100 One Hundred Word Tales by Jonathan Hill

If you've read Indie Bookworm before you'll know that I'm a great admirer of Jonathan Hill's short stories (Eclectic and Beyond Eclectic) and his "Maureen" novellas.

Several months ago, drabbles written by this author started appearing on a variety of websites. For the uninitiated, a drabble is a form of "flash fiction": in this case a piece of writing precisely 100 words long. In August 2013 Jonathan Hill launched his first collection of drabbles: 100 One Hundred Word Tales.

I first encountered flash fiction in mid-2012. As I found out at the time, definitions vary and alternative names include micro-story, postcard fiction and short, short story. The word count for flash fiction can be as much as 1000 words but some authorities specify 300 words max. The earliest example of flash fiction appears to be Aesop's Fables and the form has been practised throughout literary history by Chekov, Kafka, Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Hemingway et al. Hemingway is credited with the shortest known example of flash fiction: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn".

If you're interested in flash fiction you might like to take a look at this website which has details of National Flash Fiction Day which will be on 21st June this year.

In 100 One Hundred Word Tales, every piece of writing, from the book blurb in the Kindle Store to the author notes at the end of the book, is a drabble. In the author's words: "they are a challenge to write, but fun to read, they often tell a tale with a twist or encapsulate an idea or emotion."

In this collection there is something for everyone including several "Maureen" drabbles which all her fans will enjoy. Some of the drabbles are amusing; some challenging and thought provoking; some are macabre; and "The History of Art Revealed" is laugh aloud funny. Needless to say, all are highly readable; entertaining; and written with style and panache.

Jonathan Hill succeeds in making each of the stories a perfect little miniature often with an unexpected twist at the end. Or, where the ending is anticipated, there is a satisfying sense of completeness.

This collection of drabbles makes ideal reading when circumstances prevent you from settling down to a full novel: the dentist's waiting room in my case. And for only £1, 100 One Hundred Word Tales is remarkably good value at just one penny per story.

Highly recommended and with a great book trailer too.

You can get details of all Jonathan Hill's books on his Amazon author page and on his website.

Thanks for reading.
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Best Wishes,
Cathy

Cossacks in Paris by Jeffrey Perren

Although Cossacks in Paris appears to be an historical novel, it is in fact a love story set in an historical context.

At the end of the book author Jeffrey Perren explains that he hasn't allowed historical fact to get in the way of a good story and advises that the serious student of nineteenth century European history in general and of the Napoleonic era in particular should look elsewhere. 

This is not to say that the book isn't packed with historical information: if you are new to the Napoleonic Wars this story will give you an exciting over-view and may well inspire some further reading of a more academic nature.

There are three main characters in the novel:

Breutier Armande is French; a confidante of Napoleon; an engineer with a special interest in sewers and railways; and a single-mindedness of character that at times borders on the manic. Sent to Russia on a spying mission by Napoleon, he encounters Kaarina who quickly becomes the love of his life.

Kaarina is an enlightened, intellectual woman who has gone with her father and sister to the court of Tsar Alexander hoping for an education in the university and determined to avoid an arranged marriage with the Tsar's favourite Cossack, Agripin. A chance meeting with Breutier Armande and a passionate love affair begins.

Meanwhile, Agripin is besotted with Kaarina the moment he meets her. He is determined she will be his wife regardless of her strongly expressed dislike. Brought up as an adopted son of fiercely clannish Cossacks, Agripin has not learned to take "No" for an answer.

The ups-and-downs of this complicated love triangle is at the heart of the story which is further complicated when Kaarina's twin sister Kaisa falls for Agripin. Despite his infatuation with Kaarina, Agripin is indifferent to Kaisa.

In addition there is a wealth of supporting characters from all ranks of society. A fascinating aspect of the novel is the evolving relationships between Breutier Armande and the two rulers. Armande has taken the lessons of the French Revolution to heart and as a devotee of Thomas Jefferson, regards himself as equal to anyone and in his dealings with Tsar Alexander and Emperor Napoleon, it shows.

This novel is written in an easy-to-read, fast paced style which races across the European continent at break neck speed. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of historical settings with a contemporary use of language which contributes to the novel's lively accessibility. 

Although there is sufficient historical detail to give the novel authenticity the reader isn't overwhelmed with unnecessary information about battles and the politics of the day.

All in all, Cossacks in Paris is an unusual, enjoyable and light-hearted novel which would make ideal reading for a holiday, a long flight, cold winter nights or any other time when you just want to lose yourself in a book.

You can get details of all Jeffrey Perren's books on his Amazon author page and on his website.

Thanks for reading.

If you're a tweeter you could pass on this review with a click on the Twitter button below. If you like Indie Bookworm please like my Facebook page.

Best Wishes,
Cathy