13 July, 2012

Sandcastle and Other Stories by Justin Bog

Amazing! It was simply amazing! This book was a collection of bizarrely amazing work of fiction. Each and every story had its own twists and turns with some very incredible characters. Right from ‘The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business’, Justin Bog manages to catch you unawares with a story about murder and regrets and only manages to tighten his grip on his readers through the other stories till the very end of ‘On the Back Staircase’. Each story has something distinct to tell you about human nature and psychology and each story has the capacity to make you sit and think for hours.

Whenever I have picked up a collection of short stories, there has always been a variety in the theme of the stories. While I found some stories to be serious, some were downright hilarious. If some were outstanding then there was bound to be some story that I would find borderline mediocre. But in this case, there is a common theme throughout – there is a very dark theme to this book and each story is brilliant on its own. The psychological aspects in some of the story creeped me out and I loved them.

Great imagination, attention to details, perfect narration and great characters – this book has it all. Once again -- Amazing!

I got the book for free as a part of VBTC blog tour and the copy that I received had the bonus chapter of Justin Bog’s upcoming novel “Wake me Up” and boy am I hooked! I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.

From Sandcastle
From a beach towel space away, Brenda took the scene in. The beach was crowded, but the background noise didn’t bother her at all; Brenda believed she could hide in a crowd, and wondered why being alone was something she deserved. She found herself enjoying the discomfort in the mother and daughter’s close conversation; she almost laughed out loud when Jane’s mouth opened like an outstretched bow. The kid deserves what she gets, Brenda thought. She tilted her head away to make it look like she wasn’t paying attention, but only just slightly. She saw everything.
“But . . . I want my balloon.”
Brenda, her pistachio-colored beach chair squeaking when she moved slightly, noticed a string of saliva dribble from Jane’s mouth and down her chin. Jane’s mother pushed her octagon-shaped sunglasses into the hair above her forehead and stared, her eyes somehow cold and reflecting nothing, at her daughter. “What did I just say to you, Jane? Forget the goddamn balloon. I told you I didn’t want to buy it for you . . . you’re blocking my sun. If you don’t leave me alone and go play, you’ll find yourself at home right now. Be a big little girl for Mommy. If you can do this, I promise I’ll give you another swimming lesson later. Your dog paddle is coming along fine. Go play.”
Brenda tried to smile, but couldn’t, as she thought about her life and what it would’ve been like if her baby had lived, would this new presence in her family be capable of healing a prickling rift under her heels, make her husband’s boots stop flailing about – always making contact by accident, didn’t mean to do that, you know me, you know me, you know me. Her life could be broken down into a twisted children’s rhyme.
Right, Brenda, first comes love, then comes marriage; then comes miscarriage, and her goals and planning stopped there. She hated the simple way her life unfolded and the way it seemed so goddamn planned. Ever since she was little she’d been under someone else’s control. When she was twenty, almost two years away from graduation at the community college, she met Jake and they moved in together. Brenda’s parents never trusted Jake; they could tell the first second they spotted him hoisting himself off his motorcycle, then slicking back his sun-bleached hair and finally tugging at the devil-pointed goatee that he was just putting on a big show (her father’s words). They wouldn’t speak to her for months until her twenty-first birthday when they relented and finally knew Jake would, for better or worse, be a part of their daughter’s future. They stopped asking Brenda if she was going to finish college. All they could do was warn her when Jake wasn’t around, try to undermine what was happening all along. “Is he hitting you again, Brenda?” her mother would whisper to her when Jake and Father were in the living room watching the Sunday football extravaganza, neither of them speaking to the other, just grunting from their Lazyboys, the kind with the built-in beer holders on the arms. All her parents could do was watch and say “I told you so” later, which they did all the time.
How could Brenda reply? Her control had shifted territory, from one of family questionings and buttonholes, to the scary realm of Jekyll and Hyde. It was one thing she wanted to handle alone, without her parents’ interference. Jake was the sweetest man she had ever met, at first, before the wedding, and wouldn’t even lay a finger on her neck to caress her. It started after the wedding when he slapped her on the butt too hard, a prelude to lovemaking he said, and when she complained, he hit her harder. Of course, he always tried to make it up to her afterwards. He took her to movies she wanted to see, to the roadhouses for drinks, and took her shopping, but never at the good stores, just the second hand malls where he worked in rotation as a night security guard.
Another thing Brenda hated was the way she often caught her mother scrutinizing her. Her mother’s chin wrinkled up, and her eyes opened just almost all the way and sly, as if her mother had foreseen Brenda’s downfall, as if she was used goods now and any other man could smell Jake’s lousy scent all over her and she would never hear the sound of grandchildren. She said to Brenda, with her patented matter-of-fact tightness, “A lot of women have miscarriages. And a lot of women, today anyway, fail at meeting the right man.” What her mother didn’t have to say was “How dare you do this to our family;” the tone of her voice was enough. At times, Brenda liked to picture her parents, naked, with witch paint splashed across their bodies, dancing around an effigy of Brenda. In her daydream, she would force the effigy to come to life and make it bash her parents’ heads together to let them know they were not always right.
Their spoken predictions of failure had started when she brought her fiancé home for the first time, when Brenda was helping her mother cut salad cucumbers and rip iceberg lettuce, when her mother, in a voice of thinly veiled anger, asked her how long she’d known Jake and asked her if she was really serious about ruining her life with a man like that. Now, her mother gives her books on how to choose your mate and her father still curses her former husband at the dinner table, even though it’s been two years since the divorce. He looks at Brenda and chuckles, wisely, and says he told her not to marry the bastard.
Brenda watched as Jane ran into the water and yelled something to a boy named Danny Richards. She didn’t know whether Jane’s mother would’ve actually taken the girl home, but it did seem as if Jane didn’t want to stick around and find out. I wouldn’t even bring the whiny girl, Brenda thought, which made her remember her own lost child, the image of a dashed possibility always close to the surface, and Brenda frowned even more because she knew she was a liar. There was a time in her marriage when she fervently believed this surprise baby could’ve saved her, and that her husband could’ve changed if he only held a tiny baby in his arms, focus on something good and pure for once — she knew this was a ridiculous thought. If her baby had lived she would’ve taken her everywhere and she’d never send her away with an imperious flick of the wrist.
The mother readjusted her sunglasses on her nose and then lowered her bikini top an inch, giving anyone trudging by in the sand a tantalizing view. Brenda envied the woman’s body. It was what her magazines called sumptuous and glandularly flawless.

