Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Triumph" - Meet gutsy gals, mothers-on-the-edge and anti-heroines in Lizzie Harwood's interconnected short stories!

Book review by K.S.R. Burns

In these fourteen short stories, Lizzie Harwood’s skillful and beautiful prose guides you to a country that is, surprisingly, seldom visited in literature—the country of women’s minds and lives as they really exist today. Hers is a penetrating, close-up, and cleanly honest perspective that may make some readers uncomfortable—because these women are not eager to please us. They are not looking for good husbands, necessarily, or even good jobs, and their friends are too often unreliable. They are on their own, battling unseen forces, and you worry for them, maybe more than they worry for themselves.

All that would be excitement and challenge enough. But then Harwood throws in setting. Glorious setting to spirit us from New Zealand to India to Rome to Amsterdam to Paris to Canada, each locale stunningly real and as diamond-sharp as the woman or girl in it. Harwood accomplishes this feat with ease and authority, filling you with nostalgia for countries you may have never even been to. Story collections are often bound together by consistent geography. Harwood’s is united by the freshness and precision of its globe-trotting diversity.

You’ll want to take your time with these passionate and complex tales. And when you come to the last one, you may well want to return to the first, because this is literature that reveals new gems upon re-reading.

Book giveaway! Click here to leave a short comment for the chance to win a signed copy of Triumph: Collected Stories. The drawing will be May 3, 2015.

If you can't wait to start reading Triumph, Amazon.com and Amazon.uk are offering it on a special Kindle promotion for $0.99 until April 28. Better hurry!

K.S.R. Burns is a Seattle author, whose latest book, "Rules for the Perpetual Diet", is a suspenseful, moving, and at times hilarious tale about love, loss, motherhood, Paris, food, and finding yourself. Burns lived and worked in France for 3 years. She currently writes a weekly jobs advice column for “The Seattle Times".

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Rules for the Perpetual Diet" - Discover a Paris few travelers see with K.S.R. Burns' gripping novel!

Book review by Lizzie Harwood

O, Amy Brodie is one messed-up narrator! (The best kind, in my opinion, because complex makes for interesting.)

This immediately engaging novel by K.S.R. Burns, author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, sees Amy Brodie, a 29-year-old childless wife in Phoenix, teetering on the edge. Amy’s in the grip of many issues at the beginning of this enthralling contemporary women’s fiction: grief, an eating disorder, self-denial… to name a few. Her husband is the epitome of the solid, don’t-change-stuff, immutable provider; her best friend just died of cancer; she views co-workers through a prism of revulsion. The ballast in her life is these rules. Her perpetual diet.

When I hit the first of these rules (there are 30-odd), my heart sank a little. In this intriguing novel, the rules came as a manifesto for anorexia and there’s a wee bit of fatism going on with Amy. But we quickly realize how her rules are just so—real and important to talk about in contemporary literature. Who among today’s teens, pre-teens, and young women hasn’t turned against their own body by following some rules of eating? To lose weight, or get healthier, to get a man, or control all the outward chaos by reigning in our own innocent flesh. It’s terrible and it’s true. So many women are on some perpetual diet right now. However, when Amy leaps on a plane to Paris, her City of Light snaps her out of her rules with some very unexpected plot twists.

Burns’s prose underpins this novel with deft humor and laser-sharp descriptions and characterization. This is a funny read. And surprising. As Amy delves deeper into Paris—literally descending into hidden catacombs—she shucks off the past to embrace a present-moment style of living that leaves the reader applauding her bravado. This is no sugar-coated, pink-bowed, fairy tale of Paris!

I was reminded of Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women: "I felt that it was not so different from all the other advice handed out to women, to girls, advice that assumed being female made you damageable, that a certain amount of carefulness and solemn fuss and self-protection were called for, whereas men were supposed to be able to go out and take on all kinds of experiences and shuck off what they didn’t want and come back proud. Without even thinking about it, I had decided to do the same.”

I loved how Amy Brodie decides to do the same.

Lizzie Harwood is the author of "Triumph: Collected Stories" and has a memoir, "Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life", launching late May 2015. When she isn’t writing, she’s neck-deep in editing. Visit http://www.editordeluxe.com and http://www.lizziehbooks.com, Lizzie Harwood Books on Facebook, and @lizziehbooks on Twitter for the latest.

Photo credit: K.S.R. Burns