tea on a Wednesday afternoon. These are some of the happy/sad, mad/glad themes laid out in this Oh-Humanity collection of stories captured with humour, compassion and insight by Lee Kvern.

“Lee Kvern is one of those generous writers who leaves her heart and intelligence on every page. And what a big heart it is. What a marvelously vibrant, wholly original intelligence.” ~ Barbara Gowdy

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Brief biography:
Lee Kvern is the award-winning author of short stories and novels. Afterall was selected for 2013 Canada Reads (Regional)< and, also nominated for Alberta Books Awards. The Matter of Sylvie was nominated for both the Alberta Book Awards and Ottawa Relit Award. Her short stories are also well-celebrated: National winner CBC Literary Award, winner: Western Magazine Awards, Hazel Hilles Memorial Short Fiction Prize, Howard ‘O’ Hagan Award. Her work has been produced for CBC Radio, published in Event, Descant, Air Canada enRoute, subTerrain. On-line: Joyland.ca, Foundpress.com and LittleFiction.com

Lee Kvern is the past Alberta Writer’s Guild Mentor 2014 and former Writer-in-Residence for the Canadian Authors Association 2013.

Links to buy Lee’s book:
Great Plains Publications

Lee’s promo links:

Reviews for 7 WAYS TO SUNDAY:
From Pickle Me This: 7 Ways To Sunday by Lee Kvern
From FreeFall Magazine: J.D Mersault’s Book Review of “7 Ways to Sunday” by Lee Kvern

What are you working on now?
Book 4

Lee’s reading recommendation:
Boundary Problems by Greg Bechtel

Jacob M. Appel

Jacob M Appel Photograph (7-29-10)Jacob M. Appel

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Einstein’s Beach House – Short stories.

Quick description: A couple adopt a depressed hedgehog; a mother is seduced by the father of her daughter’s imaginary friend; a man kidnaps his ex-wife’s pet turtle. In eight tragicomic stories, Einstein’s Beach House features ordinary men and women rising to life’s extraordinary challenges.

EBH Cover

Brief biography:
Jacob M. Appel’s first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award and was published by Cargo. His short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014. His most recent books include a novel, The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock, 2013), an essay collection, Phoning Home (University of South Carolina Press, 2014) and a short story collection, Einstein’s Beach House (Pressgang/Butler University, 2014). Jacob’s short fiction has appeared in more than two hundred literary journals including Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review and Virginia Quarterly Review. His prose has won the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the Salem College Center for Women Writers’ Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award – on four occasions, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant. His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008, 2013), Best American Nonrequired Reading (2007, 2008), and the Pushcart Prize Anthology (2005, 2006, 2011, 2014). In 2003, he was honored with Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003. He is currently on the faculty of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Links to buy Jacob’s book:
Only available in paperback.
Lake Forest Bookstore, IL
Norwich Bookstore, VT

Jacob’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
I’m trying to sell a novel about Civil War deniers. I’m also trying to win a date with Sophia Loren. If you can help with either of these challenges, please let me know ….

Jacob’s reading recommendation:
Dan Chaon’s novel, Await Your Reply

Felicity Harley

I “know” Felicity Harley through Bequia … although we’ve never actually met in person, we have this little island and several friends in common. Felicity very kindly read and reviewed my novel, Island in the Clouds, from the perspective of someone who knows the setting of Bequia very well, and she gave the book an excellent endorsement, for which I am grateful. I hope we may meet some day soon.

787Felicity Harley

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Portraits and Landscapes – a collection of short stories

Quick description: Portraits and Landscapes is an eclectic collection of short stories about all of us. The first stories in the collection are about failed romance and how many of us constantly and painfully search for connection in our lives. Other stories take us across the globe, and speak in a variety of voices, which give us brief glimpses of individuals who struggle to make sense of our world. The human beings described in these stories will make you laugh, weep and sometimes they’ll make you throw up your hands in utter disbelief.

A review written by Eliza Sherlock: The scope and interior quality in each of these stories, in differing ways, creates a compelling collection. There was not one I didn’t find interesting or that lost me along the way. Felicity Harley’s deep sympathy and insight into diverse human experience brings each one to life.