About the Author
Justin Bog, first and foremost, grew up a voracious reader, movie fanatic, and music audiophile. Justin always carried a stack of library books and collected way too many comic books from his local Ohio small-town drugstore. More than one teacher scolded Justin to put his "suspect" reading materials away and join the class. Justin began to make up stories of his own, using an old typewriter he found in the attic.

“Growing up in the 70s, Stephen King was about to publish his first novel and John Updike had only published the first of his Rabbit books. Along with so many cinema buffs, I witnessed the huge change in the way movies were distributed — from artistic, Director-driven films backed by huge studios to the dawn of the Blockbuster and popcorn summer films, like Jaws, Rocky, and Star Wars. I was drawn to the music of these decades as well,” says Bog.

So it comes as no surprise that Justin pursued an English Degree at the University of Michigan, followed by Film and Music Appreciation classes -- finally graduating from Bowling Green State University with an MFA in Fiction Writing. After teaching creative writing, Justin began apprenticing in a number of bookstores and editing fiction for a midwestern journal. Justin ended up on the management team at Chapter One Bookstore in the Sun Valley resort area for a decade, offering book recommendations to its local celebrities, skiing fanatics, and tourists. Currently residing in the San Juan Islands just north of Seattle, Justin has the opportunity to focus on his own novels and short stories, while contributing commentary and reviews of Pop Culture. Justin continues to engage his lifelong passion for writing in combination with his curious mindset as the Senior Contributor and Editor at In Classic Style.

Contact the Author

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Tour Stops
June 7   - Introduction at VBT Cafe' Blog
June 11 - Interviewed at My World 
June 13  - Guest Blogging at The Book Hoard 
June 15  -  Guest Blogging at Reading, Writing, and More 
June 19  - Interviewed at MK McClintock's Blog
June 21  - Guest Blogging at On Emily's Bookshelf 
June 26  - Guest Blogging at BK Walker Books Etc. 
June 28  - Reviewed at The Story of a Girl... 
July 2      - Guest Blogging at AZ Publishing Services 
July 6      - Interviewed at Mass Musings 
July 9      - Guest Blogging at From The TBR Pile
July 11   - Reviewed at Books, Books, and More Books 
July 13    - Reviewed at B00k R3vi3ws 
July 16    - Interviewed at Reviews & Interviews 
July 18    - Reviewed & Interviewed at A Book Lover's Library 
July 18    - Interviewed at Brenda & Steve's Blog 
July 20    - Interviewed at Unnecessary Musings 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of The Virtual Book Tour Cafe' and a copy of this book was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by The Virtual Book Tour Cafe', no payment was received by me in exchange for this review nor was there an obligation to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely of my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for your review of Sandcastle and Other Stories. I was humbled by your terrific response, and love of dark suspenseful tales that hinge on character, what they hide within and sometimes reveal.