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Precarious: Stories of Love, Sex, and…
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Precarious: Stories of Love, Sex, and Misunderstanding

by Al Riske

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A collection of fifteen modern short stories with various themes, including regret, loyalty, guilt, relationships, betrayal, love. Al Riske’s talent lies in understanding human nature and creating very real and believable characters and dialogue within his entertaining stories. I enjoyed all of the stories, although some were definitely more polished than others.
The first story 'Sleeping With Smiley' is ,in my opinion, probably the best in the collection. A very well written story about misplaced loyalty and regret. Some other stand-out stories were Your Eyes Only and Hold On.

All of the stories are fun and interesting to read, the only issue I had was that many of the endings seemed too abrupt or just not satisfying. This is a pity because with a bit of work on the endings this would have been an outstanding collection. The writer is obviously talented because he knows how to hold a readers attention, and the prose flows well. An example of a great ending is the end of 'Sleeping With Smiley', where the reader is left with a thought-provoking sentence which brings to mind the events of the story in a poignant manner.

As a short story writer myself, I believe that the hardest part of writing a short story is writing a good ending. Because there are a limited amount of words in short fiction, it’s more important that an effort should be made to write an ending that will satisfy the reader and tie up any loose ends. A bad ending can make or break a short story, in the same way that a good ending can turn a mediocre story into a great one. Indeed, it’s much harder to write a good short story than a good novel.
In conclusion, I would say that Al Riske has done a brilliant job writing these stories, all of them containing insightful prose and true to life characters. Most of the endings didn’t work for me, but other readers may have a different opinion.
Reviewed by Maria Savva as a reviewer for Bookpleasures.com ( )
  MariaSavva | Mar 26, 2011 |
This is a book of short stories so it was a fast read. I liked most of the stories. Most I wanted expaneded so that says alot for them. I guess it's like that with short stories you want more from the characters and then it's done. But overall I really enjoyed this book. ( )
  IandSsmom | Aug 5, 2010 |
If I wasn't reading this book to review it, I probably wouldn't have finished it. Although the title infers the stories are about love & sex, they rarely take center stage, remaining an undercurrent. However, disappointment and missed opportunity abound, I suppose that's the "misunderstanding" part. I thought the last two stories: "Taken" and "For your eyes" were the better two in the book. Even though the storylines became somewhat preposterous they were the most interesting and readable. I found it frustrating that the narrator in most stories had the same "voice", even though they were very different in content, it was as if the same person was narrating each one. I also was irritated by the multiple pauses on each page, it only served to make the stories more disjointed. I'd like to give the author a better recommendation, perhaps the stories are better read individually in a magazine, than in a collection lke this. I wish him well with his novel...this seems like good practice. ( )
  SallyApollon | Jul 11, 2010 |
Here's what people are saying about Precarious ...

“Charming.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Enthusiastically recommended.”
— Midwest Book Review

“Al Riske … understands how to walk the tightrope of subtle emotional resonance.”
— Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward, Love in the Present Tense, and Chasing Windmills, among many others.

“Riske’s characters brim with the fears, desires, and idiosyncrasies of real, complex human beings.”
— Laura Matter, Blue Mesa Review

“From the first paragraph of the first story … you know you’re in the capable hands of a literary musician.”
— Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“You will enjoy each page of this book and hope that there is just one more when you are finished reading.”
— Victoria Gonzalez, Reader Views

“The writing is Hemingway lean and it’s clear that one of Riske’s strongest gifts as a storyteller is his witty dialogue.”
— Gretchen Clark, author of “This Is a Woman” and other essays

“A hugely talented writer, Al Riske beautifully captures the nuanced behavior of relationships and the universal struggle to understand why we do what we do.”
— Rachel Canon, author of The Anniversary

“His prose is so sharp and the characters sketched so vividly that I was transported right into the world he created.”
- Mark Richardson, author of “Tattoo Woman” and other stories

“I love when a story’s ending surprises me, even as it leaves me absolutely certain it couldn’t have resolved itself any other way. The stories in Precarious are like that.”
— Judy Clement Wall, Zebra Sounds

“These stories are beautiful — elegant without trying, revealing without really showing why, brief in a satisfying way, scandalous with a light touch — and they stick with you, key images and dialogue etching themselves into your subconscious.”
— Greg Bardsley, author of “Some Kind of Rugged Genius” and the award-winning “Headquarters Likes Your Style,” among other stories

“These are stories that you find yourself in – the highest compliment I can pay an author. You see your own foibles and, if you’re lucky, an occasional glance at your own grace.”
— Terry McKenzie, TMACWORDS

“Riske’s spare and thoughtful style remind me of Raymond Carver—but without the pervasive sense of despair. In these stories, love is still possible.”
— Joy Rothke, freelance writer/editor/teacher

“Each story carries weight of its own, leading to the common denominator that we are all flawed.”
— Sky Sanchez, Sacramento Book Review

“Riske has peopled his stories with some vivid characters and provocative scenarios.”
— Bookviews by Alan Caruba

“Riske’s eye for detail is sharp, but his hand gentle as he unravels the complexities and quirks of his characters.”
— Bookblah

“Precarious is a book for the reader who enjoys honest writing at its finest.”
— Tina Evans, Review the Book

“This book will stay with you long after you close it and put it away. You’ll no doubt pick it up again for a second read, maybe even a third.”
— Reading at the Beach ( )
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  AlRiske | Apr 2, 2010 |
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For Joanne - first, last, and always
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I remember the river and the way it looked at dawn: the glassy water and the wisps of fog. I can still smell the sea air and hear the trawlers chugging out past the jetty in the distance.
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"The desert is full of things you can’t hold on to — light and heat and sand that slips through your fingers like friendships you once had."
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Book description
The stories in Precarious are about doing the right thing and regretting it. About men who are still boys. About making bets and dancing naked.

They play out in rain-soaked Seattle and drought-stricken California. In the front seat of Mom’s Malibu and a vacation cabin on Cape Cod. On a tiny island and in a desert filled with light and heat and sand that slips through your fingers like friendships you once had.

In these fifteen stories you will meet a boy trying to make it through that summer between the end of high school and the start of something else. A girl so alive you can feel her heartbeat from half a mile away. A woman attracted to a man with muscles, because it makes her feel safe … until it doesn’t. A man who can only imagine what it’s like to sleep with many different women, but that’s OK — he has a good imagination.

In prose that is by turns spare and lyrical, the stories of Precarious capture the feeling of late summer. A never-ending game of Kick the Can. All sense of time lost among the stars.
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In prose that is by turns spare and lyrical, the stories in this collection capture the heady, invincible feeling of late summer as they describe the sharp pinch of doing the right thing and regretting it and recall exhilarating memories of making bets and dancing naked. From rain-soaked Seattle to drought-stricken California, from the front seat of a mother's Malibu to a vacation cabin on Cape Cod, and from a tiny island to a desert drenched in light and heat, these 16 short tales introduce readers to characters such as a boy trying to make it through the summer between the end of high school and the start of something else, a woman attracted to a muscular man because it makes her feel saferight up until it doesn'tand a man who can only imagine what it's like to sleep with many different women. The fully-realized, well-rounded individuals who populate these pages will resonate with readers.… (more)

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