I found the first four stories in the collection quite different than the second half. The mysterious muted sense of hurt and inequity is beautifully rendered, the simplicity in the telling deceptive for each piece is deeply told. The characters seem to drift on currents they can’t resist, searching and restless and helpless in the grip of love. The language I found to be sensuous and luscious, the stories’ movement flowing easily and naturally. The descriptiveness combined with an interesting imprecision was fascinating, as were the scents, tastes, sounds and impressions introduced. I totally loved each and every one of them. Of them, I think I most enjoyed Love and Persia, The Art Dealer, and The Death of a Coat. Some really great knock you dead lines – “…some people kill you, it’s not their fault, and it’s not yours, but they kill you – and sometimes you kill them” and “a slow awakening to the old Persia she had read about, and it brought satiety to her hunger… ”

The second half They/Them/Us introduced another mood – more conscious and underpinned by moral concerns. I liked all of them once again. Some read like cautionary tales, narrated with a sense of imparting a message – none hit you over the head with the moral, intriguing journeys into other places and other lives, creating empathy for even the unsympathetic. Pon de Wall, Ben, The Wine of Life and In the Pursuit of Happiness stood out, Your Daughter Tasted Like Fish both beautiful in its love, and devastating in its conclusion. Some like The Survivalists, Divers and Floaters and First Ladies, full of interesting insights, make statements but are so interesting and unforced that they work. “She couldn’t help being a diver; it was what made her happy,” struck a responsive chord in me, as “the race they began together as equals, still greatly favored him,” also did.

A marvelous debut collection by this writer of ability and promise.


Brief biography:
Felicity Harley is a polished public speaker, published journalist, writer and a poet. Felicity Harley has most recently published a collection of short stories called Portraits and Landscapes and her play Transplant was recently produced by Hartbeat Theatre. In 2013 her work was published in an anthology called Gathered Light – On the Poetry of Joni Mitchell, alongside writers such as Wally Lamb, Kim Addonizio, Fred Wah (Poet Laureate of Canada), Larry Klein, Susan Deer Cloud, Cornelius Eady, and others. In celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on behalf of Poets for Human Rights, Felicity was the winner of the 2013 Anita McAndrews Award.

Links to buy Felicity’s book:
Purchase Portraits and Landscapes on Amazon – eBook and paperback

Felicity’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
Currently Felicity is editing two science fiction novels in a four part series she is writing under consultation with her agent, JoAnn Deck. She blogs regularly for Medium and for Plum Tree Books.

She is also writing a musical based on the story of a young Afghan Woman with a musician friend and in consultation with a number of Afghan writers and colleagues.

Felicity’s reading recommendation:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Gail Anderson-Dargatz Recommends Julie Paul

This is the second installment of a new feature on the Reading Recommendations blog, in which I ask established authors to recommend an author whose work has impressed them recently and who they would like to promote to my readers.

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Book title and author:
The Pull of the Moon by Julie Paul

What genre is it?
Literary short story collection


Quick description:
Twelve short stories that examine what happens in the lives of characters who discover shocking truths about the people they thought they knew best.

– See more about Julie Paul and her book at: Brindle & Glass Publishing Ltd.

Why I recommend this book:
Julie is an emerging writer to watch. I expect we’ll see a lot more of her work in the future.

Links for people to buy it:
Brindle & Glass

Guest reviewer’s latest title or project:
Gail was previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

Gary Phillips

Gary photoGary Phillips

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Astonishing Heroes: Shades of Justice. I’d say this collection of short stories is a mash-up of several genres – pulp, crime, adventure, sci-fi … even a bit of fantasy. In one compound word; super-heroes.

Quick description: Astonishing Heroes is a collection of 10 prose stories about meta humans, private eyes and vigilantes in the mold of ‘70s paperback series like the Baroness and the Destroyer. In its pages you’ll find the square-jawed and flawed heroes American Black, the Envoy, Ghost Wolf, Kidd Vee, Onyx Adams, the Reclaimer, the Silencer, Terror Flame and Victory Angel. They do battle against villains such as the Blonde Ghost, Stalin (yes, Stalin!), conniving one percenter gentrifiers and Dr. Knightgloss.

Bobby Nash, who has been featured on Reading Recommendations said of the collection, “Everything you’d expect from a Gary Phillips story collection — solid, kick-ass pulp.”

Astonishing Heroes ebook cover

Brief biography:
Weaned on the images of Kirby and Steranko in comic books, and Hammett and Serling in prose, Gary Phillips draws on his experiences ranging from teaching incarcerated youth, director of a shadowy political action committee to delivering dog cages in writing his tales of chicanery and malfeasance. He is the past president of the Mystery Writers of America Southern California chapter, and has won the Himes and Brody Awards for his fiction.

