Friday, July 30, 2010

A Cup of Normal by Devon Monk

NOTE: A Cup of Normal was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Fairwood Press.

Devon Monk is a new author for me. I have seen a few of her books at the store from time to time, but not being much of a fan of urban fantasy, I never gave them a look. However, when I received a copy of her first short story collection, A Cup of Normal, it looked to be quite different than her novels, and, intrigued, I dove into the stories.

“Dusi”: This story of a mythological monster with a case of the lonlies was a light, fun tale, and a solid start to the collection.

“Beer with a Hamster Chaser”: Another light story, this time of a science experiment and an awkward guy, this one was also fun, but brief.

“Probe”: Machines and robots work to avert catastrophe in this solid tale.

“That Saturday”: A story of a girl, her undead dog, and living stone heads. Okay, but a little too much on the stupid side of silly for my tastes.

“The Wishing Time”: The first of a couple of anti-Santa Christmas stories, this one is of a troll who wants his family back. Okay, but the light and brief tale is starting to suffer from too much lack of depth.

“Bearing Life”: The best story of the volume, this tale explores a queen who is in an unwinnable war. Nice character depth and solid storytelling.

“Stitchery”: A good story, this quirky tale of a woman whose animal dies manages to be both fun and engaging.

“Last Tour of Duty”: A ghost war story, this one is another strong contribution to the collection.

“Oldblade”: The story of a sword held by an evil, undeserving man, this one seemed a little too excited about the concept of the sword’s point of view, and not enough of a full, good story, but wasn’t too bad.

“Skein of Sunlight”: While the vampire romance subgenre isn’t too much to my liking, this one managed to be just quirky enough to be endearing, and a fun story. Not my favorite denouement, but not bad.

“Stringing Tomorrow”: A story of a working man in the future, this one just didn’t grasp me much at all. Too little to like in this one.

“X-Day”: Another story that leaves Santa in a bad light, this tale of a girl and her cherished doll had too little detail to back up the “What?”s and “Why?”s to be much more than a forgettable if mildly entertaining short.

“Menders”: An odd little tail of aliens and slavery, this one was okay without ever hitting really good.

“Leeward to the Sky”: Her self-described “rhythmic fairytale” captured none of the magic of fairytales, and wasn’t an engaging story. Very short, but still one I decided wasn’t worth finishing.

“Fishing the Edge of the World”: A story that captured a neat style and mood, this post-death story of a suicide victim was, as became a trend, simply okay.

“Moonlighting”: A fun story in the midst of some downers, this was a welcome change up, and was an engaging story of a pixie and an ogre.

“Christmas Card”: Another okay one, this story of Christmas and a magical deck of cards didn’t do much for me.

“Ducks in a Row”: A good, almost Matheson-esque story of a kid at a carnival with a dark past was one of the most engaging in the collection.

“Singing Down the Sun”: This one flopped for me. A myth of sorts, on the origin of music, I couldn’t get through it.

“Here After Life”: Another after-death story, in a way, this one was engaging, and had an impact to it that I felt much of this collection was lacking.

“Falling with Wings”: Another story that I found too hard to get into, so I let it go. A weak end to the collection.

“When a Train Calls Lonely”: See the one directly above. Same thoughts for this one, verbatim.

This collection had some very entertaining stories, but they were far too few. Many of these pieces were just light fluff, and while that is good some of the time, too much of it made it suffer, similar to what happened when I read The Holler by Marge Fulton. There aren’t characters to connect with. There isn’t enough plot or detail to make the actions matter to me. And the ones that did have that had too weak of a story to make them very readable.

The biggest problem with this collection was that it simply suffered from being very okay, but not anything better overall. The layout was odd as well, with a lot of upbeat stories at the beginning, and closing out with a number of depressing tales that clashed badly with the opening pieces. All in all, this may appeal to people who are big fans of Monk’s novels, but I didn’t find enough here to recommend it to the average reader.


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