Links to buy Gary’s book:
iPulpFiction.com – paperback and ebook
Amazon – eBook and paperback

Gary’s promo links:
Amazon Author Page
I’m on Facebook and don’t really have a author’s page per se, but you can always reach me though my website.

What are you working on now?
Hoping to sell a second story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; have a story in the upcoming Asian Pulp from Pro Se Productions; working on a revival in comics of a 1940s character, Lady Satan. She’ll be from indie outfit Emerald Star Comics, in the Velvet and Lazarus mold; working as well on my second Decimator Smith story, my 1930s era L.A. boxer turned public hero who first appeared in the Black Pulp Anthology I also co-edited. This will be for Black Pulp II, again from Pro Se.

Gary’s reading recommendation:
He hardly needs the publicity, what with winning the Pulitzer, but read Tom Reiss’ magnificent biography The Black Count. The book is about the real life adventures of Alexandre Dumas’ swashbuckling papa General Alex Dumas, the inspiration for his son’s characters. Slated to be a big budget movie but read the damn book, I tell ya.

Glenna Jenkins

I’m very pleased to recommend Glenna Jenkins’s writing to you, because we “met” while taking an online writing course many years ago through the Humber School of Creative Writing. Glenna and I became part of a group of women who stuck together via email after the programme ended and have remained each others’ best cheerleaders ever since as a number of us have gone on to see our manuscripts published.

DSC_0207Glenna Jenkins

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Rescue at Dirty River, a short story published in Riptides: New Island Fiction, edited by Richard Lemm. This book was runner up for Best Atlantic Canadian Book of 2012.

Quick description: Riptides: New Island Fiction is a collection of the best new Prince Edward Island fiction by the Island’s best contemporary writers. These short stories offer a kaleidoscopic range of fiction, from historical to contemporary, from representations of small-town angst to the aftermath of Chernobyl, from working in the Australian outback to dealing with the heart-rending consequences of the death of a child. Glenna Jenkins’ short story Rescue at Dirty River calls back to the hardships of living on a farm during the depths of the Great Depression. In it, she shows how neighbours put themselves at risk to help each other out and that the outcome of such acts of kindness and mercy are not always what we hope them to be. Rescue at Dirty River is taken from her upcoming novel, Somewhere I Belong, which will be published by Acorn Press Canada and distributed internationally by Orca Books later this year.


Brief biography: Glenna Jenkins is a writer and editor whose Prince Edward Island roots date back to the early 1800s. The characters and events in her stories are gleaned from real-life family events that took place both on the Island and in New England. Her short stories have appeared in Jilted Angels: A Collection of Stories and Riptides: New Island Fiction. Somewhere I Belong is her first novel. Glenna lives and writes in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, with her husband, four children and two dogs.

Links to buy Glenna’s book:
Acorn Press
Amazon Canada – paperback
Chapters/Indigo – paperback

Madeleine Swann

author-picMadeleine Swann

What is your latest release and what genre is it? The Filing Cabinet of Doom: 17 Bizarro Short Stories – Surreal comedy/dark fiction

Quick description: It’s a collection of short stories including a novella of the same name. Set in a black and white, soundless realm, three people journey to the Head Office of the Council to find out why a psychic from a travelling carnival claims the world is about to end.


Brief biography: I have written for magazines including Bizarre and The Dark Side. I have stories in anthologies American Nightmare, Polluto Magazine (issue 10), The Strange Edge (website and magazine) and Bizarro Central, among others.

Links to buy Madeleine’s book:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Madeleine’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
A new collection of short stories and the second draft of a comedy/fantasy/odd/YA novel.

Madeleine’s reading recommendation:
How To Eat Fried Furries by Nicole Cushing.

Astrid Blodgett

Astrid trimmed Astrid Blodgett

What is your latest release and what genre is it? You Haven’t Changed a Bit. Short stories.

Quick description: Contemporary urban realism with a twist. The stories begin in a straightforward way and take a turn into creepy/unsettling territory.


Brief biography:
Short story writer, editor, renaissance recorder player, hiker, river tripper. Astrid’s stories have appeared in several Canadian literary journals and the anthologies The Journey Prize Stories and Meltwater: 25 Years of Writing from Banff Centre. Once upon a time she co-edited the best-selling outdoor cookbook, Recipes for Roaming: Adventure Food for the Canadian Rockies.

Links to buy Astrid’s book:
University of Alberta Press – print, Kobo and Amazon Worldwide
Audreys Books Ltd. – Edmonton

Astrid’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
A collection of stories.

Astrid’s reading recommendation:
Blindness by Jose Saramago